Turners Falls murderer dies in prison

By DOMENIC POLI

Staff Writer

Published: 11-02-2021 8:18 PM

SHIRLEY — Gregory Martino, the former Greenfield man sentenced to life imprisonment for what turned out to be the first of four unrelated domestic violence killings in Montague over a 20-month period in the late 1980s, died of cardiac arrest on July 31. The murders were the town’s first in 100 years.

Martino, who was in his late 60s, reportedly died at an outside hospital. He had been imprisoned at Massachusetts Correctional Institution-Shirley.

According to The Associated Press, Martino had been convicted in October 1989 of using a nylon rope to fatally strangle former girlfriend Vivian A. Morrissey, 31, at her Turners Falls home in late summer 1987. Martino was 33 at the time, according to a New York Times article about the four slayings.

In 1988, Virginia Ferrer, 27, was stabbed to death in an alley behind her home. Catherine Gochinski, 16, was found shot to death on Feb. 3, 1989, in the apartment she shared with her 18-year-old boyfriend and his sister. And the body of Tracy Sheperd, 27, was found under a cover of leaves and other debris in a wooded area of Montague Center in the spring of 1989 — the fourth murder victim in Montague in less than two years.

The most recent Montague murder before Morrissey’s occurred at a paper mill in the 1800s.

A tree was planted in Morrissey’s memory shortly after her murder and a tree planting followed for each of the other victims, though three of them soon succumbed to mowing damage. The fourth tree died by fall 2012. The Greenfield Recorder reported four new trees were planted in Peskeomskut Park in May 2013. Morrissey’s grown daughters watered the first tree as it was planted.

Mary A. Kociela, who will retire Thursday as director of domestic and sexual violence projects at the Northwestern District Attorney’s Office after exactly 25 years on the job, was the director of the Greenfield-based New England Learning Center for Women in Transition at the time of Morrissey’s murder.

“When Vivian Morrissey was killed, it kind of really shook the community and we hadn’t really had a domestic violence homicide, that I was aware of, in recent years,” she said. “So it was really kind of shocking, but at that time it really kind of set the stage for the years to come.”

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Kociela said there were 11 domestic violence homicides in Franklin and Hampshire counties between 1987 and 1993. The string of murders rocked the area and each case was followed intensely.

The Women in Transition center “would get calls from victims on our hotline and they would tell us that their abuser would say, ‘If you don’t watch it, you’ll be next,’” Kociela recalled. “That was a really trying time. It was really scary.”

She said the silver lining is that the slew of murders drew attention to the horrors of domestic violence, which had long been left out of public discourse.

“It’s unfortunate that it takes a murder to have people pay attention, but that was an example of that for sure,” she said, adding that Morrissey’s 3- and 1-year-old daughters were in the home at the time of her murder.

“I guess I would say it also drew attention to the effects on children and families of domestic violence. It was just so horrible to think these two children were in the home when this terrible act occurred.”

The New England Learning Center for Women in Transition is located at 17 Long Ave. in Greenfield. A 24-hour domestic violence and rape crisis hotline is available by calling 413-772-0806.

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