Conviction upheld in murder of Middleboro man, 79

Jan 25, 2023

The state Supreme Judicial Court has upheld the conviction of one of two men found guilty of murdering a 79-year-old Middleboro man in his home in 1986, Plymouth County District Attorney Timothy J. Cruz has announced.

In a 23-page decision issued Jan. 24, the Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the denial of a new trial for Michael Eagles. Eagles and co-defendant Jeffrey Roberio were convicted separately for the July 29, 1986 murder of 79-year-old Lewis Jennings inside his trailer home in Middleboro. 

Roberio was convicted of first-degree murder. Eagles was convicted of armed robbery, felony murder and murder by extreme cruelty and atrocity. Eagles was 20 at the time of the murder. 

At trial, the evidence showed the victim had been beaten with a blunt object and strangled with his own pillow case, Cruz said. Jennings suffered a broken spine, ribs and neck and had injuries to his face and defensive wounds on his hands. 

“I commend the SJC on their thoughtful decision to keep Michael Eagles in prison,’’ Cruz said. “This was a particularly heinous and senseless murder, and my thoughts are with the Jennings family today.’’

In his motion for a new trial, Eagles argued that hair microscopy evidence found on the victim presented through a police expert at trial improperly influenced the jury on their verdicts.

The state argued against Eagles’ motion, and the Supreme Judicial Court agreed.

“Where the Commonwealth’s case strongly supports the defendant’s guilt on a joint venture of felony-murder, the statistical probability to support [the police expert’s] hair comparison testimony likely was not a real factor in the jury’s deliberations,’’ the Supreme Judicial Court wrote in its decision. 

Roberio was convicted of armed robbery and first-degree murder for the same crime. He was released on parole in September 2020. He was 17 at the time of the crime.