On Tuesday, June 27, 2000, in the sleepy town of Warren, Massachusetts, a teenage lifeguard arrives for her shift at the local pond at 10:00 a.m. Then, just 20 minutes later, a mother arrives with her kids for a swim to find the lifeguard’s post deserted. For three years the disappearance of Molly Bish will remain a complete mystery – until one man makes a strange discovery in some woods.
In June 2000 young, blonde-haired Molly was enjoying her summer break like any other teenage girl. Having attended prom and finished her junior year, the committed athlete had taken a job at Comins Pond, a local swimming destination just south of the center of town. Not one to rest on her laurels, Molly had even sacrificed her Saturdays to train for the role.
On the morning of June 27, then, Molly’s mother, Magi, dropped the teenaged girl off for work at Comins Pond. According to Magi, Molly had told her that she loved her and then set off through an empty parking lot to begin her day. However, when Sandra Woodworth and her children arrived shortly after, the teenager was nowhere to be seen.
“The first-aid kit was wide open,” Woodworth recalled in a 2003 interview with CBS News. “[The] backpack was on the beach, her towel was draped over the back of the chair, sandals were in front, [and] the Poland Spring water bottle was right there. But there was no Molly.”
One hour later, Ed Fett, Molly’s boss, arrived at the scene; and when he realized that Molly was missing, he notified the local police. Three hours later, Magi received a message that no parent ever wants to hear. For although police were working on the assumption that Molly had merely ditched work to spend the day with friends, her family knew straight away that something was very wrong.
“She took her work very seriously,” Molly’s sister Heather told CBS News. “There’s not a doubt in my mind that she would have done anything to jeopardize that.” Magi agreed, saying, “She would never just leave her job. We knew it.”
When police then confirmed that Molly was not with her boyfriend or other friends, they began to consider the possibility that she had drowned. Once again, though, Magi was sure that the police had it wrong. Apparently, her daughter had hated the feel of the lake’s wet bottom and would not go in the water without wearing her sandals – which had been found discarded on the beach.
Massachusetts State Police arrived to take charge of the investigation that afternoon. Sadly, however, they had little to go on except the open first-aid kit. Had someone approached Molly for help and then caught her off-guard? Despite their lack of leads, the state police launched an extensive search. Indeed, it was to become the biggest hunt for a missing person that Massachusetts had ever seen.
However, even as volunteers combed the area around Comins Pond, Magi had her own suspicions about her daughter’s fate. Apparently, the day before Molly went missing, her mother had spotted a strange man with a mustache, lurking in a white sedan in the pond’s parking lot.
And although Magi had not seen the stranger – or the white sedan – when she dropped Molly off the next day, she nonetheless reported her sighting to the police. Subsequently, more witnesses came forward claiming to have seen the same man in the parking lot on the morning that Molly had disappeared.
With Magi’s help, police then produced a sketch of the suspect – thought to have been between 45 and 55 years of age, with graying dark hair. But despite a $100,000 reward being offered, police were never able to trace the man. Meanwhile, they began to interrogate registered sex offenders living in the area.
One such man, Oscar Baillargeon, seemed a likely candidate. A convicted rapist who admitted to having met Molly before, he bore a strong resemblance to the police sketch’s likeness. However, Magi was unsure of whether it was the same man, and investigators lacked enough evidence to proceed.
Instead, three heartbreaking years passed, with the Bish family no closer to finding out what had happened to Molly. Then, in May 2003, there was finally a breakthrough in the case. Tim McGuigan, a former policeman who lived locally, had a passion for investigating missing person cases. And, independent of the police, he had begun his own investigation into Molly’s disappearance.
Furthermore, during the course of his research McGuigan had met a local man named Ricky Beaudreau – who had an interesting story to relate. Apparently, some months earlier, Beaudreau had been out hunting on Whiskey Hill when he’d stumbled across an incongruous sight. A torn blue bathing suit had been abandoned in the woods there, some five miles from Comins Pond.
So while Beaudreau had forgotten all about the strange discovery, the encounter with the investigating McGuigan reminded him. Together, then, the two men went to the spot on Whiskey Hill and retrieved the bathing suit. Moreover, soon searchers were intensively scouring the area, and a week later they made the sad discovery of a human arm bone.
The coming days saw more bones recovered, and on June 9, 2003, police confirmed that the remains belonged to Molly Bish. For her grieving family, their daughter had come home at last – in the grimmest of circumstances. Still, the Bishes remained determined to find out what had happened to Molly and finally bring the perpetrator to justice.
As the investigation then continued, Molly’s death became intrinsically linked to the previous abduction and murder of another young, blonde girl. On August 5, 1993, 10-year-old Holly Piirainen had disappeared from her home in Sturbridge, some ten miles away from Warren. Then a little more than two months later, her remains were uncovered in nearby woods.
Could the same man have been responsible for both crimes? Police certainly believed that it was a distinct possibility, and in 2009 they questioned Florida resident Rodney Stanger in connection with the cases. At the time of both murders, he had lived only a few miles from Warren. Stanger had also driven a car similar to the one spotted near Comins Pond, and he matched Magi’s description of the mysterious man. However, he is yet to face any charges.
Then, in 2011, another suspect was named. Gerald Battistoni – who was already serving a prison sentence for rape – had been in the vicinity when Molly went missing. Furthermore, he too was said to resemble the likeness in the police sketch. But Battistoni died in 2014 without being charged.
Today, the Bish family are yet to find justice for Molly, and they live in fear that her killer could still be at large. “I don’t know where this person is. Is he watching us? Is he going to come back for my daughter?” Molly’s sister Heather said. “Is he dangerous? Is he around? And could he do it again?”