Manslaughter charges filed in teen's death after 25 Investigates report

LOWELL, Mass. — A 19-year-old is now facing charges of killing a Tewksbury teen at an underage, alcohol-fueled party – a new development that comes just weeks after 25 Investigates reported a delay at the state Medical Examiner’s Office was preventing prosecutors from filing homicide charges in the case.

Joe Zagarella stood silently in Lowell District Court Wednesday as prosecutors told a judge they are seeking charges of manslaughter and assault and battery with a dangerous weapon causing serious bodily injury in connection with the 2016 death of 15-year-old Ethan Costello.

Last month, Investigative Reporter Eric Rasmussen uncovered how a delay in the autopsy report nearly allowed Zagarella to avoid facing homicide charges.

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It’s been nearly a year after the Oct. 28, 2016 Lowell house party where witnesses said Zagarella slammed Costello’s head into a concrete floor. Costello died two days later.

A grand jury indictment obtained by 25 Investigates found that Zagarella “by such assault and beating did kill Ethan Costello.”

That indictment came just one day after 25 Investigates reported the state Medical Examiner’s Office finally declared Costello’s death a homicide.

The autopsy report took nearly a year to complete – and only came out after 25 Investigates started asking questions.

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In an interview last month, Public Safety Secretary Dan Bennett said the Medical Examiner’s Office is overworked and understaffed. Costello’s autopsy report is just the latest in many delays 25 Investigates has uncovered since last year.

The homeowner -- who hosted the Halloween party where Zagarella is accused of fatally assaulting Costello – is now also charged with allowing teens to drink alcohol on his property.

Zagarella is still waiting to find out when he'll make his first appearance in court on these new charges. His lawyer confirms he'll remain on house arrest until then.