Corliss charged with seeking to kill witnesses

David Taber

One of them, his wife, died of natural causes

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Edward Corliss, currently awaiting trial for the Dec. 26 murder of store clerk Surendra Dangol, now faces additional charges for allegedly seeking to have witnesses against him killed, including his wife.

Jacqueline Corliss subsequently died of apparent natural causes in April.

Corliss pleaded not guilty to the charges. In a phone interview with the Gazette, his attorney, public defender John Hayes, said he does not believe Corliss is guilty. He described the charges—which include allegations of a planned armored car heist—as “beyond belief.”

Corliss has been in prison since January, awaiting trial on charges of first-degree murder for the slaying of Dangol, a 39-year-old Nepali man, during a Dec. 26 daylight robbery of the Tedeschi Food Store at 761 Centre St.

On July 20, Corliss was arraigned in Suffolk County Superior Court on four counts of witness intimidation. The charges followed a four-month investigation by Boston Police and Suffolk prosecutors. The investigation “developed evidence that Corliss, while held at the Massachusetts Correctional Institution at Cedar Junction…sought to have a soon-to-be-released inmate murder three individuals…,” including Corliss’s wife, Jacqueline Corliss, according to a press materials from the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office.

Jacqueline Corliss died at home of a pulmonary embolism in April, Suffolk DA’s Office spokesperson Jake Wark told the Gazette.

The cause of death was “scrutinized in light of developments in the investigation, but it, in fact, appears to be natural,” Wark said.

Corliss learned names and other identifying information of witnesses who had cooperated in the investigation against him through discovery materials provided to his attorney, according to a press release from the Suffolk DA’s Office. He solicited a soon-to-be released inmate at the Massachusetts Correctional Institute at Cedar Junction to kill them, the press release said.

Corliss suggested that the inmate make the killings look like accidents or hide the bodies, the press release said.

Corliss also sought the inmate’s assistance in an escape plan, suggesting that the inmate could shoot the corrections officers transporting Corliss to Jamaica Plain’s Lemuel Shattuck Hospital or Suffolk Superior Court, the press release said.

Corliss offered to pay for the assassinations and the assistance with the prison-break with $2 million he planned to acquire through an armored car robbery, the press releases said.

The four new counts against Corliss stem from the individual efforts to have people killed and Corliss’s “alleged offer to pay the inmate for the murders,” the press release said.

The investigation that led to the latest charges began after the inmate, released in March, immediately contacted authorities, the press release said.

“Using the information and instructions that Corliss allegedly provided to the inmate, Boston Police set up a post office box with a phony name and began corresponding with Corliss. In the weeks and months that followed, Corliss allegedly sent a series of letters that included apparently-coded references to ‘the work that needs to be done,’” the press release said.

“Essentially, the way we see it is [the charges are based on the word of an] inmate who has plenty of reasons to want to score points with the DA and the police,” Hayes told the Gazette.

Hayes said it is plausible that the inmate could have gleaned the information he presented to authorities from “reading media reports and talking to Corliss. The letters Hayes has reviewed that Corliss believed he was sending to the inmate were “vague, they could be twisted either way,” Hayes said.

Hayes described the alleged plotted armored car heist as “an extravagant story” that sounds like something from a TV show. He said he has trouble believing that someone with Corliss’s “experience in the prison system” would ask another inmate he had just met to kill anyone.

Corliss, 63, was living in Roslindale at the time of his arrest in January. He had been on parole since 2006 after having spent decades in jail on a 1972 second-degree murder conviction for the killing of a convenience store clerk in Salisbury, Mass.

Corliss is charged with first-degree murder for allegedly shooting and killing Dangol.

He was arraigned July 20 at Suffolk Superior Court. Bail was set at $4 million. Corliss is already being held without bail on the first-degree murder charges.

He is due to stand trial in 2011.

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