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Salvi’s Father Quietly Watches Clinic Shooting Trial

March 11, 1996

DEDHAM, Mass. (AP) _ Winter has been bleak for John Salvi Jr.

He and his wife have been staying in icy Massachusetts rather than in their own home in sunny Naples, Fla., to be closer to their son.

For the last month, Salvi has spent nearly every day sitting on a hard courtroom bench two rows behind his namesake, who is on trial for killing two people and wounding five others at suburban Boston abortion clinics.

Defense attorneys, expected to wrap up their case Monday, admit that he was the gunman but claim John C. Salvi III was insane. Prosecutors say the killer was too methodical in planning the attacks to be anything but sane.

``This is the hardest winter I’ve ever been through,″ the elder Salvi said one snowy day last week during a break in testimony.

Salvi, 50, has come to know the old courthouse and its routines well. Each morning, he smiles and says hello to the bailiffs, the attorneys and the reporters he passes on his way inside.

He also passes by the family of Shannon Lowney and, some days, the fiancee of Lee Ann Nichols _ survivors of the two women his son killed at the Planned Parenthood and Preterm Health Services clinics in Brookline. They sit on one side of the courtroom. He sits on the other.

Going to court is the only way the Salvis can see their son on most days. They try to visit him at least once a week at the Dedham House of Correction, but visits there are haphazard at best because of the trial’s time demands.

``We have to call up in advance,″ Salvi said. ``We never know when it will be, sometimes late at night, sometimes early in the morning.″

His wife, Ann Marie, has been in court less often lately, apparently unable to bear repeated details from the deadly morning of Dec. 30, 1994.

``I can’t say she’s doing great, but she’s doing all right,″ Salvi said, politely declining to discuss the case itself.

Early on, he took the witness stand and told jurors how his son, now 24, changed toward the end of high school, withdrawing from friends and spending hours alone reading the Bible.

And he has listened to others testify about his son’s odd behavior. An uncle called him ``zombie-like.″ Others said he’d rant about conspiracies against Roman Catholics allegedly involving Freemasons, credit cards and abortion clinics.

If convicted of first-degree murder, Salvi faces mandatory life in prison without the possibility of parole. If acquitted by reason of insanity, he will be committed to a state hospital until deemed sane.

Regardless of the outcome, defense attorney J.W. Carney Jr. doubts his client will ever be freed.

``He stands about as much chance of getting released as Charles Manson does of being paroled. Some people are just so notorious they will never be released,″ he said.

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