SAUGUS — Convicted murderer Norman A. Porter Jr., who killed a man in a Saugus clothing store nearly six decades ago, is awaiting a decision from the Massachusetts Parole Board on whether he will be released.
“The murder of John Pigott was brutal and senseless,” Special Assistant District Attorney Elin H. Graydon from Essex District Attorney Jonathan Blodgett’s office wrote in a letter of opposition. “The crime was a bald and daring masked armed robbery with three loaded weapons, including a sawed-off shotgun, it caused 20-30 customers and employees to be terrified and in fear of their lives, and it culminated in the apparently cold-blooded murder of an innocent 22-year-old victim and the wounding of another.”
Porter, now 79, was 20 when, armed with a sawed-off shotgun, he robbed IGA in Lynnfield on Sept. 16, 1960. Almost two weeks later, he robbed the Robert Hall clothing store on Route 1 in Saugus and killed the part-time clerk, John “Jackie” Pigott of Lynn.
During several parole hearings, Porter denied pulling the trigger and killing Pigott, who was kneeling and facing the wall with money in his hand when he was shot in the back of the neck at close range with a shotgun.
According to a 1962 Item story “during a court reconstruction of the robbery of a Saugus store which ended in murder, a Lynn woman testified that the gunman who killed John Pigott of Lynn bent down and took two $10 bills from the dying man’s hands.”
Porter and his accomplices wore blue polka-dot face masks. They herded two dozen customers into a back room, took their wallets, wounded the manager, and shot Pigott to death. Theodore Mavor of Peabody was also convicted of the crime. He was later stabbed to death at Norfolk State Prison.
Pigott, a graduate of St. John’s Prep, was the son of the vice president of Essex Trust in Lynn and an executive secretary at General Electric. He was 22 years old and engaged to be married within a few months of his death.
While awaiting trial for the murder, Porter shot and killed a prison guard and escaped Cambridge Jail on May 14, 1961. He was captured a week later breaking into a market in Keene, N.H.
He pleaded guilty and was convicted of the murder of jail master David S. Robinson in October 1961. He was sentenced to life in prison, but Gov. Michael Dukakis later commuted his sentence. In May 1962, he received an additional life sentence after he pleaded guilty to the murder of Pigott.
During a brief intermission at a parole hearing in 1984, Porter told The Item he wasn’t responsible for the murder.
“I never pulled that trigger,” he said. “I didn’t have the shotgun. You can check the first newspaper articles. And all that stuff about my pulling bills from the guy’s hand, it just wasn’t true.”
He said his accomplices told police he had the shotgun “because I was the last caught.”
This time, at 79 years old, he sang a different tune and took responsibility, according to NBC Boston.
“If it wasn’t for my behavior, those men would not be dead,” he said at the Jan. 31 hearing.
While incarcerated, Porter started a prison radio station and newspaper. He published poetry and fought for prisoners’ rights, befriended wardens, counselors, and guards, and was awarded an undergraduate degree from Boston University.
He was transferred to Norfolk Pre-Release Center, a minimum security facility with no fences, which he walked away from on Dec. 21, 1985.
Though he was on Massachusetts State Police’s most wanted list, he remained at large for two decades, using a fake name and establishing himself as a poet in Chicago.
He was arrested four times under a false name, but a fingerprint match was never made, according to The Item archives.
The search ran hot and cold for 20 years. Detectives followed quirky leads and scanned websites in hopes of discovering his words. In 2005, Porter won a poetry contest under the name Jacob “J. J.” Jameson. His photo and alias were plastered on the internet.
The poetry contest led detectives to the Third Unitarian Church in Chicago. While they were asking around, Porter walked in and was apprehended.
He sought parole several times in recent years and was denied by the board in 2009 and 2015.
At the 2015 hearing, Porter said that he has “always accepted responsibility.” Grayden argues that he did not turn himself in but fled and was arrested out of state, did not plead guilty until day six of his trail, and accused the DA of lying.
He also continues to deny basic facts of the murder as recounted by eyewitnesses, said Grayden.
In 2009, the board denied parole based on his extensive criminal history, two violent murders and escapes, his “pattern of poor judgement in his continued attempts to flee from his responsibility to the laws of society,” his “lack of respect for the rules of the criminal justice system,” and “his long history of untreated alcohol abuse,” among other reasons, according to Grayden.
The Massachusetts Parole Board is expected to make a decision in the coming weeks to months.
Material from The Daily Item’s archives were used in this report.