Coming Out Party
Nor had she ever encountered the swarm of reporters who waited outside her hotel and set off in pursuit of her whenever she left it. "She said she didn't know how famous people can handle it," says Kristen, "because she can't deal with it." Whatever difficulties Woodward faced, however, lack of money was clearly not one of them. Even as her supporters in England were putting $425,000 raised for her expenses into a trust fund, one contributor earmarked another $3,500 for Louise's personal use. And neither the media nor celebrity gawkers could keep Woodward from shopping. In a four-hour foray at the Northshore Mall in suburban Peabody, she spent more than $300 in Filene's juniors department, Next (where she bought a bracelet and earrings), The Limited (two sweaters) and Sam Goody (Spice Girls, Jewel and Blues Traveler CDs).
The sight of Woodward out and apparently enjoying herself, plus reports that British tabloids have made six-figure offers to buy her story if she is cleared of all charges, infuriated little Matthew's parents, Deborah and Sunil Eappen, who have returned to work. Deborah bitterly told TIME magazine, "She is a convicted felon, and it has turned into the biggest opportunity of her life."
Even in Britain there were signs of a backlash. Roughly half the respondents to a Daily Mirror poll said they believed that Woodward had in fact killed Matthew by accident, and there was dismay over the raucous celebration in Woodward's hometown of Elton that followed her release. As one columnist wrote in the British newspaper The Observer: "Has everyone flipped? A baby lies dead."
Meanwhile, the day after Woodward walked free more than 40 pediatricians and child-abuse experts from around the country released a letter sharply critical of her defense's expert witnesses, who had testified that medical evidence did not support the conclusion that Woodward had shaken the baby. In the letter the experts also asserted that the defense hypothesis that Matthew had died after an earlier injury began to rebleed "can best be described as inaccurate, contrary to vast clinical experience and unsupported by any published literature."
By last week there were reports that Woodward, who must stay in Massachusetts until any appeals process is completed—perhaps as long as a year—had rented a house in Georgetown, a charming hamlet some 25 miles north of Boston popular with British expatriates. From there it is a convenient commute to court in Cambridge, where Woodward's presence may yet again be required. The Eappens could file a wrongful-death suit and, given Woodward's conviction, would likely prevail. Though damages in the case of infant death are usually limited, Woodward may find that freedom from prison is no guarantee of freedom from judgment.
ERIC FRANCIS in Boston and BRYAN ALEXANDER in London