Death of Molly Bish
August 2, 1983|
|Disappeared||June 27, 2000
|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, MA. Her remains were found three years later in neighbouring Hampden County after what became the largest search in the state's history.
In summer 2000, Molly Bish worked as a lifeguard at Comins Pond in Warren. On June 26, 2000, the day before Molly's disappearance, her mother, Magi Bish, when dropping her daughter off for her shift at Comins Pond, stated that she saw a mustached man in a white sedan in the parking lot of the beach where Molly's lifeguard post was located. Although he looked suspicious to her, she afforded him no further thought until after Molly's disappearance. Molly was on her seventh day of the job when, on June 27, her mother drove her to Comins Pond and dropped her off close to her lifeguard station. Magi Bish saw no sign of the stranger, or the vehicle, she had seen the previous day. 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 that day. 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 person to see her daughter before she went missing. 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 to find Molly Bish. 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. On June 9, 2003, Molly's body was found five miles from her family home. 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 then made the possible connection to Bish and contacted police. An intense search of the area soon located her body.
Molly's parents, Magi and John Bish, have started The Molly Bish Foundation in Molly's memory with the goal to spread the word about child safety.
Suspects and developments
In 2009 a new suspect was investigated. Rodney Stanger, a Florida resident charged with (and later convicted of) murdering his girlfriend in Florida, had lived in Southbridge, Massachusetts – a few miles from the town of Warren – for more than 20 years, moving to Florida a year after the Bish murder. The sister of Crystal Morrison, his live-in girlfriend of 20 years, alerted the Massachusetts authorities about him following her sister's Florida death. He was known to have access to a white car similar to the one seen the day before Bish's disappearance, was known to fish in Comins Pond and hunt in the woods where Bish's body was found, and closely matches the composite provided by Magi of the man seen in the white car the day before the murder. Stanger has not been charged in her case.
In 2009, when Stanger was investigated in the Bish murder, police also questioned him in connection with the 1993 murder of Holly Piirainen in Southbridge. Bish and Piirainen were born the same year, 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 a prison sentence for repeatedly raping a teenaged 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 Bish's body was found and resembles a composite sketch of the man Magi saw in the parking lot on the day before Bish 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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