The Riley Murder Suicide

Lakeville is small town, MA. There is barely even a center to the town. Blink, and you will surely miss it. Violent crime is almost non-existent in this town but tragedy still struck  51 Hill Street on a quiet Saturday. In this case, there seem to be more questions than answers…mainly, why?

The family home was locked with the deadbolts from the inside when the authorities arrived to the home in order to do a wellness check. The last confirmed sighting of the family was Friday, when the family returned from vacation. Once the authorities entered the home what they discovered was a terrible tragedy.

Paul Riley was a 52 year old Lt firefighter who worked out of Brockton, Ma. He was married to his second wife, Alicia (Frawley) Riley, who hailed from Brockton. He was said to have a good relationship with his first wife, with whom he also had a son.

Paul was known to be a good guy to family, friends and coworkers. There was no evidence of stress or domestic strife that any friends or family were aware of. There were no records that the police were ever called to the home for any issues other than false alarms from the home security system.

Alicia (Frawley)  Riley, was just 37 years old. Alicia was formerly of Brockton, and  was a volunteer at the Lakeville Animal Shelter. Alicia came from a big family, with 4 brothers and three sisters. Alicia and Paul had lived in the home at 51 Hill Street for 8 years, and were in the process of building a large, new home on Calthrop Drive in Bridgewater, MA, in a small subdivision of about 10 homes. The couple were their own contractors on the project.  This project was reportedly running over budget – but the couple did not show the normal signs of financial hardship. Could this have really been the cause?

The Riley family had just returned from a vacation in Disney World on Friday, which was the last day they were seen alive. Relatives did not hear from them, and called the police Monday night to check up on the family. The police arrived at approximately 6 pm and made the discovery of the tragedy after breaking into the house through a window. The house was secured from inside with the deadbolt. Alicia was found fully clothed, and deceased in the bathtub, and investigators stated it was unclear if she was shot there, or moved there afterwards but there was never any indication they found a secondary site in the house where she would have been shot.

The children, Matthew, 6, & Erin, just 2 years old were found in bed. The children were wearing their pajamas.  Autopsies for all 4 individuals in the home showed that each of the victims was shot just once, and that they had likely been dead for 48 hours, putting their deaths at sometime Saturday.  Police indicated there were no signs of a struggle in the home. Authorities believe Paul killed his wife and two small children before killing himself.

Paul’s body was found in his son’s bedroom with a .380 semiautomatic pistol underneath his body. Authorities said he purchased the gun in 1989, but that his firearms license expired in 1992. All indications were that his gun shot wound was self-inflicted.

There were no answers I could find on this case. No definitive reason, only a theory that the house they were building being over budget was just too much stress for him. Is that enough to drive a family man to become a family annihilator? Did something happen between the couple on vacation that caused a rift ? What drives a man to shoot his small children? In this case, they didn’t seem to find anything in the investigation that made sense, and I don’t think we will ever truly know.

Ellen Gamache

When I was 9 years old I moved to Middleborough, large in area but still very small town in feel, especially in those days. Think cranberry bogs and small downtown area. I was entering into the fourth grade, kids I met and played with at recess would walk the edge of the woods that bordered around Burkland School and talk. Inevitably, there were two stories that came up. These were actual cases that actually occurred in the small downtown area that I called home at the time. One was the murder of a teenage girl, much more recent and very close to this school – I will detail that case in another post…and this case, a cautionary tale, in a very Adam Walsh way, a reminder to kids why you really shouldn’t talk to strangers that the time period was a little fuzzy on.

As most town lore goes, the stories were mostly short of details and then the details that you did hear frequently changed or the kids that were telling the details did not understand them. I think that’s a good thing especially for this case in particular, because it’s worse than any “monster under the bed” story. At that time, in the mid-eighties, it happened so long ago even at that time that no one was sure when it happened.

So, here is the real story…according to my research. I have included the sources below.

Ellen I. Gamache born July 5th, 1960 to Patricia and James Gamache. She, at the start of this story, was a small, five year old girl with short red hair. She lived with her family on Wood Street in Middleborough, Massachusetts. July 29th, 1965, Ellen went to the town playground with her two older brothers who were ages 8 and 12, and stayed in the kiddie corner area of the playground while the boys walked down the hill to the Town Pool. This playground is in close proximity to the town police and fire stations and was frequented by many parents with their small children in an area that is considered very safe.

Around 4 pm, Ellen could not be found by her brothers. By 6 pm, they had searched their neighborhood and their mother called the police who launched a large scale search launched for Ellen. Over 200 police with bloodhounds and volunteers searched, but she could not be located. The publicity of the search lead to tips, and were some sightings of Ellen, from a girl who saw Ellen in the man’s car and her and her mother reported it to police, and from other children saw her at the playground that day. There are some reports that Smith took her for an ice cream cone.

The search was extensive, residents and police combed the area looking for her. There was an expanded search at the Town Dump because several people had seen the suspect there not long after Ellen went missing. This search did not locate her but it seemed to bring in just enough tips to make Paul N. Smith a serious suspect.

Sadly, her body was found on August 8, 1965. She was located by a woman picking blueberries who had followed her nose to identify an putrid smell in the area. The place where she was found was a wooded area, off Montgomery Street in Lakeville, Massachusetts. According to sources, Ellen was found face down, naked from the waist down with her pants draped over her and her underwear missing. Her body was in an advanced state of decomposition and she was identified through her clothing. Smith stated he put his hand over her mouth until she was dead, both at trial and to another inmate. Autopsy found that Ellen had been stabbed 4 times, beaten and had clearly been sexually assaulted.

Paint chips found in the area near the body were later tied to the suspect, Paul N. Smith. Smith was a 33 year old painter and Handyman who was visiting his brother in town. Smith, a sex offender from the state of New Hampshire, was spotted at the playground while Ellen was there playing. He acted suspiciously after Ellen disappeared and a tip was called in by one of his own relatives. Additionally, his car was in background of pictures taken at the playground that day. He made attempts to sell his car just after the murder, and then traveled out of state to visit extended family. The car was located and impounded. Debris in his car also was similar to debris found on the victim. It is said in sources that he initially attempted to coerce another girl, to go with him for ice cream the day before. I wonder if her refusal saved her life.

The FBI came looking for Mr. Smith, prompting him to flee, leaving his things behind which included blood stained clothes and a knife. A stain from human blood was found on the defendant’s trousers in the suitcase. Due to the time period, DNA was not used in this case.

Police caught up with Paul Smith, and he was arrested in Vermont by August 9, 1965. He was indicted in September on 4 charges . He did not deny committing the crime with his defense being what amounts to insanity with his diagnosed schizophrenia causing him to have the “irresistible” urges to molest and kill a young girl. These urges had been present for some time but he said that he so far had been able to resist the urges. He was a convicted sex offender in the State of Vermont for prior acts that I was unable to uncover during the research.

He faced two trials in this case. The initial conviction was reversed on appeal. One objections was that the venue should have been changed due to a photograph that showed Smith reenacting Ellen’s death during the investigation tainting the jury pool. He was convicted of first degree murder during the second trial. and received a sentence of life in prison.

In 2018, a prison guard was accused of assaulting Smith who was 86 years old at the time, and received lacerations to his face. It’s hard to feel bad for Smith no matter what he has suffered in prison.

Ellen is buried in St Mary’s Cemetery in Middleborough.—look-back-may-2