Death of Molly Bish
|Born||August 2, 1983|
Warren, Massachusetts, U.S.
|Disappeared||June 27, 2000 (aged 16)|
Warren, Massachusetts, U.S.
|Status||Body recovered on June 9, 2003|
Molly Anne Bish (August 2, 1983 – June 27, 2000) was a sixteen-year-old American girl from rural Worcester County, Massachusetts, who disappeared while working as a lifeguard in her hometown of Warren, Massachusetts. Her remains were found three years later in neighboring Hampden County after what became the largest search in the state's history.
In the summer of 2000, 16-year-old Molly Bish began working as a lifeguard at Comins Pond in Warren, Massachusetts. On June 26, the day before Molly's disappearance, her mother, Magi, saw a mustached man in a white car parked in the lot of the beach where Molly's lifeguard post was located. Although he seemed suspicious at the time, she afforded him no further thought until after Molly's disappearance. On June 27, Magi drove Molly to Comins Pond and dropped her off near the lifeguard station. Magi reportedly saw no sign of the stranger from the previous day or his white sedan. However, another witness reported that he saw a man matching the stranger's description in the pond's parking lot just minutes before Molly arrived. A local worker also reported that he saw a similar car parked at a cemetery connected to the pond by a path. Magi Bish was the last known person to see Molly before her disappearance. Several hours later, police contacted Molly's parents, informing them that no lifeguard had been on duty all day and that Molly's belongings had been left unattended at her station.
An extensive search was immediately launched. It was to become the largest and most expensive search for a missing person ever undertaken in Massachusetts. Her case was profiled on the numerous American television shows Disappeared, America's Most Wanted, Unsolved Mysteries, and 48 Hours. A hunter had seen a blue bathing suit in the woods on Whiskey Hill in Palmer, in late fall 2002. In May 2003, he mentioned this to Tim McGuigan, who contacted police. An intense search of the area soon located Molly's body. On June 9, 2003, Molly's body was found five miles from her family home.
In 2004 Magi and John Bish founded The Molly Bish Center and Foundation in collaboration with Anna Maria College.
In 2009, a new suspect was investigated. Rodney Stanger, a Florida resident convicted of murdering his girlfriend, had lived in Southbridge, Massachusetts – a few miles from the town of Warren – for more than 20 years. Rodney moved to Florida a year after the Bish murder. Following the murder of Crystal Morrison, Stanger's girlfriend of 20 years, Crystal's sister alerted the Massachusetts authorities. Stanger was known to have access to a white car similar to the one seen the day before Bish's disappearance. He was also known to fish in Comins Pond and hunt in the woods where Bish's body was found. In addition, Stanger closely matched the description provided by Magi Bish of the man seen in the white sedan the day before Molly's disappearance. Stanger has not been charged in her case.
In 2009, when Stanger was being investigated for the Bish murder, police also questioned him in connection with the 1993 murder of Holly Piirainen in Southbridge. Bish and Piirainen were the same age in 1993, and Bish had written a letter of hope to Piirainen's parents in 1993. Stanger was not charged in this case. In 2012, forensic evidence led authorities to name David Pouliot — who died in 2003 — as a person of interest in the Piirainen case.
In November 2011, Gerald Battistoni, a.k.a. Confidential Informant #62 for the Eastern Hampden County Narcotic Task Force, was named as a suspect in Bish's death by private detective Dan Malley of Massachusetts. Battistoni served time in prison for repeatedly raping a teenage girl in the early 1990s. He attempted suicide in prison after newspaper articles identified him as a potential suspect in Bish and Piirainen's deaths. Battistoni, who had a criminal record dating back to 1980, had been in the area where Molly's body was found and resembles a composite sketch of the man Magi saw in the parking lot on the day before Molly disappeared.
After Gerald Battistoni was named as a suspect, Private Detective Dan Malley and the Bish family asked for DNA testing to be done. Massachusetts state police sent the DNA evidence to Texas.
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