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William “Billy” Smolinski Jr. disappeared Aug. 24, 2004, at the age of 31. Police say they believe he was murdered.
His parents, William Smolinski Sr. and Janice Smolinski of Cheshire, have a website, justice4billy.com, that counts up the days, hours and seconds since they last saw him. His case is the jack of spades in the state’s cold-case playing-card deck.
According to his parents, Billy loved fishing, snowmobiling and riding horses. He worked as an apprentice heating and air-conditioning technician and part-time tow- truck driver before his disappearance.
“We will not be able to rest until Billy is found and brought home to us,” Janice Smolinski says. “It has been a life change and struggle since Billy went missing. We have a new norm now. Gardening was my primary passion along with jet skiing, before Billy disappeared. Now, instead of spending time on what we love, the days are consumed with trying to find my son.”
No one has been charged. Police have searched unsuccessfully for Smolinski’s body in several places, including in Shelton and Seymour.
A reinvigorated investigation into his disappearance was promised in early April by Waterbury police.
When Billy disappeared, he and his girlfriend, Madeleine Gleason, had just broken up, police reports say. Gleason told Waterbury police that Smolinski had broken up with her because he thought she was cheating on him, and he left her place in the early morning of Aug. 24, 2004, “a little depressed”—and that was the last time she saw him.
Police reports say that Gleason had also been seeing Chris Sorensen of Woodbridge, who told police he received a phone message that same Aug. 24 in which a male caller said, “Chris, you better watch your back at all times.” The caller was identified as Billy Smolinski. The last three calls Smolinski made prior to his disappearance were to Sorensen, police reports show, but Sorensen said he never saw Smolinski the day he disappeared.
In 2006, police received information from a tipster that Gleason’s son, Shaun Karpiuk, killed Smolinski. A tipster reported hearing that Karpiuk and a male accomplice then buried him. Karpiuk died in 2005 at age 27 of a drug overdose.
In 2007, a tipster told police that Karpiuk had said Smolinski “got what he deserved,” and that he and Chad Hanson of Seymour buried him in Shelton. Another witness told police in 2008 that Hanson bragged he and Karpiuk killed Smolinski, and police would never find his body.
Police interviewed Hanson in 2008, at which time he “stated he did not kill Smolinski, but he did help Karpiuk bury the body.” Hanson then led police to property on Bungay Road in Seymour, where Hanson said he had helped bury a barrel, though he told police he did not realize at the time that Smolinski was inside the barrel.
Police conducted a search of the property, with Hanson directing crews to the alleged location of the body. However, while investigators searched an area the size of a football field, there was “no sign of human remains or a barrel being located.” In a later interview with police in 2008, Hanson said he had lied to police and “did not know where the body of William Smolinski was buried.” Shelton police later charged Hanson, 32, with second-degree making a false statement and interfering with a police officer for lying to investigators. The warrant describes Hanson and Karpiuk as “suspects” in the Smolinski case. Hanson was convicted in February 2011, and received a 20-month prison sentence, which included charges related to the Smolinski investigation as well as unrelated charges.
Anyone with information should contact the tip line at (866) 623-8058.
Doreen Vincent, 12, disappeared from her father Mark Vincent’s house in Wallingford on June 15, 1988, after a disagreement with him.
Mark Vincent told police she left through the front door of the house he had recently moved into on Whirlwind Hill Road. Yet his wife at the time, the late Sharon Vincent Hutchins, told police it would have been impossible for Doreen to have left through the front door because it was locked with a deadbolt that required a key.
Police have never been satisfied with Mark Vincent’s account.
“All we can say is his explanation of the circumstances surrounding her disappearance [is] suspect,” says Wallingford Detective Lt. Robert Flis.
Vincent, 55, a contractor who now lives in Milford, is aware police think he had something to do with Doreen’s disappearance. When questioned, he repeats what he told police: “If you’re looking to me, you’ll never find Doreen”—meaning, he says, that she’s “somewhere else other than here.”
He believes his daughter left the house and hitchhiked somewhere. “She did it before,” he says, recalling that when they lived in Bridgeport, Doreen hitchhiked to her mother’s house in Waterbury.
Doreen’s mother, Donna Lee, doesn’t buy his story at all.
June 15, 1988, was a Wednesday. Lee says she called her ex-husband’s house to get directions to Wallingford from his wife, Sharon. Lee had not yet been to the Whirlwind Hill Road address, Mark and Sharon having moved there less than two weeks before. Lee planned to pick Doreen up on that Friday, but when she called the home several times Friday, there was no answer. (Police say Mark Vincent had removed the phone from the wall.)
The next day, June 18, “We just went there, and he was outside, sunning himself,” Lee says. She says he acted as if she had Doreen. “He insisted I had sent her to my mother’s house,” Lee says.
Lee recalls that Mark Vincent didn’t want to call the police. “I insisted he call the police,” she says.
Wallingford Detective Sgt. Anthony DeMaio says the case is periodically reviewed to see if there is anything police overlooked. Mark Vincent’s account of the day Doreen disappeared still contains many holes.
On the evening of June 15, Sharon Vincent cooked dinner for her family, including two younger children, then left for a church service in West Haven, DeMaio says. Mark Vincent told police he was in his workshop after dinner and, at about 8 p.m., saw Doreen in the kitchen. At about 9, he said, he went to her bedroom and she wasn’t there. When his wife returned at 11:30, he told her Doreen was missing.
While the matter was initially handled as a runaway case, inconsistencies soon started to pop up, DeMaio says. That summer, Mark and Sharon Vincent split up, and he moved out. “But he doesn’t give us a forwarding address and police don’t know where he is for quite some time,” DeMaio says.
Vincent counters that this is a persistent police falsehood. “I didn’t hide,” he says. “I lived and worked in Wallingford. I noticed them noticing me.”
After about a year, police developed information that led them to obtain search warrants for several locations, including Vincent’s mother’s house in Bethel. “Some of the items the father reported Doreen took with her were found there,” says DeMaio. “Obviously, a red flag developed.”
Mark and Donna say they searched for Doreen in Bridgeport, New Haven and New York. Police say they searched, with dogs, a large park in Bethel near the Huntington State Forest. Flis says Vincent was reportedly seen in the park soon after Doreen’s disappearance; Vincent says he can prove he was not there.
“I’ve come to accept the fact we may never know what happened to her,” Lee says.
Vincent says he hopes his daughter is alive: “I’d like to think she’s alive. It’s like a dream to see my baby.” With tears in his eyes, he says he misses his daughter.
Lee says that if her daughter had continued to be in her life, “there wouldn’t have been such a void. She might have had children, been married. I think about her every day and certain dates bring back memories. I miss her terribly.”
Flis says, “Twelve-year-old girls don’t go missing forever. The majority come home within a few hours or days. It’s rare for people to run away and never be heard from again. Gone without a trace is very hard to do, unless something bad happened. There is no evidence to say she’s dead, and I certainly hope she’s alive, but it’s hard for me to feel she is.”
Anyone with information should contact Wallingford police at (203) 294-2805.