No Justice in Brutal East Bridgewater Murder

Life is funny sometimes. You wake up the morning that you are going to die often not knowing what the day will bring. Often, if you are murdered, it comes at the hands of someone you know. Someone that you felt safe enough to have in your home with you. This case was one of those cases that makes you really think about who you are friends are.

Kent “Rusty” Taber was born in June 9th, 1955 in Stoughton, MA. Taber lived in a 5 room apartment about the Wales Funeral Home on Spring Street in E Bridgewater. At 37 years old, he worked as a Chef at Dewey’s Restaurant in Lakeville and part time as an Embalmer at the funeral home he lived above.

Rusty was found dead on the morning of December 7, 1992 in what was described as a gruesome scene. It appeared that Rusty had been having a friend over – 2 beers sat abandoned next to the pizza Rusty had picked up at Stelio’s – and just a few feet away lay Rusty’s savaged, bloody body.

Reports of the crime detail that Rusty had been stabbed multiple times in the neck nearly decapitating him, and multiple times in the back. Police reports determined the time of death to be between 4 pm and 6 pm. There were no finger prints at the scene – there was no forced entry. It was clear that Mr Taber must have known his killer.. and it appeared that he may have been sitting on the couch when he was attacked. The case went cold…and stayed frigid for 18 years.

After 18 years a startling arrest was made after witnesses were re-interviewed by the Cold Case unit, and reportedly discussed admissions of murder by a then 19 year old suspect Christopher Colucci, a Middleborough resident and a former Dewey’s Restuarant coworker of Taber’s. Colucci was arrested the same day that he was indicted by the grand jury.

Police alleged the motive in the crime was that Taber had made a sexual advance and it had angered Colucci, but there is only one person that know the truth and that’s apparently Mr. Colucci. Mr. Taber was known to be gay, but it’s difficult to say what triggered Colucci who suffered from mental health issues.

At the time of his arrest in April 2010, Colucci was paralyzed and he had to be brought into court on a gurney. He had suffered major injuries in a car accident in 1997, where he reportedly had been driving erratically and under the influence and went through a red light in MIddleboro, hit a car and that car hit another car. Colucci’s vehicle rolled and according to reports, he was thankfully the only one seriously hurt in the crash. His injuries left him paralyzed from the waist down.

Here’s the part where you get mad, after 18 years of being denied justice and just 17 months after his indictment, Colucci was deemed incompetent to stand trial and he was allowed to leave the Shattuck Hospital and go home. He allegedly violently killed a man by stabbing him so many times that he nearly took his head off and was allowed go back to his parents home in Lakeville without a trial. He was deemed to not be a threat to himself or anyone else. There will be periodic redetermination hearings but Colucci’s status is not likely to change and therefore the Taber family are unlikely to get the justice that they deserve.

Developing – Double Homicide in Middleboro, MA

The streets from Miller Street to Highland Street in Middleboro are blocked off in what appears to be a double homicide investigation. The articles indicate the murder may be the result of a domestic dispute. The victims in this case were Renee and David True of 3 Highland Street Middleboro. This investigation is ongoing. Police have detained the couple’s 21 year old son, Ryan True, in the murder. Details to come…Cause of death was not released.

The Murder of Matthew Cote

Matthew Cote was born to parents, Paula and Michael Cote. He had a brother, a sister and two step sisters. He grew up in the small New England town of Middleboro, MA. He had moved out, and was living in Kingston with his girlfriend, Jessica Brunell, and her young daughter. He was a flooring contractor that worked for his father’s business.

According to court records, August 13, 2003, around 2 pm Matthew Cote received a call from Russell Freitas at home, and Freitas asked him to come to his house to help him with some random tasks, like starting a dirt bike. Freitas also stated he had pills that he wanted Matt to sell. Matt broke his wrist in 2002 and was struggling with an addiction to Oxycontin, which he reportedly purchased from this Freitas character, a friend Matt had known for a long time. Freitas, involved in an accident in 1997 that left him a quadriplegic, was prescribed Oxycontin pills to control his pain. It is believed he used only a small amount of these pills and sold the rest.

Matt left home in his green pick-up for Russell’s house about 2:30 pm. Arriving reportedly, around 3pm, because he spoke briefly to Jamie Peterson, who was Freitas’s girlfriend and caregiver before she left to cash her check. When he had not returned home in time for dinner, Jessica began calling him, but could not reach him. She continued to call him throughout the night but was unable to reach him.

On August 14, 2003, Matt did not show up to meet his father for work when he was scheduled to arrive at 8:30 am. Later, his girlfriend went to the Kingston police station and filed a missing person report. Over the course of the next couple of days, Jessica reportedly also went around putting up “missing person” fliers in the entire surrounding area in the businesses and at the train stations. I went to school with Matt, and seeing these fliers was when I first became aware he was missing and started following this case.  

Sunday, August 17, 2003, at approximately 10:00 a.m., charred remains were discovered by fisherman. They noticed the completely burned and unrecognizable body inside the backseat of a burned out truck, face down.

Autopsy would later find that the victim reportedly died of three to five wounds directly to his heart, one to the left lung, and two to his stomach area by a blunt item like a screwdriver before the truck was set on fire. It is said that Freitas kept pictures of the burned pick-up truck where Cote’s body was found, and sometimes used it as a screensaver on his computer. It is believed Matt owed Russell Freitas $300, which was the motivation for the murder. Seriously… just $300. Matt Cote was just 26 years old at the time of his death.

After Matt’s remains were discovered, a witness who watched the news reports came to police to report rather strange interactions with Freitas at times surrounding the case. He stated that 8:00 p.m. that evening that Matt went missing, he received a telephone call from Freitas, who wanted him to help him pick someone up. Freitas instructed him to drive through backroads, while Freitas was repeatedly calling someone. During the telephone call, Freitas told the person on the phone to “Make sure the duck is cooked well, well, well done.” This witness reports that after some time, Russell asked his friend to stop the car and they picked up Darren Caswell, who was dressed all in black. Caswell was picked up close to the spot where the victim’s body was later discovered. Police had evidence that placed Caswell’s cell phone within a quarter mile of the crime scene.

On July 14, 2007, Freitas died at 39 years old. The case became a cold case despite the evidence. Freitas may have been a driving force in this case but he could never physically have struck the fatal blows himself due to his physical condition, so at this point, the murderer was still free and Frietas could not be held responsible for his role in the crime. The State Police Fusion Unit reviewed the collected evidence and were able to put together a case against Darren Caswell.

On October 5, 2009, Darren Caswell was officially charged with first degree murder. The jury rejected the charge of murder in the first degree and later convicted Mr. Caswell of murder in the 2nd degree. He lost his bid for appeal in 2014, a second appeal in 2020 and is currently serving out a life sentence for the murder in the state correctional facility in Milford, MA.

Leann Ryba

This is the other case of local lore I referenced in an earlier blog post. This case is one of the stories around town where every fact I ever heard was completely wrong. When your sources are other 4th graders, I guess that’s to be expected.

Leann Ryba was born December 10, 1968. She lived with her mother and her 14 year old sister in downtown Middleborough. She was a junior at Middleborough High School. She had boyfriend, and many friends. She enjoyed music, singing and the fine arts; participating in the school and community theater programs.

The story I always heard involved her walking home from work through the woods at night. The truth from what I could research is that on May 15, 1985 Leann spent the evening having dinner with friends at Middleborough House of Pizza, and then reportedly hanging out behind the police station in the parking lot with friends. The was a typical hang-out for kids her age.

Leann was last seen at midnight of May 16th walking through town the short distance to her home, but she never made it. One article reported she was last seen just 5 houses from her home. Her body was found by her 14 year old sister and two of her friends on their walk to school. It would be horrifying to find anyone in this condition, but finding your sister would be particularly traumatizing. Leann’s body was nude from the waist down , brush pulled over the top half of her body.

Leann had severe injuries and her time of death was believed to be not long after she was last seen. Autopsy found her neck had been gashed open and she had been stabbed in the abdomen. She had blunt force trauma to the back of the head and bruising, which is believed to be from her being dragged. She had been sexually assaulted. Her cause of death was blood loss from the stab wounds. Her body was found on a dirt road called Woodlawn Ave just about 100 ft off South Main Street which is one of the main roads through the small center of town, and the street Leann lived on.

I am not certain exactly what first brought 20 year old Gary Plant of Freetown to the police’s radar but several witnesses had seen him in the area. Plant was a former Lakeville resident who graduated from Apponequet High in 1984.

Plant was arrested 3 days later at a baseball game after his house was searched. On a long, videotaped interview he admitted to facts that lead police to believe he was the murderer.

Hair matching Leann’s was found on Gary’s boot, and her bloody underwear was found at a place called “Mello’s Market” where Gary was known to be during that time period just after her murder. Two knives and some clothing were seized from the Plant home during the search.

Gary F. Plant was convicted of murder and aggravated rape. His attempt at appeal failed and he is still incarcerated at MCI Norfolk prison in Massachusetts.

Leann was laid to rest in St Mary’s Cemetery in Middleborough. It is clear from posts I read while researching this article that she is still missed to this day.

Tara Gillon

Tara Gillon was  born July 27th, 1976. The 20 year old college sophomore who was studying at the University of Indiana student that was back in Middleborough, MA to visit her family during winter break from classes. Tara was home with her sister until 10:00 pm, when her sister left. I would like you to keep this in mind, since her parents returned home just around 11 pm. All of the following story happened when Tara was home alone for less than one hour. If that doesn’t scare you after reading this, nothing will.

On New Year’s Eve 1996 , 18 year old Ryan Burgess had been drinking and taking Tylenol with codeine. He had left a party early after having an argument. His girlfriend reportedly left the party with him around 9 pm and walked with him for a little while, but turned back to the Ash Street party as it was cold outside.

Around 10 p.m., Burgess saw a car leaving the house on Old Center Street – a place that Burgess likely saw as a target due to the way the home is set off the road,  with woods to the side and rear of the one family home. He likely intended to rob the home, since Mr. Burgess, despite his young age, had a long criminal history including breaking and entering charges and juvenile delinquency. Reportedly, Burgess had over 20 convictions by 15 years old.

After making his way around the home, Burgess broke into the back porch where he was reportedly confronted by the victim. The reports indicate the victim, Tara asked him what he was doing on the back porch. He said he was a friend of her sister, she screamed and he grabbed her by the neck and choked her extensively. He then left her on the couch while she struggled to breathe and went to the kitchen, grabbed a knife, returning to the victim. He then proceeded to stab her. Her autopsy indicated that this was a brutal attack. She was stabbed approximately 21 times, 11 of these wounds were said to be deep enough to be fatal. Extensive defensive wounds on her arms showed Tara tried hard to fight. In addition to the stab wounds, she suffered a fractured hyoid bone and hemorrhaging in her voice box, larynx and neck. She also had a bite mark on one of her nipples.

This sick jerk then dragged her out of sight of the windows, removed clothing from her bottom-half and raped her. There is no way to know whether she had already passed away or was dying while this assault took place. I have a hard time with this, what the hell was wrong with this guy?

He then smoked a cigarette and ransacked the upstairs but did not appear to actually take anything. Reports indicate that drawers were just sort of pulled out and disheveled. Burgess stated he left shortly after 11 pm when he heard a car pull into the driveway. This lines up with reports from Tara’s father and Stepmother, who were coming home from a New Year’s Eve Dinner. They believe they heard someone exit as they arrived. They found Tara naked from the waist down with extensive, gaping wounds. It was too late to save her, she was already gone

No stolen items were present when the police caught up with him shortly after the murder, and they caught him pretty fast since they were able to follow his initial track right back to the party.Police questioned the people at the Ash Street party. Soon after, they arrived at the Elm Street home that Burgess was staying at with friends. He no longer lived with his parents.

At that time the police questioned Burgess, He consented to a search of his room. in that search, they found visible bloodstains on Mr. Burgess’ pants from the night before, a pair of sneakers that matched the footprints outside the crime scene, and Burgess himself had injuries from the Gillon resisting the attack, including scratches on his arms and lips. The blood on the pants was a DNA match to Tara’s when tested. Additionally, DNA from a cigarette butt found in the Gillon home was a match to Burgess.

Police have never found the murder weapon, believed to be a long, thin, steak knife that was removed from the Gillon kitchen. He confessed to his crimes and later tried to suppress his confession, based on a myriad of factors and evidence found in his possession when he was first questioned. His attempts were thankfully unsuccessful.

In 1998, Burgess was sentenced to 2 life sentences in prison without the possibility of parole. In  2001, the court rejected Burgess’ appeal and upheld the conviction.

Tara has been laid to rest in St Francis Old Cemetery in Taunton, MA.,_Ryan