Category Archives: true crime

The Mysterious Murder of the Grimes Sisters

            On December 28, 1956, Barbara and Patricia Grimes, 15 and 12, went missing after going to see a movie, Love Me Tender starring Elvis Presley, in the Brighten Park District of Chicago, IL. The sisters, two of the seven children of Joseph and Loretta Grimes, were known to be avid fans of Presley and had seen the movie attended that night on several more occasions. They left their home at approximately 7:30 PM, promising their mother that they would be home by midnight. They never made it home (Wikipedia).

            A friend of Patricia’s, Dorothy Weinert, reportedly saw the girls at the theater that night. She claimed to have been seated behind them at the first screening that night and as she and her sister left after the first movie, approximately 9:30 PM, she saw the Grimes sisters lining up for popcorn. As far as Weinert and her sister could tell, nothing seemed amiss with the sisters (Wikipedia).

            At 2:15 AM on December 29, 1956, Loretta Grimes filed a missing person’s report. The sisters should have been home no later than 11:45 PM on December 28 if they had stayed for both screenings, but had not arrived home. Loretta attempted to get ahold of them through their friends, hoping they had gone to a friend’s house, and had their older sister, Theresa, 17, and brother, Joey, 14, go wait at the bus stop for them. After three buses had come and gone, the siblings returned home to inform their mother that the sisters had not come off of any of the buses (Wikipedia).

            What followed the missing person’s report was the largest search in Cook County history; hundreds of police officers were assigned to a task force specifically formed to find the missing girls. Police from surrounding counties also joined the task force and the search was bolstered by volunteers as well. Door-to-door canvassing was conducted and local rivers and canals were dredged in an effort to find the missing sisters. 15,000 flyers were printed and handed out to local businesses, members of their church offered a $1,000 reward for any information on the girls, and over 300,000 people were questioned with 2,000 being interrogated and two being arrested and charged. The charges, however, were later dropped and one of the men arrested came out and claimed that he was coerced into confessing to the disappearances. Other teenagers at the theater that night reported to police that they saw the sisters having conversations with a young man who bore a resemblance to Elvis Presley and reported that they thought the sisters got into his car (Wikipedia).

            Despite how out-of-character disappearing as they had was, police did not initially treat the case as seriously as perhaps should have been done. Until they had been missing for a week without any contact, it was assumed that they had either run away or were staying with boyfriends (Lineup). As late as January 9, 1957, police continued to receive reports from people who claimed they had seen the sisters at various establishments after they had disappeared. The reports of sightings supported the investigators’ theories that the sisters had chosen to leave home of their own accord (Wikipedia). Two weeks after the sisters disappeared, a classmate of Patricia’s claimed to have received a phone call around midnight that she believed was Patricia (Brown 2019).

            It was also theorized that the girls had left home in an emulation of Presley’s life or had even possibly decided to go to Nashville, TN to see him perform live. Despite the theories, Loretta Grimes was convinced her daughters had been kidnapped and made public pleas for their safe return. Elvis Presley himself made a plea for the girls to return home and ease their mother’s worries. Unfortunately, Barbara and Patricia were unable to do so (Wikipedia).

            Nearly a month after the Grimes sisters disappeared, on January 22, 1957, Leonard Prescott, a construction worker, was driving along German Church Road near unincorporated Willow Springs when he caught sight of something flesh colored on the side of the road. He returned later with his wife to investigate, though he initially thought he may have seen mannequins. His wife reportedly fainted when they were able to see that he had not seen mannequins, but the frozen and nude bodies of Barbara and Patricia Grimes. This was immediately reported to the Willow Springs police (Wikipedia).

            Barbara was found laying on her left side, legs drawn up towards her torso, with three wounds that appeared to be inflicted by an ice pick on her chest and blunt force drama to her head. Patricia was found with her body laying over her sister’s head, laying on her back with her head turned sharply to the right, covered in what appeared to be bruises. Joseph Grimes, the sisters’ father, was driven to the seen to identify the bodies and a search was launched looking for evidence linked to the crime. No evidence was found that could be connected and the search was later criticized because the organizers allowed untrained people to be involved in the search (Wikipedia).

            Based on the contents of the sisters’ stomachs, the pathologists who performed the autopsies believed the girls likely died within five hours of when they were last seen on December 28. Due to the condition of the bodies, the cause of death and time of death couldn’t be determined without the aid of the stomach contents. The snacks the girls were last seen getting were still present in their stomachs at the time their remains were recovered. Officially, the cause of death for each girl was cited as being murder through shock and exposure, which was reached after all other possibilities had been ruled out as it was determined that the injuries to the girls’ bodies had occurred after death (Wikipedia).

            During the autopsy it was determined that Barbara had engaged in some form of sexual intercourse before her death, but evidence determining whether this was consensual or forced could not be found. The girls’ clothing was never recovered and the bodies were said to have been remarkably clean when recovered. Testing showed that the girls had no drugs or alcohol in their systems, meaning they had not been taken in an altered state of mind. One of the coroners who worked on the case believed that the girls’ bodies had been there for some time before being found, the cold weather and snow fall allowing for the bodies to be preserved for some time (Wikipedia).

            On January 28, 1957, the Grimes family laid the sisters to rest in white coffins at Holy Sepulcher Catholic Cemetery. Loretta Grimes was inconsolable, and until she died at age 83 in 1989, she continued the search for her daughters’ murder (Lineup). The Wollschlager Funeral Home donated the services, which were held at St. Maurice Church where Patricia had attended grade school. Many people attended the funeral, including the mayor of Chicago. The sisters were buried near their sister, Leona Frank, who passed two years before (Brown 2019).

            Chief Investigator Harry Glos disagreed with the official reports on the time of death, citing the thin sheet of ice on the girls’ bodies as proof they had been alive longer. According to him, there was no way the girls could have died any earlier than January 7, as that was when the weather would allow for the snow to react with the remaining heat in their bodies and result in the thin layer of ice. Glos also claimed that semen had been found in samples taken from Patricia and used this claim to bolster his claim that the girls had been alive longer and had been subjected to sexual assault regularly during their captivity. He also told the media that milk had been found in Barbara’s stomach, which she had not been seen drinking at all during December 28 (Wikipedia).

            Glos, among others, was staunch in his claims that information had been withheld either to protect the reputations of the sisters or to spare their mother’s feelings and that a suspect who was interrogated in 1975, Edward Bedwell, had given details that matched. He felt that the wounds to their bodies had been dismissed without proper investigation and that the suspect from 1975 was the one guilty of their disappearance and deaths (Wikipedia).

            Between their disappearance and the discovery of their remains, there were many sightings called in to investigators. On the night of their disappearance multiple people said they saw them on a bus heading east after the screening, the bus driver being one of these witnesses. They were seen playing a game of jumping out at each other on their way home from the movie theater that night and a security guard claimed he had given the girls directions on December 29, 12 hours after they had headed home the night before. A train conductor called in a tip that the girls had boarded a train and been searching for two sailors named “Larry” and “Terry.” On December 30, a local restaurant owner said he had seen Patricia apparently intoxicated and being followed by Edward Bedwell, the official suspect according to Glos. Up until the day they were found, there was reports of sightings (Wikipedia).

            The main suspect is Edward Bedwell, who was a 21-year old drifter working at a skidrow restaurant at the time that the sisters went missing. It is noted that at the time, he bore a resemblance to Elvis Presley and the girls were seen talking to a man who also bore such a resemblance on the night they disappeared. Bedwell was first brought in as a suspect after his boss called into the police on January 24 that he had been at the restaurant on December 30 with two girls who matched the descriptions of the Grimes sisters. Bedwell was arrested and interrogated for three days before being formally charged with the murders on January 27 after signing a massive 14-page confession. According to his confession, he and an acquaintance, William Cole Willingham, were in the company of the girls between December 30 and January 7, the date Glos believes the girls died on. Bedwell’s confession stated that they were drinking with the girls on the same street the restaurant owner claimed to have seen Patricia visibly intoxicated on. The confession states that Bedwell and Willingham beat the sisters to death when they rejected their sexual advances, after feeding them hotdogs. Willingham admitted to being with the girls on December 30, but denied any involvement in their murders. Bedwell later recanted his confession, claiming he had only confessed because he believed the police would let him go, after four days of interrogation, if he did (Wikipedia).

            Two other credible suspects were Max Fleig and Walter Kranz. Fleig was 17-years old at the time of the murder, and due to Illinois state law, couldn’t be subjected to an official polygraph test. An unofficial polygraph test was performed and it is claimed that he admitted to the murders during the test, but due to his age and the lack of evidence, he could not be charged. He was later jailed in connection with the murder of another young woman. Kranz was 53-years old at the time of the murder and a proclaimed psychic. On January 15, he called into the police anonymously, though the call was able to be traced to his home, and insisted that he had had a dream that the girls were dead. During the call he described a park that was approximately one mile from where the girls’ remains were found. While initially a prime suspect in the case, Kranz was released after much questioning (Wikipedia).

            In 2013, a retried Chicago police officer, Raymond Johnson, began a personal investigation of the case. He believes that Charles LeRoy Melquist, a self-confessed child serial killer and a suspect at the time of the murders, was the true killer. In 1958, Melquist was convicted of the murder of Bonnie Leigh Scott, 15, who he knew before the murder, just two months after and 10 miles away from where the Grimes sisters were. It is reported that, after Scott’s body was discovered, Loretta Grimes received a call from someone claiming to have committed another perfect crime. This is believed to have been Melquist (Wikipedia). Johnson also believes that marks on the bodies of the Grimes sisters that were not reported to the media bare a resemblance to marks found on Scott’s body, and Scott was also found naked. He also claims to have interviewed a third girl who was kidnapped with the Grimes sisters, but was too scared to come forward. Melquist was sentenced to 99 years for the murder of Bonnie Leigh Scott, but only served 11 before getting out. He has since married and had children, and has never been charged with the Grimes’ sisters murders. Johnson runs a Facebook group with over 1,700 members, called “Help Solve Chicago’s Grimes Sisters’ Murder” (Lineup).

“Murder of the Grimes Sisters.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 18 Mar. 2020,

“The Chilling, Unsolved Murder of the Grimes Sisters.” The Lineup, 18 July 2016,

Brown, Julianne. “The Grisly Murder of The Grimes Sisters.” The Parrot, 20 Mar. 2019,

The Murder of Susan Reinert

            It was June 22, 1979, when the Reinert’s disappeared. Susan Reinert, 36, was due to give a speech at Parents Without Partners in Allentown, PA, 50 miles north of her home town of Ardmore, PA. She left that morning with her two children, Karen, 11, and Michael, 10, likely in hopes of turning the trip up north into a weekend away for the family. According to a neighbor who saw them leave, they were all dressed casually. They are never seen again (Barry).

            Susan Reinert was found nude, badly beaten, chained, and stuffed into the trunk of her own car on June 25, 1979 (O’Loughlin 2011) (Barry).  A man found her when he was cutting through the parking lot in Harrisburg, PA, nearly 90 miles from Allenstown and nearly 100 miles from her home. He saw her car, an orange Plymouth Horrizon Hatchback, which he thought looked abandoned. The back was open and he looked inside, where he discovered her remains (Barry). Her children were nowhere to be found (O’Loughlin 2011).

 Six years late, on June 25, 1985, Jay Smith was arrested and charged with her death. He was convicted and sentenced to three death sentences (Leask & Shellem 1992). Jay Smith was the principal at the school Susan was a teacher at and dubbed “The Prince of Darkness” by her colleagues after her disappearance. Rumors began to circulate, including insinuations that there were swing parties happening between the faculty of the school, devil worship, and that Smith had burned the bodies of the Reinert’s in the school’s incinerator (Barry).

Year later, Reinert’s fiancé, William Bradfield, was convicted of conspiracy to commit three murders, even though the bodies of her children had not been recovered. Not only were the bodies of the Reinert children not recovered, but Smith’s daughter and son-in-law, Stephanie and Edward Hunsberger, had gone missing a year prior to his arrest; both may have been heroin addicts. There were many rumors going around about their disappearance – people were saying they thought Smith had killed them and the children while others thought the Hunsbergers were in hiding and raising the Reinert children (O’Loughlin 2011).

            As of 2011, both the Hunsbergers and the Reinert children remain missing and are likely dead. William Bradfield and Jay Smith have both since passed, taking with them to the grave the information on where the Hunsbergers and Reinert children could be found (O’Loughlin 2011).

            After getting divorced from her first husband, Ken, Reinert began dating William Bradfield, a fellow English teacher at Upper Merion Area High School. From the beginning of their relationship, Bradfield vocally denied there was one to other teachers at the school and the woman he was living with at the time, Susan Myers, who was also a teacher at the school. It was well known as well that Bradfield had other lovers (Barry). Reinert’s infatuation with Bradfield eventually got to the point that she changed the beneficiary of her life insurance from her brother and children to Bradfield, whom she referred to as her “intended husband” on the forms. From the beginning of the investigation, police suspected that this change may have been motive (O’Loughlin 2011).

            On the weekend that the Reinert’s disappeared, Bradfield was in Cape May, New Jersey with several other male and female friends. It was supposedly known that Bradfield, as well as other members of the school’s faculty, were involved in swinging sex parties. It is worth noting that during the autopsy, it was found that Reinert had sand between her toes (Barry).

            While Bradfield couldn’t be charged for the murders for years, he was arrested and charged with theft by deception. Before Reinert’s death, Bradfield convinced her to withdraw $25,000 from her bank account that he could invest. The investment, however, was fake, and Bradfield was arrested. While he was in jail awaiting trial for this theft, he filed suit for the insurance money from her death in an extremely bold move. He was set to go to trial in 72 hours (O’Loughlin 2011). Arrested in connection with the theft was another one of Bradfield’s lovers, Wendy Ziegler. According to police, Ziegler hid the money in a safe-deposit box and took it out the day the Reinert’s disappeared. While she was arrested, police were apparently more interested scaring her into cooperating on their case against Bradfield than actually charge her. She ended up being one of the witnesses who testified against him in 1981, where he was sentenced to two years in prison (O’Loughlin 2011).

            Smith had had previous issues with the police before Reinert’s disappearance. In 1978, Smith was arrested at a shopping center after being called due to suspicious activity. Police found loaded handguns, a syringe filled with morphine, a hooded mask, and several other items described as burglar’s tools in his car (O’Loughlin 2011). It is worth noting at this point that the official cause of death for Susan Reinert was a lethal dose of morphine (Barry). Smith claimed he needed the guns to scare off people harassing him and the syringe must have belonged to his son-in-law, whom he said was a drug addict (O’Loughlin 2011). Police searched Smith’s home, revealing more drugs and guns, as well as uniforms for security guards, badges, and pornography that largely dealt with bestiality. Along with the drugs and guns, police also found four gallons of nitric acid and office supplies reportedly stolen from the school. As the investigation continued, police linked Smith to two armed robberies at Sears stores. Bradfield was one of the witnesses at his trial in 1979, providing an alibi for Smith, but was apparently not convincing enough. Smith was found guilty, but let out on bail while appealing the conviction (O’Loughlin 2011).

            On April 6, 1983, Bradfield was arrested and charged with the murders of Susan Reinert and her children, Karen and Michael. During the trial, there was testimony about the changes to Reinert’s will and life insurance and testimony claiming that Bradfield had been telling friends that he was concerned Smith was going to hurt Reinert, but never told Reinert herself or police about his concerns. Smith was not yet on trial for the murders at this point, but much of the testimony presented by the state connected Smith to Reinert. Among other things, there was a hair from Reinert that matched one found at Smith’s house and a comb from the Air Force Unit Smith belonged to found under Reinert’s body. It is worth noting, however, that it was found that there had been an event where the combs had been given out (O’Loughlin 2011). A very small amount of evidence actually linked Bradfield to the murder – instead, investigators were attempting to connect Bradfield to Smith to try to prove that the two had conspired together to kill Reinert. Bradfield was found guilty of conspiracy to commit murder in October 1983 and sentenced to three life sentences (O’Loughlin 2011).

            In March 1992, new evidence in the case was found in a box kept in the attic of the lead investigator that could have possibly cleared Smith of the murders. One of Smither’s lawyer’s filed to have the evidence put into the care of a court-appointed custodian and requested that the judge order the prosecution to explain why the evidence was never handed over to them during the initial trial. The evidence from the 1986 trial was sealed in boxes and left in the Attorney General’s office. According to the Chief Deputy Attorney General, the sealed boxes would be opened once the new box and the evidence inside was turned in (Leask & Shellem 1992).

            Smith’s attorney argued that the second trial of the murders constituted double jeopardy and strengthened the argument using evidence found in the box. Among the pieces of evidence in the box was a comb identical to the one used as evidence in the original trial; however, according to the attorney, this comb found in the box is not the comb originally presented at the trial. The comb found in the box was not tagged as trial exhibit, while the one used in the trial was, according to Smith’s attorney, and the comb used in the original trial should have been sealed away with the rest of the evidence in the Attorney General’s office (Leask & Shellem 1992). Smith’s attorney also argued that the officers may have been paid off by as much as $50,000 before any arrests were made for information, by Joseph Wambaugh, author of “Echoes in the Darkness”, a best-selling book about this case (Leask & Shellem 1992).

            The box found also contained notebooks numbered through 23, with the exception of 13 which seemed to be missing. Smith’s attorney theorized that the missing notebook was from a time when the officer was dealing with a jailhouse informant who claimed that Smith had told him that he had committed the murders of the Reinert’s. Smith’s attorney alleged that in another notebook, the officer noted that the informant said Smith told he did not commit the murder, and has been suspicious that there may have been a deal with the informant (Leask & Shellem 1992). Smith was released after being on death row for six years, when the Pennsylvania Supreme Court found that the prosecution was guilty of misconduct including hiding evidence and making deals. Smith died a free man in 2009, after spending the rest of his life trying to clear his name (Arias 2013).

            In 1998, Bradfield died of heart failure and a photograph that was likely developed in 1986 was found. The photograph shows a small statue of a hooded figure, possibly in a wooded area. Police believe this photograph may hold the key to finding the remains of Karen and Michael Reinert. Searches have been conducted, yet there have been no remains found as of yet. Police continue to take tips as to where this statue may be. If the statue could be found, it would hopefully lead to the recovery of the children’s remains (O’Neill). Along with the photograph, which was found among several boxes, police also found letters that appeared to be written in code. Some theorize that somewhere out in the world, another person involved in the murders exists and could tell them where the Reinert children are (O’Neill).

            While the murder of Susan Reinert may be solved, there are still questions haunting people today. Where are her children? Was Jay Smith truly innocent, or was he actually involved? What is that photograph found in Bradfield’s belongings? Where was it taken? Perhaps some day we will have answers to these questions, but for now they will remain unanswered.

O’Loughlin, Kathy. “True Crime: The Reinert Murder Rocked Our Area.” Main Line Media News, 23 June 2011,

Leask , Laird, and Pete Shellem. “Evidence Surfaces in Reinert Case.” Death Penalty Information Center, The Patriot News, 29 Mar. 1992,

Arias, Jeremy. “Susan Reinert, Teacher and Kids Killed by Ex-Principal Jay Smith: Notorious Murders.” Pennlive, 28 May 2013,

O’Neill, Ann. “Does Photo Found in Cell Show Children’s Grave?” CNN, Cable News Network,

Barry. “Susan Reinert Victim.” America’s Best Crime Writer,

Barry. “Susan Reinert Killer.” America’s Best Crime Writer,

Barry. “Susan Reinert Story.” America’s Best Crime Writer,

Barry. “Susan Reinert Bribery.” America’s Best Crime Writer,

The Unsolved Murder of Theresa Corley

Theresa Corley, 19, went missing in December 1978. She was missing for days before her body was found, nude and surrounded by her own clothing, in a ditch off Route I-495 in Bellingham, MA. From the state of the body, police concluded that Corley must have been carried to the site by one or more individuals and not dragged. Preliminary cause of death has been stated as strangulation, possibly using a ligature (Pasqualini 2019).

            The night Theresa disappeared, she had reportedly been out with friends celebrating her boyfriend’s birthday at the Train Stop lounge on Depot Street in Franklin, MA (Pasualini 2018). Another report indicates that the celebration could have been for a coworker and her boyfriend also attended with her (Croteau 2016). After drinking, Theresa was said to have left the bar after getting into an argument with her boyfriend. While Theresa asked a friend for a ride, the friend was not ready to leave, so she began to hitchhike home. According to witnesses, three young men were seen asking her if she needed a ride, but she turned them down (Pasqualini 2019). The men may have been at the Train Stop lounge and followed her out before either picking her up or taking her (Ward 2018).

            In her intoxicated state, Theresa supposedly agreed to join the three men at another party in the Presidential Arms Apartments in Franklin, MA. At the apartments, police theorize that at least one of the men who picked her up began to sexually assault her, and that the other men may have tried to join in. Theresa was able to fight back and escape, and left the apartment wearing one of the men’s shoes and one shoe of her own (Pasqualini 2019).  These men were questioned in relation to her death, but were never charged with anything (Trost 2016).

            Reports indicate that Theresa was spotted hitchhiking down Route 140, where she was picked up by a Garelick Farm truck driver, who dropped her off at the Bellingham Police Station. The driver does not know if she ever went inside the police station, as he dropped her off outside (Ward 2018). He indicated that she was clearly intoxicated, slurring her words, and had told him she had been sexually assaulted. Reportedly, the truck driver said, “She was mad as fire.” She was next seen at approximately 5:30 AM, hitchhiking once again by a Dairy Queen on North Main Street, not far from the police station. At 7:00 AM, Theresa’s sister, Linda, received a call from her mother about Theresa not coming home. This was out of character for the teenager, and her mother was understandably upset and worried that something may have happened to her. Unfortunately, her mother was correct (Pasqualini 2019).

            The discovery of her body was called into the general police department number instead of 911 by a man going by John Burlington, who claimed to be a businessman from Connecticut (Pasqualini 2019), on December 8, 1978 (Ward 2018). According to the phone call, he had stopped along the side of the road to relieve himself when he saw her remains. Police were unable to find John Burlington, and believe there was never an actual John Burlington (Pasqualini 2019). On the same day that her body was recovered, a man showed up to the police department to ask if the body found belonged to Theresa Corley, though he never gave his name. He, perhaps, should have been detained, as nothing had been released yet on a body being found. Police believe he was likely John Burlington, but he reportedly was never to be found again (Pasqualini 2019) or was identified but has since passed away (Trost 2016). If the man who passed away was the one who showed up at the police station that day, it is possible he was John Burlington or may have known who he was (Trost 2016).

            Bob Ward, of New England’s Unsolved, knew Theresa Corley and in a report in 2018 wrote about the last time he remembers seeing her. He was working his job at the Star Market in Franklin, MA when he saw her likely leaving for the day. She said a quick hello before leaving for the day; shortly after she began a new job. Months later, she was gone (Ward 2018).

            In 2016, Theresa’s remains were exhumed and fingernails were collected for DNA testing. The hope was that there would be DNA evidence that could lead to the killer under her fingernails, but DNA degrades over time and unfortunately for the family of Theresa Corley, the DNA did not result in a full profile. However, a sample taken from her jeans has yielded a DNA profile possibly belonging to her killer or someone who may have seen her that night, marking a major break in her case (Staff 2017). According to Bob Ward’s 2018 article, witnesses were also being approached at the time for DNA samples. A digital billboard was donated by Clear Channel Outdoor Boston on Route 140 in Franklin, MA in 2018 (Pasqualini 2019).

            According to one of Theresa’s sisters, evidence has been lost or destroyed in the decades since her death. There is understandable frustration from the family of Theresa Corley, as justice has been delayed in her death for far too long. Her family has set up a Facebook page, “Justice for Theresa Corley” to continue bringing attention to her case and hopefully encourage someone who may know something to come forward (Trost 2016).

            If you believe you saw something on the night of Theresa Corley’s disappearance, or that someone you know may know something, please contact either the Bellingham Police at 508-657-2863 or the Franklin Police at 508-440-2780. You can also email both departments, Bellingham at or Franklin at (Pasqualini 2019).

Pasqualini, Kym L. “Unlocking Secrets: The 40-Year-Old Murder of Theresa Corley.” Medium, Medium, 21 Dec. 2019,

Ward, Bob. “New England’s Unsolved: New Push for Evidence on 40th Anniversary of Teen’s Murder.” WFXT, 6 Dec. 2018,

Trost, Rachael. “Plea for Answers in Massachusetts Teen Theresa Corley’s 1978 Murder.”, NBCUniversal News Group, 21 Feb. 2016,

Croteau, Scott J. “Theresa Corley’s Murder Remains Unsolved Almost 40 Years Later.” Masslive, 13 Apr. 2016,

Staff, Christopher Gavin Daily News. “DNA Gives New Hope in 1978 Corley Case.” Milford Daily News, Milford Daily News, 5 Dec. 2017,

The Crimes of Lewis Lent

            On January 12, 1995, serial killer Lewis Lent Jr. was convicted of several charges, including kidnapping, assault with a dangerous weapon, and assault and battery. A year prior, Lent came to the attention of not only police, but the world, when he attempted to kidnap 12-year old Rebecca Savarese in Pittsfield, MA. On Thursday January 6, 1994, Savarese was out when Lent pulled over in his borrowed pickup truck and attempted to force Savarese into his car with a gun. Savarese, in a moment of what I can only describe as pure genius, pretended to be out of breath and managed to trick him. When he reached for her, she managed to shrug off her backpack and run from him. He gave up the chase when another man stopped to help her and left the scene (Blanco).

            Police located the truck after a report was filed and found the gun and Savarese’s backpack inside. The owner was a blind man who regularly loaned his truck to Lent. Lent was arrested and confessed to two murders during a three-day interrogation that happened after his arrest. Lent’s lawyers claimed police coerced Lent, a mentally unstable man, during the interrogation after Lent claimed that he often experienced blackouts and lapses in memory. When the case came to trial, a judge deemed that Lent was not unstable and allowed his confessions (Blanco).

            On October 22, 1990, 12-year old Jimmy Bernardo went missing outside a theater that Lent worked at, at the time. Lent claimed to have encounter Bernardo outside the movie theater and used a hunting knife and threats to get Bernardo to his apartment. At the apartment, Bernardo was taped to Lent’s bed and assaulted before hanging him the next morning. According to Lent, he had planned to kill Bernardo the whole time. Bernardo’s body was found in Newfield, NY, far from the abduction sight but close to the childhood home Lent often visited (Blanco).

            12-year old Sara Anne Wood disappeared on August 18, 1993 from Frankfort, NY, while riding home from Bible school on her bike (Masters 2018). Lent claimed he was driving along back roads with the intent of finding a child for his nefarious purposes when he came across Wood. As with Bernardo, he threatened her with a hunting knife to get her into his van. He drove her to the Adirondack Mountains, where he raped her and beat her to death with a branch before burying her. According to Lent, he never actually checked to see if she was breathing because he doesn’t like to touch dead bodies. Sara Anne Wood’s body has never been found, despite the fact that Lent drew the police a map of where he supposedly buried her (Blanco).

            While police, and others, suspect that Lent is guilty of more than the murders of Sara Anne Wood and Jimmy Bernardo, he has only been charged with their murders (Blanco).

            In 2013, it was announced that Lent was connected to the cold case of Jamie Lusher, a teenager from Westfield, MA. Lent confessed to the killing during an interview with police and claimed to have disposed of Lusher’s body in a pond in Becket, MA. Police had suspected for a while that Lent may have been responsible for the disappearance of the 16-year old in November 1992, while Lusher’s father, James, had been less convinced until the confession (Tuthill). Despite multiple searched of Greenwater Pond, as of 2016 Lusher’s body has not been recovered (Demers 2016).

            Lusher was last seen riding his bike in November 1992 when he went missing. His bicycle was found by a pond a few days later, leading the police to drain the lake in search for his remains. None were recovered. In exchange for revealing the location of Lusher’s remains, Lent has been offered the possibility of not being prosecuted for the murder (Tuthill).

            When Lusher initially went missing, police suspected he was hiding from someone. A young woman who had spoken to him that day claimed he had told her he was hiding because he was afraid he was in trouble. While Lent has been known to give misleading answers and clues in the past, police were able to confirm several details of the case with Lent. Police feel confident he is guilty of this crime based on this (Newsroom 2013). Several times a year, police visit Lent in hopes they may be able to convince him to give them more information on where the remains of Jamie Lusher and Sara Anne Wood can be found (Masters 2018).

            Lent was sentenced to life without parole in the murder of Jimmy Bernardo and 25 to life in the murder of Sara Anne Wood.

Blanco, Juan Ignacio. “Lewis Lent: Murderpedia, the Encyclopedia of Murderers.” Lewis Lent | Murderpedia, the Encyclopedia of Murderers,

Tuthill, Paul. “Child Serial Killer Lewis Lent Linked To Cold Case.” WAMC,

Newsroom, The Republican. “Child Serial Killer Lewis Lent Confesses to Murder of Jamie Lusher, Westfield Teen Missing for over 20 Years.” Masslive, 15 July 2013,

Masters, Emily. “Saturday Marks 25 Years since Sara Anne Wood’s Disappearance.” Times Union, Times Union, 21 Aug. 2018,

Demers, Phil. “Police Again Search Berkshires Pond for Teen Jamie Lusher’s Remains, Find Nothing.” Masslive, 19 Nov. 2016,

The Unsolved Murder of Claire Gravel

Claire Gravel was a 20-year old sophomore at Salem State University, then Salem State College, majoring in computer science. She was on a summer leave of absence with plans to return to school in the fall semester of 1986, but she never got the chance to. She was a native to North Andover, MA. As a young detective investigating the case said, she could have been any college student. According to friends and family, Claire was a bright young woman with a bright future ahead of her.

            On the night of June 29, 1986, Claire may have taken a ride home from someone, but reports are conflicting. Rumors flew that a white Nissan pickup belonging to a man who had been harassing her at the pub was being sought by police, but was unsubstantiated. Police questioned people who were in and around the pub on the night in question, but no leads were found.

In a newspaper article from May 16, 1999, police say she was offered a ride home by a male friend. She asked to be dropped off at a credit union next to her apartment, St. Joseph’s Credit Union, which was across the street from the Salem State campus. The friend reported to police when being questioned – though not considered a suspect – that he dropped her off, but did not see her go into her apartment. That is where the trail of Claire Gravel ended and the search for her killer began.

            Claire’s body was found the day after she disappeared, June 30, 1986, off Route 128 in Beverly, MA.  It was initially reported that she had been severely beaten, but later reports contradicted those statements. The preliminary cause of death for Claire Gravel was strangulation, possibly with an instrument. Police have never said what kind of instrument may have been used.

            In 2009, Detective Lt. Elaine Gill, who investigated Claire Gravel’s murder as one of her first cases on the force, retired and handed the files of information on to a new generation of police officers. In 2016, several articles were published asking for any information that people may have 30 years later. As of February 2020, police have not named any suspects or persons of interest in the case and Claire’s final hours remain a mystery.

If you believe you or someone you know may have seen something on July 29 and 30, 1986 in or around Salem, Massachusetts or Beverly, Massachusetts that could be helpful to the police, contact the Massachusetts State Police assigned to Essex County at (978) 745-8908.

The Death of Lisa Ziegert

            Lisa Ziegert, 24, grew up in Agawam, MA and worked as a special needs teacher when she was murdered on April 15, 1992. The day began normally for Lisa; she went to work at the school and at 4:30 PM she headed to her second job at Brittany’s Card & Gift Shoppe. Her sister, Lynne, stopped in around 5:30 PM and, according to her, left shortly after 6 PM.  When a coworker arrived just before 9 AM the next morning to open the shop, she found Lisa’s car and other belongings in the shop but no sign of Lisa herself.

            A customer who had been in around 9 PM the night before called in a tip later that they had been in, but no one had seemed to be around. They claimed to have heard movement of some kind in the back room, but left the store when no one came out. Investigators found blood traces and signs of a struggle in the back room, including foot prints on the door that suggested to them that Lisa had been lying on the ground and kicking it.

            A search was launched on April 16, 1992, and Lisa’s body was found on April 19, on Easter Sunday, four days after she was last seen. She was found in a wooded area off Route 75 and it is reported that she had multiple stab wounds around her shoulders and neck; the autopsy report would show that a single stab wound to her neck was the cause of her death. Her wake was attended by more than a thousand people.

            In the days following her murder, tips that were called in helped investigators build a timeline of events leading up to her death. There was the tip mentioned previously, from the customer who came in at 9 PM, along with two other important tips. A customer with a time stamped receipt from the shop at 8:20 PM also called in, as well as someone who worked near the gift shop. The final caller was on their way home around 9:15 PM and may have seen the killer’s car, as well as thought they saw a man and a woman struggling in the back seat of the car. They claimed to have seen the car pull off the road and head toward where Lisa’s body was later found.

            In 2016, a possible image of the suspect was generated using DNA phenotyping, which was a contributing factor in Gary Schara being put on the suspect list. Schara had been a person of interest since his estranged wife, Joyce McDonald Schara, contacted police claiming she believed he could have a connection to the case in 1993. He was arrested in September 2017 and charged in connection with her murder, kidnapping, and aggravated sexual assault. He plead guilty to the charges in September 2019, more than 20 years after the murder.

            The true endgame began when police got warrants for the DNA of suspects that had not given DNA previously, including Gary Schara of West Springfield, MA. Schara fled when he learned an officer had shown up at his residence while he was out looking to take a DNA sample and left his girlfriend three letters that she turned over to police. The letters included an apology letter to the Ziegert family, a written confession, and a last will and testament. Schara was arrested on September 16, 2017 at the Johnson Memorial Medical Center in Stafford Springs, CT, after seeking out treatment after an attempted suicide. Schara plead guilty to first degree murder; the charges of kidnapping and aggravated sexual assault were dropped due to the statute of limitations expiring. He has been sentenced to life without the possibility of parole.

            The Ziegert family believed from the beginning that DNA would be the key to the murder of Lisa, and it was the DNA that lead to the arrest more than 25 years after her death. In 1995, Lisa’s parents, Diane and George, donated $1,100 to Agawam High School’s science department to teach classes on the then new science of DNA analysis.

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The Death of Holly Piirainen

            On August 5, 1993, Holly Piirainen, 10, was visiting her grandparent’s cottage in Sturbridge, MA with her family when she disappeared. She had to a neighbor’s house with her younger brother, Zachary, 5, to see some puppies when she was abducted. Her brother returned home without her, prompting her father, Richard, to send both her brothers out to look for her. They returned with only a shoe, found in the road.

            Her father reported her missing immediately, which lead to a massive search including officials from local and state police as well as units from Rhode Island and Connecticut, and a sheriff’s department. Despite this massive search, it wasn’t until late October of that year that her remains were recovered.

            It was October 23rd of 1993 that hunters found Holly’s remains in Brimfield, MA, near Five Bridge Road. She was found just a few miles away from where she was abducted. There is now a small pink cross where her remains were found.

On January 3, 2012, Mark Mastroianni, the Hampden County attorney, announced that forensic evidence connected deceased David Pouliot, who died in 2003. At the time that Holly’s remains were recovered, police collected several items that could be evidence from the area and connected one of these items to Pouliot through forensics.  The specific item apparently lead police to feel that Pouliot and possibly others associated with him were in the area her remains were recovered at a time that would mean they may have information relating to her death or be involved with her death. While he was linked to the crime scene, Pouliot was not officially declared a suspect.

            Among the names on the suspect list police have, one name in particular stands out to many: Randy Stranger, the brother of Rodney Stranger, who is a suspect in the disappearance and murder of Molly Bish in 2000. Stranger was reportedly living in a tent in Brimfield, MA at the time that Holly was taken and cooperated with police when he was questioned about her at the time of her disappearance. At the time that Rodney Stranger was arrested in 2009, for the murder of his girlfriend, Randy was supposedly missing. He was found in Florida by Massachusetts State Police and they arrested him on an outstanding drug warrant. He spent a year in jail. When police investigating the disappearance of Molly Bish searched Rodney’s trailer on a top in 2012, an investigator on Holly’s case also joined them.

            Rodney Stranger has also been named as a possible suspect, along with serial killer Lewis Lent. Lent has confessed to multiple murders since being in jail for the murder of a 12-year old boy in 1990. He confessed to also killing a young girl in 1993, in New York, Jamie Lusher in Westfield, MA in 1992, and kidnapping a girl from Pittsfield, MA in 1994. A previous resident of Brookfield was also named, Robert Armes, by a police officer on “48 Hours” as being investigated in relation to Holly’s and Molly Bish’s deaths.

            Zachary, the younger brother Holly was with when she went missing, began to have flashbacks of a man’s face in 2005, that he was unable to place. A sketch was drawn up of the man he was seeing that bore an eerie resemblance to Randy Stranger. It is worth noting that the family was not shown a picture of Stranger until 2009, four years after the sketch was drawn up.

            As of February 2020, the abduction and murder of Holly Piirainen remains officially unsolved. It is possible that perhaps out there somewhere, someone saw something on August 5, 1993 that they may not have known was pertinent to the investigation. If you believe you may have information pertaining to Holly’s murder, you can call tips in to the Massachusetts State Police at 413-505-5993 or text CRIMES (274637) starting the body of the text with the word “solve” to text in a tip.

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