To his neighbors, Edward Donahue was a good guy: a stay-at-home dad who drove kids to Cub Scouts and did volunteer work.
But one town away, where his wife Elaine worked double shifts as a nurse to support their four children and her husband’s gambling habit, her friends immediately suspected him the moment she disappeared a month ago.
Prosecutors say the friends were closer to the truth as Donahue, 44, was arraigned Monday on murder charges. He was accused of bludgeoning his wife to death in their bedroom before stashing her body in the basement for weeks and leading vigils for her safe return.
Donahue also was accused of buying a 50-gallon plastic container as police closed in, stuffing his wife’s body inside and renting a storage locker to hide it in.
He pleaded innocent and was held without bail.
A tearful group of about 25 nurses and hospital employees went to court to see the man who joined them in vigils, even as his wife’s body lay wrapped in blankets and plastic in his cluttered basement.
“I can’t believe he led us all down the street like that. He walked with us from Reading to Stoneham, with his children in front,” said nurse Jeanne Smith, who worked with Elaine Donahue for 14 years.
One friend told prosecutors that Elaine had said if anything ever happened to her, they should assume her husband was involved.
When Elaine Donahue, who was known for being punctual, didn’t show up on time for work Sept. 18, her co-workers called her husband, who said she had gone shopping and was likely on her way. When she was an hour and a half late, the head nurse called her home again, then called police.
Talk at the hospital was openly suspicious of Ed Donahue. Co-workers said they knew Elaine Donahue worked extra shifts partly to cover his gambling debts, and although there was no indication of previous violence, they knew that she had been afraid of him.