Connecticut River Valley Murders – Ellen Fried

Ellen Ruth Fried born on August 9th, 1957. Ellen was a nurse supervisor at Valley Regional Hospital.

On July 22nd, 1984, Ellen was 26-years-old when she was last seen, late at night, talking to her sister on a payphone outside Leo’s Market in Claremont.  She mentioned that a car kept driving by while she was on the phone with her sister for nearly an hour until just after midnight. She was so spooked by the car driving by that she reportedly had her sister wait while she made sure the car started before she ended the call. I could not understand why she would stop to call her sister from a payphone after work in a dark parking lot. As an adult, that decision in the middle of the night seems hard to understand. It was a different time as far as cell service but as a nurse supervisor I would be surprised if she did not have a home phone then, especially if she planned on talking for over an hour.

Ellen was reported missing after she failed to show up for work the next day and her car was found abandoned on Jarvis Rd, a few miles away from the store where she used the payphone. 

Ellen’s skeletal remains were found in a wooded area next to the Sugar River in Newport, New Hampshire over a year later on September 19th, 1985. Her remains were reportedly found only about a mile from where Bernice Courtemanche’s body was found and 7 miles from the market where she made the call.

The autopsy did not reveal a cause of death, due to her remains being mostly skeletal. Police indicate that the circumstance of her disappearance and the findings at the scene were consistent with Ellen having been sexually assaulted before her death and this case is considered a homicide. I could not locate what the information was that lead to this conclusion, information was likely held back as to not hinder the investigation and rule out false confessions.

It is unknown/not published where her body was laid to rest.

https://darkmatter69.blogspot.com/2019/12/where-is-michelle-nicolaou-and-who-was.html

https://www.doj.nh.gov/criminal/cold-case/victim-list/ellen-fried.htm

https://unsolvedmysteries.fandom.com/wiki/Connecticut_River_Killer

https://nhunsolved.blogspot.com/

https://www.websleuths.com/forums/threads/nh-connecticut-river-valley-killer-1980s.154206/page-6

“Betsy” Mary Elizabeth Critchley

I found myself putting off writing about this case because I was frustrated with the lack of information that I could find despite the potential tie to the Connecticut River Valley Serial Killer and the sheer number of articles that Betsy is mentioned in. So like many of the other articles, this is just going to be a retelling of the most basic facts in this case.

Mary Elizabeth Critchley, known as “Betsy” was born on December 25, 1943 and was the oldest child of James Joseph Critchley and Elizabeth McLaughlin Critchley. Betsy has 2 younger sisters.

Betsy was a 37-year old student at the University of Vermont at the time of her suspected murder. She was in Massachusetts for a dental appointment and was last seen on the evening of July 25, 1981 when she was dropped off near Exit 13 on the Mass Turnpike with the intention of hitchhiking home to Waterbury, VT where she shared an apartment with a friend. She never made it home that night.

Betsy’s body was found on 8/9/21 in a wooden area off Unity Stage Rd in Unity, NH . Due to significant decomposition, her cause of death could not be determined but foul play is suspected. Her body was fully clothed but her backpack and sandals were never located.

Betsy is buried in St Joseph’s Cemetary in Plainville, CT

https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/81983103/mary-elizabeth-critchley

https://www.doj.nh.gov/criminal/cold-case/victim-list/mary-elizabeth-critchley.htm

https://www.wmur.com/article/new-hampshire-unsolved-case-file-mary-elizabeth-critchley/22677217

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Connecticut_River_Valley_Killer

The *Still* Unsolved Murder of Molly Bish (for now?)

*Important Update – On June 4, 2021 police officially named person of interest in this case as Francis P. Sumner, Sr. Mr. Sumner was a convicted rapist that was released from prison 2 years before her death. The level 2 Sex Offender died in 2016 at his home at 71 years old. He operated Auto Shops in the local area to where Molly lived and was a graduate of South Worcester High. The Bish family reportedly want evidence that links Mr. Sumner to this crime released.

Following are some links on what I could find on Mr Sumner:

https://law.justia.com/cases/massachusetts/court-of-appeals/volumes/18/18massappct349.html

https://www.telegram.com/story/news/crime/2021/06/04/suspect-molly-bish-case-surrounded-legal-actions-life-death/7544303002/

https://www.telegram.com/story/news/2021/06/03/who-killed-moly-bish-worcester-district-attorney-names-suspect/7529280002/

https://www.boston25news.com/news/local/molly-bish-person-interest-released-prison-two-years-before-her-death/TS6TAHSFTZGU7NA4KUCKM52MQY/

Molly Bish was a blond-haired, blue-eyed All American 16-year old, who was excited about her summer job as a lifeguard at Comins Pond in rural Warren, MA.

On June 26, 2000 when her mother was dropping her off to work around 8:45 am, a man caught her eye in the way creepy people sometimes do. She noted the car he was driving, and thought he seemed a little strange but didn’t seem to think any more about it…until the next day when Molly disappeared.

June 27th started out much the same way as every day since Molly started work, Molly’s mother, Magi, brought her to work and dropped her off around 9:45 am. This was just Molly’s 8th day of work. When families started to arrive, Molly was not at her post but her lunch and things were still there. She was never seen again alive. Police suspect that Molly was taken only minutes after being dropped off.

June 9, 2003…nearly 3 years later, Molly’s partial remains and bathing suit were found by a hunter in the woods of West Ware Rd in nearby Palmer, MA a few miles from the pond where she worked, in an area known as “Whiskey Hill”. Only 26 bones of the 206 have ever been found.

Several Suspects have been investigated but there seems to be the majority of focus on two suspects.

The first, suspect is a man named Rodney Stanger. Rodney lived in Southbridge, MA but moved to Florida shortly after Molly went missing. In 2008, he killed his girlfriend, Chrystal Morrison, by stabbing her to death. Rodney matches pretty closely to the depiction of the man that Magi and others saw hanging around the pond. At the time, he also drove a white car similar to the description given by Molly’s mother. Chrystal’s sister called police after finding evidence clearing out Chrystal’s trailer that may have shown Stanger’s involvement. All of these items have been handed over to police.

Here is a comparison of the pictures:

The second suspect is a man named Gerald Battisstoni. Battisstoni is a convicted child rapist from nearby Ware, MA. He was convicted of raping the child of a woman he dated for years over 100 times. He attempted suicide in prison by slitting his own throat with a broken light bulb after being linked to the Bish Case and later died in prison of natural causes . He also resembled the composite, though in a different sort of way. He was familiar with both the Comins Pond and Whiskey Hill areas.

Neither man, or any suspect, has ever been charged in this case. A white car was recovered in 2018 after a tip that it was buried locally. The police used ground penetrating radar and recovered the vehicle but the owner was somehow not identified.

The Bish family still hopes that DNA testing or other breakthroughs will solve this case now over 21 years later, supporting investigative initiatives such as law enforcement work with familial DNA. I pray the find the answers, the peace and the justice they deserve.

If you or anyone you know have any information that could solve this case, and bring this family peace, please call the Massachusetts State Police Tip Line at (508) 453-7575.

Molly Bish Cold Case An Inspiration For Bill To Expand DNA Use – CBS Boston

Molly Bish: Is the murder of 16-year-old lifeguard about to be solved with new DNA test? | Daily Mail Online

(cbslocal.com)

Molly Bish | Unsolved Mysteries Wiki | Fandom

Possible new evidence surfaces in Molly Bish murder (wcvb.com)

Rapist’s death may shed light on Holly Piirainen, Molly Bish cases – News – telegram.com – Worcester, MA

Man questioned in death of Molly Bish, due to go on trial in Florida in slaying of girlfriend – masslive.com

Find a Grave Memorial – Find A Grave

Gerald Battistoni, man eyed in murder of Massachusetts girls Molly Bish and Holly Piirainen, apparently attempts suicide in prison – masslive.com

Investigators Return To Site Of Molly Bish’s Remains – CBS Boston (cbslocal.com)

Molly Bish murder: Breakthrough as police search trailer of convicted killer Rodney Stanger | Daily Mail Online

https://boston.cbslocal.com/2020/06/27/molly-bish-cold-case-20-years-teens-disappearance/

The Murder of Melissa Benoit

13 year old Melissa Benoit was a resident of Kingston,MA. She lived in a home with her mother and an 11 year old sister. The family had recently been through tragedy when the year before, Melissa’s father had passed away unexpectedly at just 41 years old leaving the family devastated.

Melissa was last seen on a path near her home about 2:30 pm on Saturday, September 15, 1990 where she went to visit her father’s grave. Melissa frequented this path, visiting her father often, a feat made easy by the proximity of the cemetery to her home.

The FBI asked neighbors to search properties and undergo polygraph testing related to the case. By September 19th, suspicion had fallen on a neighbor who had lived in the area for 30 years. After failing the polygraph, this man, Henry L. Meinholz admitted to prior lewd acts including sexual assault at knifepoint and public masterbation.

The disappearance was immediately taken seriously and the search for Melissa was extensive, involving 1000 law enforcement officers and volunteers. After Meinholz’s wife consented, a search was executed on his home and Melissa’s body was recovered during that search.

Her body, clad only in a tshirt, was found in the basement of the Meinholz home 11 days after she went missing. She was wrapped in plastic sheet which was fashioned as a cord around her neck . There was a cord around her chest, and a cord around her left wrist, and evidence there had been cords around other limbs while she was alive. She was naked from the waist down and had multiple blunt force contusions on her body. She had contusions on her bilateral inner thighs consistent with sexual assault. Cause of death was asphyxia and blunt fore trauma to the head.

Meinholz, 52, a bookkeeper at a lumber yard and church deacon ,was charged and convicted with kidnapping and killing the young girl . He claimed the voices in his head taunted him that he was not a man if he did not have sex with her. Meinholz was not charged with sexual assault because it could not be proven due to decomposition, however he did testify to sexually assaulting her but stated the sexual contact with the 13 year old was consentual, which only shows what a true abomination this man was. Of course, no one believed any of his sick lies any way, I just hate that her mother and sister had to sit there and listen to that after all they had been through.

Meinholz was given life in prison without parole, and he started his time in prison in Walpole but after many threats and one an assault, he was moved to the prison in Concord. I didn’t need to add that part but it made me feel good to think he suffered some after what he did.

Meinholz died in prison in 2000. The judge in the murder trial discussed that it was unfortunate the days where defendants like Meinholz could be hanged in front of the courthouse had passed.

Melissa is buried next to her father in Evergreen Cemetery in Kingston.

Sources:

http://masscases.com/cases/sjc/420/420mass633.html

https://nempb2015.wixsite.com/nempb/melissa-benoit

https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/a-bible-school-instructor-abducts-a-teenage-girl

https://www.latimes.com/archives/la-xpm-1993-02-07-mn-1615-story.html

https://www.boston25news.com/news/suspect-in-30-year-old-murder-says-different-man-was-responsible-1/716054831/

https://www.upi.com/Archives/1990/09/29/Funeral-for-slain-teen-as-history-of-suspect-emerges/9048654580800/

https://apnews.com/article/6af14b2c4a114fe9e21c0c397004e1e9

https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/71489669/melissa-benoit

The Murder of Mary Lou Arruda

Mary Lou Arruda was born on September 8, 1963 to Joanne and Adrian Arruda, and she was the oldest of the Arruda children, with 2 brothers Joseph and Tony; and a sister, Karen. They lived in Raynham, MA – a small, suburban town on the outskirts of the City of Taunton, about 32 miles south of Boston.

On her Birthday – September 8, 1978, late in the afternoon, fifteen year old Mary Lou Arruda was abducted while riding her bike in her neighborhood, near Church Street. Her bike was found a short time later by a neighborhood boy and returned it to her mother, who called the police.

The call touched off a search with police, dogs and volunteers that lasted for days but there was no sign of the 15 year old cheerleader. It seemed as if she simply disappeared. There were witnesses that placed an unfamiliar green vehicle in the area, and the police worked with the witnesses and even developed a sketch.

A full two months later, November 11, 1978, Arruda’s body was found in Freetown State Forest by a dirt bike rider. She was fully dressed and tied to the tree in a standing position. Experts believe that she was alive when she was tied to the tree, head to foot, and cause of death was ruled by the medical examiner as strangulation by ligature or positional asphyxia. There were several reports as I was researching indicating decapitation in this case – I did not see that in the official records that I went through – but due to the body being out in nature for 2 months, it’s safe to say that she was likely in advanced decomposition.

James Kater, 31, who worked at doughnut store in Brockton, quickly became the main suspect in this case. He was apparently married the day after Mary Lou was kidnapped to his 18 year old fiance and left the country for his honeymoon.

Kater’s alibi was that he was running errands all over town when Mary Lou went missing, which the police were able to summarily dismiss his alibi throughout their investigations by proving he wasn’t where he stated, or he wasn’t there at the stated time. Kater was also seen by witnesses driving his green car in the neighborhood where Mary Lou went missing from and also in the vicinity where Mary Lou Arruda’s body was found shortly after the kidnapping. He was arrested in December of 1978.

In February of 1969, Kater pled guilty to a amazingly similar crime, the 1968 abduction of Jacalyn Bussiere. The afternoon of June 22, 1968, the thirteen year old was walking her bike in her neighborhood when she was kidnapped. She was forced into a car and driven 20 minutes away into some woods. Kater hit her on the back of the head with an iron bar while making her to kneel at a stream, forcing her face into the shallow water. Jacalyn resisted and knocked his glasses off. It’s unclear if he was attempting to torture her or drown her. She tried to escape, but Kater forced her back into the car and drove further into the woods. He tied her to a tree at the ankles, knees and torso and then waited. After about twenty minutes where Kater reportedly did nothing but pace, he pulled a last tie tight around her neck and then strangled her with his hands. When she awoke, Jacalyn managed to untie herself. Kater was convicted and spent most of the years in between this attack and Mary Lou’s abduction in prison, having been released in January of 1976.

Kater fought hard to fight the Arruda murder conviction, having four separate trials, and many, many appeals on this crime. He was serving his life sentence at MCI Shirley when on January 9th he was transferred to Shattuck Hospital for treatment . Fortunately, He died of cancer on January 23rd, 2016, 38 years after the murder. Finally, giving the family a small peace.

Mary Lou was laid to rest in St Joseph’s Cemetery in Taunton, MA .

https://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2016/01/26/mother-relieved-learn-daughter-murderer-died-behind-bars/iZE80WT92LbHWj13ksbBZM/story.html

https://www.leagle.com/decision/2000836432mass4041808

https://www.tauntongazette.com/article/20160201/NEWS/160139696

https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/90782637/mary-lou-arruda

https://www.patriotledger.com/news/20160131/arruda-case-one-prosecutor-says-he–will-bring-to-my-grave

https://myfavoritemurder.com/220-live-at-the-chevalier-theatre-in-medford-ma-2018/

Movie about the case ” Predator at Largehttps://www.imdb.com/title/tt12343384/