Charles E. Pierce is a vicious
killer. He is serving a 20-year sentence for the 1969 murder of Michelle
Wilson, a 13-year-old Boxford girl. In that case, Pierce accosted her as
she rode her bicycle home from a friend's house, dragged her into his
van, and strangled her. Then he had sex with her dead body and took her
to some woods, where he bit her, beat her, kicked her in the head, put a
98-pound rock on her head and covered her with leaves, according to
Robert Weiner, the Essex County first assistant district attorney who
prosecuted the case in 1979 and 1980.
A glimpse into Pierce's twisted psyche is provided by
the State Police detective captain who arrested Pierce in the Wilson
case. About 10 years after the murder, Pierce confessed and led
investigators to the spot where he put the body. The captain, who
declines to be named, was sitting in the back seat of a police van with
Pierce at the crime scene. At the time, Pierce was suspected in several
child murders and also had active tuberculosis.
"A big, big moon came out and it was shining into the
back seat," the captain says. "And I'm trying to get Charlie [Pierce] to
tell me where some of the children [he killed] are, saying it would be
nice to let the parents know that much.
"Charlie said, 'There are so many.'
"So I said, 'Well, how about if we start with the
ones in Massachusetts?'
"Just then, clouds blocked the moon. He turned to me
and started spitting on me, so I'd get his TB. And he hit me over the
head with his handcuffs and said, 'You no-good [expletive.]' He rambled
on, calling me other names. And from then on, he wouldn't say anything
more to me or Dougie [Boxford police chief Douglas A. Warren]."
Pierce has prostate cancer and is not
expected to live much longer. Hoping to hear a deathbed confession,
Lawrence police detective Captain Michael Molchan and state investigator
Sergeant Jack Garvin go to MCI-Shirley in January to meet the ailing
inmate, who is 77 years old. Afterwards, Garvin describes the chilling
When he was convicted of the Wilson
murder in June 1980, Pierce was a muscular man, 6' 2" and more than 200
pounds. Now he weighs barely 135. "His skin is hanging off him," Garvin
says. Pierce's face is lined and drawn, with dark circles around baggy,
bespectacled eyes. He is sitting in a wheelchair, covered with a blanket
and wearing an oxygen mask.
Pierce tells the detectives that he murdered several
children, including Janice Pockett, a 7-year-old girl from Tolland, Conn.,
and a 10- or 11-year-old Lawrence boy, whom he will not name.
The Lawrence boy had olive skin and wanted to go
fishing, Pierce says. He killed him in his van, had sex with the boy's
body and with the dead body of Janice, which he was carrying in the
vehicle. He says he buried the children in graves about 30 feet apart,
each two feet deep, using a spade he kept in his van. The burial site
was a field in Lawrence, which he marked with pieces of coal.
The next day, Pierce recants his story. When
detectives try to get more details, he becomes stubborn and belligerent.
"He threw his oxygen mask at me," Garvin says. "Then
he pretended to keep falling asleep." When Pierce refused to talk any
more, "I said I'd wait till he dies if I have to.
"He said, 'Good, then you can suffer with me.'
"I said I'd claim his body and take it out for the
animals to eat. That was my parting shot."
Charles E. Pierce
March 2, 1999
A few weeks before Charles Pierce died,
the convicted child killer confessed to killing two more children in
Lawrence, Mass., more than 40 years ago. During an almost two-hour
interview, in which he sometimes fell asleep or became confused, the
former carnival worker provided the location of where the children's
bodies and other details about the slayings.
On January, 1999, Pierce,
who was serving time for killing a 13-year-old girl in 1969, was cancer-stricken
and wheelchair-bound when he asked a corrections officer to bring the
police. "He told one of the guards he wanted to clear his
conscience," Molchan said.
Pierce hooked up to an oxygen tank,
told police a horrific story of how he allegedly killed a boy he had
befriended at an old theater and buried the child's body in a nearby
field. He also recounted that sometime in the eight months prior to that
killing, he had abducted a girl in Connecticut, murdered her and buried
her body in the same field, about 30 feet from the boy.
Pierce gave vague directions to the
field, leading investigators to what is now a ball field. But before
proceeding, police say they want to put together some of the many
problematic pieces of Pierce's story. For example, while the name of the
girl Pierce gave is similar to the name of a girl who did disappear in
Connecticut, that abduction happened in the early 1970s -- not in the
1950s. To confuse matters further, Pierce had a history of confessing to
things and later recanting. When Connecticut authorities showed up at
prison to ask him about his statements to Molchan, Pierce allegedly
became agitated and denied the claims.
Deathbed tale leaves murder mystery
By Jim Patten -
Sunday, February 28, 1999
LAWRENCE -- The Haverhill drifter and
carnival worker who kidnapped and killed 13-year-old Michelle Wilson of
Boxford in 1969 has died in prison.
But three weeks before he died of cancer at age 78,
Charles E. Pierce made a chilling confession to police -- and left them
with another mystery to solve.
He summoned police to his bedside at the state prison
in Shirley and told them he killed two more children in the mid- to late
1950s in Lawrence.
So far, police have been unable to identify the
Lawrence Police Detective Capt. Michael S. Molchan
said records of missing persons do not go back that far. Retired
officers who served in the 1950s could not recall any cases that matched
Mr. Pierce's reports.
That leaves police trying to sort out whether Mr.
Pierce's story represented the ramblings of a dying old man or a true
deathbed confession of his guilt in the deaths of two children who
vanished long ago.
"He was incoherent at times. He'd talk for a bit,
then fall asleep. He was in and out of it," Capt. Molchan said. "We
don't know how much to put into his story."
Police are appealing to the public to help solve the
"I need some old-timers who may remember these events,"
Capt. Molchan said.
"It is a very cold case. If anybody knows any news
stories or boys missing from the middle 1950s to the early 1960s, please
call," he said.
Mr. Pierce told Capt. Molchan and State Police
Detective Sgt. Jack Garvin he picked up a young boy outside the Strand
Theater in Lawrence, drove up Broadway toward George's Diner and took a
left, burying the boy in a field off West Street which may now be
occupied by a Massachusetts Electric Co. building.
The Strand Theater closed in 1956 and became the
Astor Theater, which closed after two years, Capt. Molchan said.
George's Diner was torn down in the late 1950s, Capt. Molchan said.
Capt. Molchan said Mr. Pierce, who travelled
extensively with carnivals, also told them he buried a girl he abducted
from Connecticut in the same field as the boy.
It was not clear whether he killed the girl in
Connecticut and buried her here or killed and buried her here, but he
gave enough details of that killing to interest Connecticut
investigators, Capt. Molchan said.
Capt. Molchan said Mr. Pierce claimed to have killed
the young girl first, and then the boy, during an eight-month period
during the mid-1950s and buried them within 30 feet of each other in the
field off West Street, Capt. Molchan said.
"He told us he wanted to clear his conscience," Capt.
But "a day or two later Connecticut (police) went
there and he said he fabricated the whole thing," Capt. Molchan said.
But according to newspaper accounts, Mr. Pierce had a
history of confessing to these crimes, then recanting.
During his trial in the Michelle Wilson case, he
attempted to have his taped confession thrown out, claiming he had read
about the killing in the newspapers -- only to plead guilty before the
case went to a jury.
Mr. Pierce has previously been linked to the slaying
of a 7-year-old girl abducted in Tolland, Conn., and the murder of a
girl in Sturbridge, near the Connecticut line.
But the Tolland girl was slain in 1973 and the
Sturbridge girl in 1976, almost 20 years after Mr. Pierce told the
Lawrence officers that he buried a Connecticut girl in their city.
"We are asking people with knowledge to call us. We
don't know if he was making up stories. We do know Charles Pierce was
questioned in the disappearance of the Connecticut girl," Capt. Molchan
Michelle Wilson, whose family had moved to Boxford
six weeks before her death on Nov. 22, 1969, was returning to her
Baldpate Road home when Mr. Pierce abducted her in his station wagon.
The discovery of her bicycle 1,500 feet from the
family home touched off a massive search. Her body was found 19 hours
later on Mill Road.
Mr. Pierce was arrested for the Michelle Wilson
killing 10 years later in a Florida prison, where he was about to begin
serving 10 years for sexual assaults on three boys in a Tampa suburb.
Florida authorities agreed to let him to return to
Mr. Pierce was connected to the case by statements he
made to another inmate and the medical staff at the Florida prison.
Mr. Pierce pleaded guilty on June 9, 1980,
interrupting his trial after his taped confession was played to the jury.
Boxford Police Chief Gordon Russell said Mr. Pierce
was allowed to plead guilty to second-degree murder because he had been
diagnosed with cancer and it was assumed he would die in prison -- as he
did, but almost 20 years later.
A second-degree murder conviction allows the
possibility of parole. Had he been convicted of first-degree murder, he
would not have been eligible for parole.
Mr. Pierce came up for parole in August, 1997, but,
nearly blind and in a wheelchair, he waived his right to a hearing.
August - Two Lawrence, MA boys, age 10 and 11, are lured
into the woods and raped by a man asking for help finding a lost poodle.
10 year old Andy Puglisi vanishes from a public swimming pool in
Lawrence, MA. The search for Andy lasts six days.
Wayne W. Chapman is arrested for a firearms violation in Junius, NY (Seneca
County) during a routine traffic stop. Police search his van and find a
cache of child pornography, rope, tape, handcuffs, a fake police badge
and starter’s pistol. Chapman is detained and interrogated by police
from several states.
Chapman is charged with sodomizing
several children in a 4-H club in Providence, RI.
Chapman is charged with the murder
of 6-year old David Louison missing from Brockton, MA in 1974.
Police search the Brockton area
for the body of missing six-year old, David Louison, based on a
confession by Wayne W. Chapman. David’s body is not recovered.
Wayne W. Chapman is publicly named as a suspect in Andy Puglisi case
Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis signs a warrant for extradition
of Wayne W. Chapman from RI to MA for the rape of two Lawrence boys.
A Bristol county grand jury
indicts Chapman on charges of sexually assaulting three young boys in
1975.in Fall River and Seekonk, MA. He is held without bail in Cranston,
Wayne W. Chapman is extradited from RI to Massachusetts for rape of a
child: 2 counts Lawrence, MA (0051300)
Grand Jury testimony given by two boys – victims of the Lawrence rapes.
State and local police search the
wooded area behind the pool for Andy Puglisi’s remains. The search turns
Wayne W. Chapman is found guilty of raping the two Lawrence boys. The
crime is a capital offense in MA. Essex County Superior Court sentences
Chapman to 2 concurrent 15 to 30 year sentences. Docket #92368-69.
Chapman is sentenced to no less
than 15 nor more than 30 years at MCI Cedar Junction.
Wayne W. Chapman is civilly committed to the Massachusetts Treatment
Center for the Sexually Dangerous for a term on of “one day to life” SDP
A Plymouth County Grand Jury refuses to indict Wayne W. Chapman in the
murder of six-year old David Louison citing ‘no bills’ i.e. not enough
Wayne W. Chapman is arraigned in Bristol Superior Court. He receives
6-10 years for Sodomy and indecent Assault and Battery on a child under
Charles E. Pierce, a Haverhill, MA resident is convicted of rape of a
child in Hillsborough County, Florida and is sentenced to five years in
a Florida State prison.
Andy Puglisi’s dental records are sent to Chicago to be cross-checked
against the human remains of children found buried under the home of
serial killer John Wayne Gacy. No match is made.
Connecticut State Police form a
special task force to investigate the disappearance of several children
including Janice Pockett, Dawn Cave, Mary Mount, Debra Sprickler,
Kathleen Terry and Lisa Joy White.
Charles E. Pierce confesses to the murder of 13-year old Michelle
Wilson. Pierce is named as a suspect in the disappearance of Janice
Pockett from Tolland, CT and is implicated in the murder of several
children in the CT area.
Charles E. Pierce is charged with the murder of Michelle Wilson. He
pleads innocent and is committed to the Bridgewater State hospital in MA
Charles Pierce pleads guilty to second-degree murder of Michelle Wilson.
He is sentenced to life at MCI Walpole. Docket #100230-100231
State police dig an area in Tolland, CT searching for Janice Pockett
based on information Charles Pierce has given them. Janice’s body is not
A child’s body discovered in a Brockton basement is positively
identified as six-year old David Louison.
Charles E. Pierce tells investigators he is responsible for 15-20 child
murders since 1954. He names several children including William DeSousa
of Chicago (1972) Janice Pockett of CT (1973) and Mary Catherine
Olenchuk of Maine.
Lawrence police re-open the investigation into Andy’s disappearance by
bringing Psychic, Andrew Barnhart, in to help with the investigation.
Lawrence police interrogate a ten-year
old boy who claims to have witnessed Andy’s abduction six years earlier
when the boy was 4.
Lawrence police Captain Fitzpatrick receives a letter from a State
Trooper involved with Charles E. Pierce. The letter says Pierce has
confessed to the murder of a Lawrence, MA boy and that Lawrence police
should investigate. Lawrence police do not question Charles Pierce.
Wayne Chapman is approved to participate in Community Furlough Program
allowing him to be released from the Massachusetts Treatment Center into
the community on weekends.
Wayne W. Chapman’s Section 9 hearing (Sexually Dangerous Persons) SDP
163. Despite protests from several psychiatrists and the Treatment
Center itself Chapman is ruled ‘no longer sexually dangerous’ and his
released from his civil commitment. He is returned to the prison system
to serve the remainder of his criminal sentence.
Chapman refuses sex offender treatment based on religious affiliation.
Wayne W. Chapman suffers a heart-attack
Melanie Perkins contacts Andy’s mother and begins filming family members,
police officers and friends.
The Lawrence Eagle Tribune prints featuring Perkins’ search for answers
in the disappearance of Andy Puglisi.
The Lawrence Police Department
announce they are “officially re-opening” the investigation into Andy’s
disappearance and have assigned local and State police detectives to
work on the case.
Melanie Perkins interviews
Lawrence detectives who identify a neighbor, Gary Thibedeau, as another
suspect in Andy’s abduction.
Melanie Perkins contacts Wayne Chapman requesting an interview.
Al Mintz, a Providence RI
detective who investigated Wayne Chapman is located in Florida. Mintz
remembers the Chapman case clearly and has retained files over the past
Melanie discovers a letter in a Lawrence police file that claims a
prison inmate confessed to the murder of a Lawrence boy. No other
information about the inmate is available. The inmate’s name is Charles
Melanie learns for the first time that Charles E. Pierce is a convicted
child murderer who has confessed to the murder of a Lawrence boy. Judith
Gaines sends an overnight letter to Pierce requesting an interview.
Charles Pierce dies of prostrate
cancer on February 18, 1999.
Based on a deathbed confession from Charles Pierce, Lawrence police
bring cadaver dogs out to a site where Pierce claims to have buried the
two children. The dogs don’t react.
Later that same day, police bring
the cadaver dogs to an area adjacent to the pool. Both dogs react.
Melanie learns Charles Pierce was not in prison when Andy disappeared
and that he told Lawrence police he was acquainted with Wayne W. Chapman
and had seen him from time to time in Lawrence.
The Boston Globe publishes an 8-part series about the filming of the
documentary and the search for Andy. The series includes interviews with
Andy’s parents, Wayne W. Chapman, Andrew Barnhart and Perkins.
Wayne W Chapman reneges on his
agreement to be filmed for the documentary. He subsequently agrees to an
off-camera interview with Perkins.
Melanie meets with Wayne Chapman
at the Souza Baranowski Center in Shirley, MA. He denies any involvement
in Andy’s disappearance and claims never to have been to Lawrence, MA
despite the fact that he was convicted of the rape of two Lawrence boys
National networks and local news
shows begin covering Andy’s story.
Montana police arrest Nathaniel BarJonah aka David Brown in the
disappearance of Zachary Ramsay. BarJonah is a Massachusetts resident
and known sexual predator previously held at the Massachusetts Treatment
Center for the rape of several children in the Webster, MA area.
Fragments from a child’s bones are
found in BarJonah’s garage along with a list of several boys from a camp
in Webster, MA and a recipe for ‘little boy stew’. It is alleged
BarJonah has cannibalized children.
ABC News, PrimeTime Live airs “Predators Among Us”, an investigation
into a The Massachusetts Treatment Center for the Sexually Dangerous. It
documents sexual predators who were released from the facility only to
rape, molest or murder again. Therapist, Paula Erickson who worked at
the Treatment Center in the 1990s, tells Cynthia McFadden that she went
to the state capitol to warn people of the danger but no one would
listen. A profile of Wayne W. Chapman is included as one of the sexual
predators released from the Treatment Center. The news piece also
includes a profile of Nathaniel Bar Jonah.
Melanie learns BarJonah and
Chapman were colleagues and may have known each other before their civil
commitments to the Treatment Center.
Nathaniel Bar-Jonah is convicted
earlier this year of sexually assaulting a 14-year-old Great Falls boy,
and hanging the boy's 8-year-old cousin from a kitchen ceiling. Those
assaults occurred in 1998 and 1999. . Bar-Jonah spent 11 years in the
Massachusetts Treatment Center after one attack in which authorities
said he tried to kill two boys. . Under a 1991 plea agreement with
Massachusetts’ prosecutors, Bar-Jonah was allowed to move to Montana
with his mother. Montana authorities were outraged to learn of the deal
after Bar-Jonah's arrest.
The City of Lawrence dedicates the corner adjacent to the Higgins
Memorial Pool as “Andy Puglisi Square” a memorial plaque is placed on a
boulder outside of the pool that Andy and his friends played before his
The State Police crime unit
excavates a larger area adjacent to the pool – the same area in which
the two cadaver dogs reacted and the ‘smaller’ 1999 excavation occurred.
Andy’s body is not recovered.
Wayne W. Chapman’s criminal sentence ends. The Essex County District
Attorney’s office files a petition Chapman still Sexually Dangerous and
return him to the Massachusetts Treatment Center
An Essex Superior Court judge rules the state’s contention that Chapman
remains a Sexually Dangerous person is insufficient and should not be
allowed granting a motion by Wayne Chapman’s attorney, John Day, to
dismiss the case. The state appeals.
The state Supreme Judicial Court ‘vacates the decision’ of an Essex
County Superior Court judge who ruled the state’s case against Wayne
Chapman should be dismissed. The case is allowed to move forward to a
probable cause hearing.
Crime scene investigators search the area behind the pool for Andy based
on information from a potential eye-witness. Andy’s body is not found.
Andy’s family holds a candlelight vigil honoring his memory at St.
Patrick’s Church in Lawrence, MA. It is the only church service ever
held in Andy’s honor.
Wayne W. Chapman’s sexual dangerousness hearing is scheduled. The
outcome will determine whether Chapman is returned to the Treatment
Center or released into the community.
A judge rules Wayne W. Chapman is still sexually dangerous and commits
him to the Treatment Center at Bridgewater, MA for a term of ‘one day to
life’. Chapman’s status for release will be reviewed annually.
“Have You Seen Andy?” is screened for the first-time publicly at the
Showcase Cinema in Lawrence, MA, the same theater Melanie and Andy
attended as children. 400 people crowd the theatre.
“Have You Seen Andy?” is broadcast on HBO/Cinemax. The film will
continue to broadcast over the next five years.
Charles E. Pierce