Blonde, Blue-Eyed and Gone
Two girls from Connecticut vanish. Two from Southern Massachusetts are abducted and found dead. Are these high-profile cases connected?
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In the scope of 10 years, 1968 to 1978, ten girls (including Lisa and Janice) vanished from Tolland County. Some of the girls’ bodies have been recovered, others have not. I looked at several of these cases and I could not find links between Lisa, Janice and any of the missing others. A law enforcement source investigating the cases told me, “Lisa’s disappearance could be connected to [Janice’s] … There are some general common factors to … these cases, [but] nothing substantial was developed.”
Janice Pockett left her Rhodes Road home in Tolland on July 26, 1973—about six miles from where Lisa disappeared over a year later—to fetch a butterfly she’d placed under a rock just off the side of the road a tenth of a mile from her home. Janice’s family found her bicycle on the side of the road near the woods, but 7-year-old Janice was gone. Her body, same as Lisa’s, has never been found.
Something that struck me as I read through the enormous amount of material associated with these cases was a 1975 Hartford Courant article. The Courant reported how a 7-year-old girl had been abducted (and released an hour later) in Sturbridge, Mass., and police were trying to determine if that abduction was related to Janice’s. The description of the perpetrator and his vehicle, along with the location, were of great interest to me: White male, late 20s, in peak physical condition, brown hair, mustache, driving a “yellow Pinto.” From my years of research, I was familiar with an alleged pedophile and murderer from that area fitting this same description.
Lisa and Janice share some of the same features—fair skin, blond hair and blue eyes. They could have passed for sisters. When you’re investigating cases you believe could be connected, you need to be mindful of consistencies. Serial killers preying on children do not choose their victims at random. They make choices based on a preferred-victim “checklist,” fitting into a preferred, polished fantasy. John Wayne Gacy, for example, chose teenage boys. It’s not evidence, but helps build a profile of a possible perpetrator.
|Lisa White, 13, disappeared on Nov. 1, 1974 from Vernon.||Janice Pockett, 7, disappeared a year earlier from Tolland.|
|Molly Bish, 16, was abducted and murdered in 2000. Her body was found in Palmer, Mass.||Holly Piiarainen, 8, was also abducted and murdered in 1993.|
Studying Janice and Lisa’s cases, I could not overlook a possible connection to two murders in the Sturbridge/Warren area of southern Massachusetts: 10-year-old Holly Piirainen and 16-year-old Molly Bish. Regardless of a 27-year gap between the Pockett (1973) and Bish (2000) abductions, all four girls—Pockett, White, Bish and Piirainen—went missing under eerily similar circumstances within the same general area. All of the girls look alike and share similar features. The major difference is that Molly’s and Holly’s bodies were recovered. The person of interest (POI) I mentioned to Judi during our talk at the Vernon carnival, along with two of his brothers, fit flawlessly into a matrix of these four abductions when we placed them inside. Hard as John Kelly and I tried, we could not exclude any of these men from suspicion in any of the four cases.*
[*Because our POI and his brothers have not been convicted of these crimes, I cannot name them. For the purposes of this article, I will refer to each as the Hunter, the little and middle brother.]
One could say the way in which a young woman was abducted, the location, her looks, hair and eye color are mere coincidences. Still, when we placed the Hunter and his brothers in the middle of our investigation and worked to eliminate them, we’d have to be ignorant not to focus on them. The Hunter—who is serving 25 years for stabbing his live-in girlfriend to death in 2008, nearly decapitating her—was working with his brothers a few miles from Comins Pond in Warren, Mass., where Molly Bish was abducted (he was also born in that same town). He frequently hunted in the woods where Molly’s body was later found (12 miles away) in Palmer, Mass. One of his ex-wives told me, “He never came home with game after a hunting trip.” His daughter said, “He would come home at night covered in blood.” His daughter also claimed he repeatedly raped her. He killed their pets. He “buried things in our basement.” As vile as it is to hear (and for me to write), a friend of his told me they were once sitting in a car near a playground and the Hunter turned to him and, pointing at a young blond girl, said, “Boy, I wouldn’t mind me some of that young, tight stuff.” The Hunter’s middle brother lived two miles from where Holly Piirainen was abducted. The Hunter’s little brother had been living in Stafford, the town just north of Tolland and Vernon, when Janice and Lisa went missing. The Hunter frequently visited Stafford. (Both brothers currently live in other states.)