Maureen and Jennifer Moynihan

Is there any possibility that the suspect in this case is the CT River Valley killer? Those stabbings to the neck...

Unsolved, unproven? 33 years later, DNA may crack Rutland case  


The school year was winding down for Gerald F. Moynihan, a math teacher at West Boylston Junior-Senior High School. His wife, Maureen F. Moynihan, had left the couple’s neat ranch house that morning to drop off their 6-year-old son, Timothy, and his friends at afternoon kindergarten. Afterward, she ran errands with their 4-year-old daughter, Jennifer, including a stop at a hardware store on Route 122A in Holden around 1 p.m.


By evening, life had taken an anxious turn for Mr. Moynihan. Suppertime had come and gone, as had the children’s bedtimes. But his wife and young daughter had not returned home.

Neighbors stayed up all night with him, waiting for word. Police had been called. Although the night was foggy, no accidents were reported. In 1973, Rutland was a town of fewer than 3,700 people. Serious accidents were rare in this rural town, where the couple had moved from Worcester a few years earlier.

The next day started out with more fear and uncertainty for Mr. Moynihan, but it was a normal morning in the rest of Rutland. Robert J. Zoppo was working as usual at his store, the Rutland Variety and Luncheonette. A man in his mid-30s, he was known to nearly everyone in town as half of the police force, a part-time job he shared with Police Chief Ugo A. Alinovi, who has since died.

The town had no police station, so people whose houses had been broken into or who were missing possessions called Chief Alinovi at home or sought out Bob Zoppo at his store.

That morning, Wachusett Regional High School senior Joseph Warrington, 18, and his friend Mark Congdon, 20, headed out under sunny skies for a carefree day near Rutland State Forest. Mr. Warrington recalls wanting to go fishing.

The state conservation land they drove to was a remote area popular with teenagers looking for a place to drink or pursue other recreation, Mr. Congdon told news reporters at the time.

When the two young men got there, they saw a car in a field with its door flung open. They didn’t see anyone near the car and wondered what was going on.

They walked closer.

What they saw still rattles Mr. Warrington, now 51. A woman whom Mr. Warrington knew but didn’t immediately recognize was lying, stabbed and bloody, on the ground, her body partly under the dark-blue car.

Mr. Warrington and Mr. Congdon rushed to their car and sped to the variety store to get Officer Zoppo. Mr. Zoppo said he remembers the two young men telling him to come immediately because they had seen someone lying behind a car, but they hadn’t described it as a body. Until he arrived at the car, he said, he had no idea a woman had been slain.

When he looked into the front seat of the car, he saw that a child had also been stabbed to death.

Mr. Warrington remembers police swarming the crime scene and vividly recalls the horrific photographs of the woman and little girl that police took and spread out on the back of the car, photographs he wishes he had never seen. He had known the mother and daughter from church, he said, but still did not recognize them. Only later that day did he learn who they were.

“I was sick for quite a few days after that, and I couldn’t eat,” Mr. Warrington said last month.

The killing of the child was particularly disturbing to him. “I can’t drive by there without thinking about it,” he said. His deep voice grew quiet. “I was always hoping that they’d find out who did it, but at this point I’ve kind of given up hope that it would ever get solved.”

According to Timothy Moynihan, the son and brother of the victims, though, the crimes were solved, although no arrests were ever made.

“I know police figured out who did it,” he said last month.

According to Officer Zoppo, who left the Rutland police force a few years after the killings and now works for the Worcester County Sheriff’s Department, the Rutland police quickly turned the investigation over to the state police. Today, the local department has no records at all on the crime, according to Chief Joseph R. Baril, a Rhode Islander who came to Rutland when he was hired as chief in 1998. All he knows about the deaths, he said, is that they remain a state police matter.

Mr. Zoppo still has plenty of memories. He knew the victims well, he said, but that day he had to keep his mind on his job.

“I dealt with it the way it had to be dealt with, that’s all,” he said in an interview last month. “She was a customer of mine almost every day. She went to my church -- very nice lady.”

He refused to discuss the crime scene, but acknowledged, “It’s still with me. It was not a very good scene.”

William T. Buckley, the district attorney in 1973, is now deceased, but he said at the time that the mother and daughter died of stab wounds to the neck. Medical tests indicated they were killed between 3 and 4 p.m. June 5.

Timothy Moynihan, who is now 39 and lives in Worcester, said that about 17 years after the murders police told his family they had recently solved the cases but an arrest was not possible because of missing evidence.According to the police, he said, his mother and sister were murdered by a 19-year-old local man who was not one of the young men who found the victims.

“The person who did it spent a significant amount of time in jail and was not very nice and is currently out,” Mr. Moynihan said, adding that he did not know, nor does he want to know, any more than that.

He said he never wanted to know any details about what happened to his mother and sister. “I didn’t ask too much detail. I guess you learn to cope in your own way, and knowing all kinds of details was never important to me.”

District Attorney John J. Conte, who inherited the case when he became district attorney in 1976, acknowledged that lack of evidence once stymied the investigation. One of the most intensive efforts to solve the murders was carried out about 17 years ago, he noted, but it ended without an arrest.

“I would say that there was a very viable suspect but the evidence wasn’t there,” he said. “Did we have a suspect? Yes. Did we have evidence? No. Not enough evidence.”

However, today the case is anything but cold. Evidence was sent for DNA analysis last year as part of the continuing investigation into the murders, and there are suspects, he said.\

“The evidence at the scene was preserved,” Mr. Conte noted. “We did find some sperm. DNA is such a powerful weapon right now, and we were hoping we would get a hit.”

He declined to say whether the sperm evidence collected and preserved 33 years ago came from Mrs. Moynihan or from Jennifer, but he did say he believes it could be the key to proving who committed the murders. He also did not disclose whether either of the Moynihans was sexually assaulted, nor was that information disclosed at the time of the murders.

“What happens now is, you send the material to CODIS (the combined DNA index), very similar to the fingerprint index that the FBI runs that goes all over the country, so we’re still hoping for a hit,” Mr. Conte said.

“This is the type of case, you know, many people felt that they could solve it, and our best hope of course has always been in these types of situations to come up with a suspect. But with the DNA, this is an added dimension,” he added.

While he does not want to raise the hopes of surviving family members, Mr. Conte said investigators remain intent on solving the case and arresting the murderer.

“We’re still working on it,” he said. “This is something that’s really not on the back burner.”
He added, “It’s the type of case that you just never forget.”

Contact Jean Laquidara Hill by e-mail at

Body exhumed in Boston cemetery to identify killer in decades old Worcester County 'horrific' double murder By Lindsay Corcoran 
on July 24, 2015

WORCESTER - A body was exhumed in a Boston cemetery on Thursday in an attempt to identify the killer in a "horrific" double murder several decades ago in Worcester County.

Tim Connolly, spokesperson for the Worcester County District Attorney's office, said Friday that state police detectives assigned to the the district attorney's office, as well as other units from the Massachusetts State Police and the Officer of the Chief Medical Examiner, performed the exhumation in Fairlawn Cemetery in Boston for a local case.

"It was in an effort to confirm the identity of a killer who committed a horrific double murder several decades ago," Connolly said.

Connolly said they are attempting through DNA testing and matching to identify the killer in this case.

"The suspect is not alive," Connolly noted. He also said there was never an arrest in the case.

Connolly said the family of the deceased are aware of their efforts.

  WCVB Boston reported on Thursday night that the exhumation is related to the Rutland stabbing death of Maureen Moynihan and her 4-year-old daughter Jennifer in June 1973. Connolly could not confirm the exhumation was related to that particular case.




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