Clue in a Murder?
Posted in the Bismarck Forum
#1 Mar 1, 2011
About the year 2006, an auctioneer asked me to look over some books he had bought at a storage unit auction. The whole lot consisted of a bunch of boxed up items, mostly books, but the lot also included some personal papers originally belonging to a Catholic ex-priest who, I soon learned, had been convicted on two child rape charges in the 1980s. The personal papers were mostly junk, old notebooks from seminary, grocery lists, some old bills. I looked over about two thirds or so of the books, which had some strange handwritten notes on the endpapers and fly leafs, including the owner's name, and left. I looked up the name after I got home and was shocked to see who it was. I returned to finish the looking through the rest of the boxes about a month later.
When I returned to finish looking at the books I found a single leaf of a Verizon landline phone bill (2 pages, one on each side) that fell out of a pile of stuff, or maybe out of one of the books, I was putting in the trash can. The page itemized a series of collect calls from the prisoner phones at the Worcester County House of Correction to the home phone of the priest in the fall of 2002, an unknown time after the priest was released from jail. Then the priest, or someone using his phone, apparently in turn, called the home phone of a leading member of a search and rescue group looking for the missing and presumably murdered Molly Bish, a 16 year old lifeguard from Warren MA who had disappeared from her post in June 2000. It's like the priest was a relay between someone at the jail and the search and rescue group. The search and rescue group was endorsed on video by John and Magi Bish, parents of the missing teen. These calls were made at approximately the same time that Molly's bathing suit was first discovered in the woods of West Warren, not far from the priest's (deceased) grandparents' house. In other words, the priest would likely have been familiar with the area from old childhood visits, even though he grew up and lived as an adult in another town.
I put the bill in my pocket and said nothing about it to the auctioneer, who would certainly have just thrown out the bill anyway. I was thinking of showing the bill to state police detectives who, six years after Molly's disappearance, still had no suspect. But first I showed it to a Greenfield MA attorney who was handling the civil suit against another ex-priest, Richard Lavigne, who was for years considered the leading suspect in the 1972 murder of 13 year old altar boy Danny Croteau of Chicopee MA. The Hampden County prosecutor never had enough evidence to charge Lavigne with the Croteau murder, but the Greenfield lawyer, John Stobierski, represented the family in a civil suit against Lavigne and the Catholic Church that was going forward with depositions at roughly the time I showed him the phone bill. I'm not sure of the exact chronology, but I think one major deposition had already been completed. I believe that Fr. Jim Scahill had already been deposed. He would have become a witness for the plaintiff. At the time I showed Stobierski the phone bill, I didn't know he was involved in the Lavigne case.
#2 Mar 1, 2011
Stobierski couldn't get the copy of the phone bill off his desk fast enough. He said I could show it the police. Or I could keep my mouth shut and forget about it. It seemed to me pretty clear which advice I should take. It seemed that Stobierski did not want the police to think there might be some connection between the Croteau murder and the Molly Bish case. I have no idea why he would think that, but that's the impression I got.
After sitting on this phone bill issue for a few months, maybe a year or more, I finally started dribbling out small summaries of the bill (no specific numbers or names) into a couple of online discussion threads. What little response it got was uniformly negative. Every few months I would toss a summary of the bill out online again, but it never drew any worthwhile attention.
About the time I found the bill, the Springfield Republican had hired Robert Stevens, a Hadley MA private investigator, to re-investigate Croteau's murder. Stobierski was previously a prosecutor and who had worked on part of the Bish case before going into private practice. And Stevens, a retired state police detective had also worked on the Bish case, so it seemed pretty clear that the lawyer and the PI knew each other, and were maybe working together on the Croteau suit. In February 2011, the private investigator posted a message to me - or more accurately, to my moniker - in one of the online threads in which I had, the month before, mentioned the phone bill again. "Let's chat," he wrote. "I believe you have my number." That was it.
The only thing I could think of was that he had found my post about the phone bill online and he wanted to plug the leak, just like his friend the attorney apparently wanted to do a few years earlier. For some reason, the case against Lavigne and the Catholic Church on behalf of the murdered altar boy's family has stalled out, unless I missed something in the news or it was settled quietly. Not sure.
I could be wrong, but I get the feeling that both the PI and the attorney do not want this phone bill to surface and that's why the PI was trying to contact me. He might know who I am and he might not. Hard to say. But it's the only reason I can think of for him to ask me to call him. It seems like they don't want this phone bill to see the light of day. I can only speculate that it might somehow compromise their suit against the Catholic Church and Lavigne. I imagine there would be pretty good money in a successful suit. But that's just a guess. I'm undecided about whether to talk with the PI or not. Any advice?
#3 Aug 8, 2011
I met, at Stevens' request, with him outside the Hadley MA Target store. We talked for almost 90 minutes.
Stevens, the Hadley MA private investigator, asked me on Friday afternoon, May 27, 2011, whether or not I killed Maura Murray. He would not have asked this question if he thought the answer could not have been in the affirmative. I can conclude only that the investigation into the disappearance of Maura Murray is on-going and centers in one way or another on Amherst MA and to some extent, at least, on me. Which has me totally freaked out.
Stevens would not have wasted his time talking to me about something irrelevant or of faint interest to him. His time is very, very expensive. He doesn't waste it on small talk. He is a very highly regarded, capable, intelligent PI, head and shoulders above Tom Shamshak (see Molly Bish murder case). Just for the record, I did not kill Maura Murray or Molly Bish nor have I killed anyone else. But being a suspect is withering me to the bone.
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