The Tech - Online EditionMIT's oldest and largest
newspaper & the first
newspaper published
on the web
Boston Weather: 69.0°F | Mostly Cloudy

McHugh Guilty, Sentenced to 20 Years

By Sarah Y. Keightley
News Editor

A Cambridge District Court judge found Shon McHugh, 16, guilty of killing Yngve K. Raustein '94 and sentenced him to 20 years in prison after a three-day trial that ended yesterday. On Sept. 18, 1992, McHugh fatally stabbed Raustein during a robbery attempt with two other Cambridge teenagers.

McHugh was convicted of felony murder and armed robbery as a juvenile and now faces the maximum sentence of 20 years incarceration. His attorney, Robert A. George, appealed the decision after it was announced.

McHugh had waived his right to a jury trial. The trial included testimony from McHugh, Arne Fredheim G, who was walking with Raustein, and Alfredo Velez, who was one of McHugh's companions, along with technical witnesses. Velez testified for the prosecution in exchange for pleading to the lesser charge of manslaughter instead of murder.

Last September, Raustein and Fredheim, both international students from Norway, were walking east on Memorial Drive near Hayden Library at 9:45 p.m. when they were confronted by Joseph D. Donovan, then 17, Velez, then 18, and McHugh, then 15. Donovan, apparently without provocation, allegedly punched Raustein, knocking him to the ground. Donovan then robbed Raustein while Velez robbed Fredheim. When Raustein started to get up, McHugh allegedly stabbed him between the seventh and eighth ribs.

During McHugh's trial, Middlesex Assistant District Attorney John W. McEvoy Jr. detailed this series of events and added that McHugh stabbed Raustein with a 7.5-inch switchblade, which cut two ribs and plunged 4 inches into his heart.

Campus Police officers unsuccessfully tried to resuscitate Raustein using CPR. He was pronounced dead at the Massachusetts General Hospital at 10:05 p.m.

The assailants fled across the Harvard Bridge to Kenmore Square, where they were arrested by Boston University Police around 10:15 p.m. The three youths were later indicted for murder and armed robbery.

Fredheim and Velez testify

Fredheim testified in court on Tuesday, describing how he and Raustein were approached by McHugh and the two others, according to The Boston Globe. He said that he did not see who stabbed Raustein. Fredheim said Donovan punched Raustein, bringing him to his knees. He then "heard a click" come from McHugh and saw him holding a knife. Velez took Fredheim's wallet before the three of them ran away, Fredheim said. He then saw his friend on his knees, bleeding and clutching his chest. He used his hands to try to stop the bleeding from Raustein's chest, he said.

Velez testified on Wednesday that after McHugh stabbed Raustein, he wiped his 7.5-inch switchblade on Raustein's back as the victim was on his hands and knees, as reported in The Boston Globe. During the testimony, Velez said he did not see McHugh stab Raustein but that McHugh admitted to doing it.

"I asked Shon if he stabbed that guy and he said, `Yeah. It came out of his back,' " Velez said when examined by McEvoy.

Velez said that all three of them had been drinking alcohol or smoking marijuana that night. They wanted to get more money for beer.

The prosecution's strategy was to prove premeditated murder and felony murder. Judge John Brandt did not find McHugh guilty of premeditated murder beyond a reasonable doubt, but found grounds to convict him of felony murder.

McHugh:<\p>`It was an accident'

The defense presented its case yesterday, putting McHugh on the stand. During his testimony, McHugh did not deny holding the knife, but he said that Raustein, who was on his hands and knees, lunged onto his blade.

"I didn't stab him," McHugh said, adding that he took out the knife because Donovan told him to. "It was an accident. I was pointing it at him so he could see it and stay down."

McEvoy called McHugh's statements insulting, according to the Globe.

During Wednesday's proceedings, McHugh's attorney Robert A. George tried to prove that the crime was not premeditated. He suggested the three intended to steal money from the MIT campus, not to kill. He also tried to emphasize the discrepancies in Velez' testimony, contrasting Velez' statements when arrested with his statements on the stand.

George moved to have McHugh's first-degree murder charge dismissed because the stabbing occurred after Donovan had first confronted Raustein and Fredheim. Judge Brandt declined the motion after McEvoy reasoned that premeditated murder exists even if an individual decides to commit the crime seconds before the event, according to the Globe.

As part of the prosecution's case, a forensic scientist testified that there was human blood on McHugh's jeans, his sneakers, and the knife -- no blood was on Velez or Donovan. Another expert testified that the blood was "consistent" with Raustein's blood. A fingerprint expert said two of three fingerprints from the knife were consistent with McHugh's fingerprints.

A medical examiner testified that two of Raustein's ribs had been severed near his breastplate. "That means there was severe force involved in severing those ribs," he said.

Community reacts to verdict

"I was expecting a guilty verdict because I thought that the evidence was so overwhelmingly clear," said Professor William B. Watson, housemaster at Baker House where Raustein lived. "In my view, this was a murder that has no explanation, has no justification, and should be punished as severely as possible."

"I'm glad that justice was served," said Mariquita C. Gilfillan '94, a Baker resident. "I didn't know [Raustein], but I knew of him."

The verdict "is some minor consolation," said Sanjay K. Aggarwal '95. The murder was "an unfortunate incident," he added.

"If [McHugh] was the person who did it, I'm glad he's being taken care of," said C.J. Doane '95. Being an East Campus resident, Doane said the murder was "pretty freaky" because it was so close.

Watson said, "I feel tremendous sorrow that the family of Yngve Raustein has to relive this tragedy again. I think the whole MIT community wishes to support them in any way that it can." He continued, "I also feel a sense of tragedy as well for the young man, Shon McHugh, and his family."

Before this week's trial could take place, McHugh had a transfer hearing to determine whether he should be tried as a juvenile or an adult. In early June, a Cambridge Juvenile Court judge ordered that McHugh be tried as a juvenile. McHugh was several days shy of his 16th birthday when he committed the crime, and Massachusetts law states that 16-year-olds can be tried as adults. A juvenile convicted of murder faces a maximum sentence of 15 to 20 years, while an adult convicted of murder faces life in prison.

McHugh will remain in custody of the Department of Youth Services until he turns 21, then he will go to Massachusetts Correctional Institute at Cedar Junction. He will be eligible for parole after 15 years.

Donovan and Velez are awaiting trial.