EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

August 26, 2012

Family of slain lifeguard hopeful after 12 years

The Eagle-Tribune

---- — WARREN, Mass. (AP) — Each time a new lead emerges in the search for her 16-year-old daughter’s killer, Magi Bish feels like there’s a tug of war going on inside her chest.

“You have hope that it will end. You think, ‘Is this the person? Could this be him?’” Bish said. “You want answers, but you’re so afraid. It brings back everything about Molly.”

Massachusetts state police spent two days last month questioning a Florida inmate in Molly’s death. Investigators have also sent 21 pieces of evidence for a new round of DNA testing.

“There is a certain responsibility when someone in your family is murdered. You have to find out who did it,” said Heather Bish, Molly’s sister.

On June 27, 2000, Molly’s mother dropped her off at her lifeguard job at a rural pond in Warren, a town of about 5,000 in central Massachusetts. Within eight minutes, she was gone.

In May 2003, a hunter’s tip led police to the blue bathing suit Molly was wearing. It was found in an area about five miles from where she disappeared. Her remains were found scattered over 35 acres, her body ravaged by animals. No cause of death could be determined.

One of the things that torments Molly’s mother is the thought of a man she saw in the parking lot of the pond the day before Molly’s disappearance. The man was sitting in a white car, smoking a cigarette. Magi Bish didn’t think about him again until the next day, when Molly disappeared.

Her description of the man — middle-aged, with a mustache and combed-back hair — was used to make a sketch. Several men investigated by police have resembled the one in the sketch, including Rodney Stanger, a former Massachusetts man known to hunt and fish in the area. He is serving a 25-year sentence in Florida in the fatal stabbing of his longtime girlfriend, Chrystal Morrison. He was questioned in Molly’s death in 2008 but denied having anything to do with it.

Morrison’s sister, Bonnie Kiernan recently went to Florida to clean out the trailer Stanger and her sister lived in. She brought back items investigators in the Bish case are now examining, including a 2000 firearms identification card with a photograph of Stanger that resembles the man in the sketch.

In July, state police went to Florida to question Stanger for a second time. Worcester District Attorney Joseph Early Jr. said he again denied involvement in Molly’s killing. Police searched his trailer and brought back bags of evidence. Investigators are re-testing cigarette butts and other items found near the pond, near Molly’s beach chair and in the area where her remains were found.