This is a case that I find endlessly fascinating, and I think you will too.
It involves a possible serial killer, incredible forensic science work, and a missing mother and child. And all of that is just for starters.
Fall of 1995
In late September, early October 1995, police in two states made heartbreaking discoveries.
The first, in New Britain, Conn. just after midnight on Sept. 28, 1995, a police officer making his rounds found a clump of sleeping bags just outside the backdoor of a business at 593 Hartford Road. The officer unzipped the bag and found the body of a young woman, possibly a teenager. She was shot in the head, her body placed inside two sleeping bags and left beneath a floodlight, as if the killer wanted her body to be found. Police believe the young woman was dead for only a few hours.
The second, in Tolland, Mass. Just outside the entrance of the Tolland State Forest, in an area where RV campers clean out the waste from their vehicles, the body of a woman was discovered on the other side of a wooden guardrail, and down an embankment. The woman was well dressed, and it appeared she was dragged a few feet down the embankment, but her body was not in the woods. She was shot to death. On a nearby guardrail post, police found a bullet hole. It is thought the woman was murdered at the location.
Within months Mass. and Conn. State Police believed the murders were possibly related. After all, Massachusetts had the body of a woman found at a campground, wearing clothes suited not for a camper, but a shopper. In Connecticut, authorities had the remains of a younger woman, found at a shopping plaza, but wrapped in sleeping bags. It appears the Massachusetts woman was murdered in haste, her body dumped at the Tolland State Forest. The younger woman killed somewhere else, her body carefully placed, not in a dumpster or in the woods, but in a place where she would quickly be located.
Advances in forensic science have led to a staggering breakthrough. It is now beyond a shadow of a doubt the 1995 murders are linked. Using mitochondrial and nuclear DNA testing, authorities say the two women are biologically related.
Looking at their approximate ages, police believe the Tolland victim was the mother of the New Britain victim.
Links to NY State
Putting it Together
The working theory is that the mother and daughter lived in the Albany area, or spent considerable time there, in the months leading up to the homicides. At some point, they traveled to Tolland where the mother was shot in the head and left for dead. Somewhere between Tolland and New Britain, the daughter, believed to be in her late teens to early twenties, was shot in the head, placed in two sleeping bags, and carefully placed behind a store where she would be found.
The biggest issue: who are they? In any murder investigation, a murder victim's identity is a primary goal. Once police know the victim, they can construct a time line, and they can build a database of people who knew the victim. In this case police are trying to identify not one, but two victims.
Since 1995, police have scoured the Albany, N.Y. area trying to locate reports of a missing mother and daughter. They have not been successful. N.Y. State Police Investigator Gloria Coppola is personally conducting the N.Y. search.
She is going far beyond missing persons reports. She is also looking for anyone who stopped receiving government benefits. She's looking for landlords who unexpectedly had a tenant break a lease. She's searching N.Y. motor vehicle records looking for drivers licenses that were not renewed. Basically, there is not a stone she is leaving unturned.
Appeals to the public have amounted to many leads, but so far, no hard evidence.
I have a couple of questions. The road that leads to the Tolland State Forest is remote. Why was the Tolland victim's body left in an area frequented by campers? Why wasn't her body pulled into the woods where it would likely never be found. In New Britain, why did the killer take such care with the teenager's body? There are several dumpsters in the back alley, and a large area of woods. What was it about the teenager that elicited some amount of compassion from her killer?
In 2007, another big break. A man walking through the woods behind the same shopping center where the New Britain Daughter Jane Doe was found in 1995, found a human skull. A line search revealed the remains of three Jane Does. The bodies are within 50 yards of each other, and 50 yards away from where the 1995 New Britain Daughter Jane Doe was found.
Three 2007 Jane Does
The FBI, at its Quantico, Va. lab, performed facial reconstruction on the two skulls recovered.
Looking for Connections
Investigators cannot definitively tie in all five Jane Does into the same case. But they are not ruling out the possibility the same killer is responsible. It's hard to ignore the fact that the bodies of four of the five women were found near the same shopping center in New Britain. What are the odds of the cases NOT being related.
The identification of Diane Cusak is a key because she was a New Britain woman found in New Britain. This suggests the killer may also be from the area, or, at the very least, familiar with New Britain. More importantly, police are now working on her time line, trying to determine where she was, and who she was with, before she disappeared.
What you can do
Take a look at the evidence in the case. If the faces of any of these women look familiar, even if they are vaguely familiar, please call police. There is a very real possibility that a serial killer has been operating in the Tolland-New Britain area for years. Your information may take a very dangerous person off the streets forever.
MASSACHUSETTS STATE POLICE
Mon-Fri 8:30AM to 5:00PM
NEW BRITAIN,CT POLICE
Lt. James Wardwell
NEW YORK STATE POLICE
Investigator Gloria Coppola