X

Thank you for sharing!

Your article was successfully shared with the contacts you provided.
For years, Harvard Square in Cambridge, Mass., has been a place for young people to get together with friends, to fit in when they might elsewhere be considered misfits, to sleep when they might not have a home. Io Nachtwey, a 22-year-old college dropout from Hawaii, was drawn to this spot, a sunken plaza known as “the pit,” next to the subway stop and across from the red brick buildings of the nation’s oldest university. It was there that she made friends. It was also where she met her killers, police say. Nachtwey’s body was found in the nearby Charles River on Nov. 4. Prosecutors say she had been stabbed to death for refusing to join a gang. Six people — four men and two women — have been arrested. “She was one of the most innocent people here,” said Josh Mason, 17. “It’s so cruel that she was the one who got murdered. She was a real sweetheart.” The attraction of Harvard Square is both practical and philosophical. Cambridge is accepting of those who often do not fit in elsewhere. It is also a major hub of public transportation. The subway and several bus lines bring tens of thousands of passengers to the square every day. Nachtwey landed in Massachusetts this summer after dropping out of Maui Community College and traveling to the East Coast to stay with grandparents in Maine, friends said. The plain-looking young woman managed to make friends amid the multicolored hair, the tattoos and the body piercings. She would panhandle outside shops, always with a smile. At night, when many of the other kids went home, Nachtwey would curl up to sleep with other homeless in a cemetery. Nachtwey, who a few years ago had been named the best female dancer in her senior year at Kekaulike High School, often gave an impromptu dance in the square. Authorities say some of those charged in Nachtwey’s death had tried to recruit more than a dozen youths from the pit as gang members. For initiation, recruits would have to steal and then hand over the loot, prosecutors say. When Nachtwey and others backed out, she was killed to send the others a message, prosecutors say. Her killers took her to the railroad tracks, stabbed her 15 times with knives, beat her with martial arts weapons and rolled her body into the river, police said. Four men were jailed without bail on murder charges. Two 18-year-old women — one of them from the upscale suburb of Milton, Mass., the other a former Boston-area high school cheerleader — were charged with being accessories for allegedly pushing Nachtwey onto the tracks while the others stabbed her. Jonathan Shapiro, the attorney for one of the men charged, 27-year-old Harold Parker, disparaged prosecutors’ case last week. He said he was still awaiting forensic tests on the weapons, meaning prosecutors had built their case on “statements from a group of very unreliable witnesses, no two of whom probably gave the same story.” Bill Sugane, a foreign-language teacher at Nachtwey’s high school, remembered her as an average student, outgoing and self-assured. Her parents were strict: In Hawaii, where skirts and shorts are common, she and her sister were not allowed to wear clothes that revealed their legs. “They preached self-reliance,” he said, noting that Io, named after a moon of Jupiter, worked part time at a library. Sugane said he did not recall Nachtwey complaining about her parents’ rules. And he said he does not know where the Nachtweys live now. At school, “she was always the first one in class and the last one out,” Sugane said. He said she tried to learn French, Spanish and German at the same time. “I told her, ‘You really need to focus on one.’ She was very passionate about anything she did. She had no inhibitions at all.” In 1999, an AIDS-infected man was charged with drugging and raping teen-age boys he met in the pit. He died before his trial. And in 1997, a 16-year-old runaway from Maine told police she was raped by a man who befriended her in the pit and shared drugs with her. A man was acquitted. “What makes them more vulnerable is that they’re looking to belong,” said Genny Price of Bridge Over Troubled Waters, a youth outreach group. “That’s one of the real attractions of Harvard Square; you can fit in.” Copyright 2001 Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Want to continue reading?
Become a Free ALM Digital Reader.

Benefits of a Digital Membership:

  • Free access to 3 articles* every 30 days
  • Access to the entire ALM network of websites
  • Unlimited access to the ALM suite of newsletters
  • Build custom alerts on any search topic of your choosing
  • Search by a wide range of topics

*May exclude premium content
Already have an account?

 
 

ALM Legal Publication Newsletters

Sign Up Today and Never Miss Another Story.

As part of your digital membership, you can sign up for an unlimited number of a wide range of complimentary newsletters. Visit your My Account page to make your selections. Get the timely legal news and critical analysis you cannot afford to miss. Tailored just for you. In your inbox. Every day.

Copyright © 2020 ALM Media Properties, LLC. All Rights Reserved.