Reasonable Doubt

The Fashion Writer, Cape Cod, and the Trial of Chris McCowen

Reasonable Doubt

From the bestselling author of Ptown and Brando comes a riveting new look at the 2002 murder of a beautiful fashion writer and the trial that went horribly wrong—recently depicted on the TV news special A Killing on the Cape. With clear-eyed prose, this “is an unusually captivating story, and Peter Manso has expertly plumbed the depths of it to write a riveting book that true crime fans will love” (Vincent Bugliosi, bestselling author of Helter Skelter).

In January 2002, forty-six-year-old Christa Worthington was found stabbed to death in the kitchen of her Cape Cod cottage, her curly-haired toddler clutching her body. A former Vassar girl and scion of a prominent local family, Christa had abandoned a glamorous career as a fashion writer for a simpler life on the Cape, where she had an affair with a married fisherman and had his child. After her murder, evidence pointed toward several local men who had known her.

Yet in 2005, investigators arrested Christopher McCowen, a thirty-four-year-old African-American garbage collector with an IQ of 76. The local headlines screamed, “Black Trash Hauler Ruins Beautiful White Family” and “Black Murderer Apprehended in Fashion Writer Slaying,” while the sole evidence against McCowen was a DNA match showing that he’d had sex with Worthington prior to her murder.

There were no fingerprints, no witnesses, and although the state medical examiner acknowledged there was no evidence of rape, after a five-week trial— replete with conflicting testimony and accusations of crime scene contamination— McCowen was condemned to three lifetime sentences with no parole.

Rarely has a homicide trial been refracted so clearly through the prism of those who engineered it. Bestselling author and biographer Peter Manso dug deep into the case, and the results were explosive. The Cape DA indicted the author, threatening him with fifty years in prison. In this exhaustively researched and vividly accessible book, Manso bares the anatomy of a horrific murder, a botched investigation rife with bias, and one of the most grossly unjust verdicts in modern trial history. “Only the fearless and risk-taking Peter Manso—capitalizing on his unique familiarity with the culture of the Cape and its denizens, including the victim of this horrible killing—could have written this powerful expose of prosecutorial corruption and the conviction of a possibly innocent victim of racial stereotyping. It will shock, enrage and educate you” (Alan Dershowitz, author of Taking the Stand and Reversal of Fortune).
  • Atria Books | 
  • 464 pages | 
  • ISBN 9780743296687 | 
  • December 2017
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About the Author

Peter Manso
Courtesy Provincetown Banner

Peter Manso

Peter Manso is the author of the definitive biographies of Marlon Brando and Norman Mailer, as well as Ptown: Art, Sex, and Money on the Outer Cape, which was a #1 Boston Globe bestseller. His work has appeared in the New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Vanity Fair, the Sunday Times of London, Paris Match, and many other publications.