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Update August 3, 2012 – A Florida man who killed his girlfriend was questioned Thursday about the kidnapping and murder of 16-year-old lifeguard Molly Bish in Warren in 2000, a spokesman for Worcester District Attorney Joseph D. Early Jr. said today.
Rodney Stanger lived in Massachusetts for several years prior to Bish’s murder and moved to Florida after the teen disappeared from Comins Pond after being dropped off there by her mother, Magi, on June 27, 2000.
Bish’s remains were found in Palmer three years later. No one has been charged for her murder.
State Police detectives assigned to Early’s office questioned Stanger Thursday at the Florida prisons where he is serving a 25-year-sentencing for murdering his girlfriend, Chrystal Morrison, in 2008.
Tim Connolly, Early’s spokesman, confirmed today that troopers spoke with Stanger, but declined to disclose the contents of the conversation. He said Stanger was questioned about the Bish case in 2008. He has not been charged with murdering Bish, Connolly said.
Troopers this week also searched a Florida trailer where Stanger formerly lived with Morrison. Morrison’s sister has urged police to investigate Stanger in connection with the Bish case. The victim’s relative has provided State Police with barrettes, hair bands and a 2000 Massachusetts firearm identification card with Stanger’s photograph on it.
Connolly said the items will undergo forensic examination.
The Molly Bish Case
For the Bish family, the perfect getaway from the urban violence of their old Detroit neighborhood was Warren, Massachusetts, population 4,800. Molly Bish was only a year old when her family moved here. Fifteen years later, she landed her first real job as a lifeguard at a nearby pond. Magi Bish is Molly’s mother:
“Molly was very proud to be a lifeguard. She worked very hard for that and she did get this position at the Warren Pond. It’s a beautiful location. But it’s surrounded by woods and it is somewhat isolated.”
On June 27, 2000, Molly’s seventh day on the job, her mother Magi drove her to work.
Three hours later, she received an alarming phone call:
“I got a phone call from the local police who said that there had been no lifeguard all day and that Molly’s belongings were on the beach.”
Magi rushed to the pond. She found her daughter’s sandals, chair, and lunch sitting on the beach, but no Molly. Molly’s father, John Bish Sr.:
“It’s hard for me to describe that sinking, hollow feeling you have as divers are looking for your daughter, as dogs are combing the woods and police officers are searching and interviewing people. And I almost immediately began to think that something really horrible happened.”
According to Chief Ronald J. Syriac of the Warren Police Department, no clues were left behind:
“Molly’s chair, her lunch bag, her first aid kit and the 2-way police radio was right there, intact, undisturbed. So we have no clues whatsoever.”
Magi was convinced her daughter had been abducted and suddenly realized she might have seen the man responsible at the pond the day before Molly disappeared:
“We pull up at the pond. And there’s a vehicle parked in the parking lot right next to our car. There’s a man sitting in there smoking. I somehow just feel uncomfortable. I looked at this man. He doesn’t nod and greet me. And I just felt uneasy. I did not want to leave Molly with this man.”
Jeanne carefully sketched a portrait
Maggie escorted Molly all the way down to the beach and expected the stranger in the late model white car to be gone when she got back:
“And lo and behold, I think I’ve been gone a reasonable time, but this man who was in this vehicle, is still there. I’m very upset that he’s still there. So I lock eyes with him. I am giving him a stare, trying, I guess, to maybe scare him away. He returns the stare and just boldly stares at me, just, cocky as all… He just squinted his eyes and he stared at me, and just kept smoking and he didn’t seem to care.”
Fearing for her daughter’s safety, Maggie waited for the man to leave. The following day, Magi once again went with her daughter to the swimming hole. This time the man was nowhere to be seen. Instead, there was a truck unloading sand for the beach.
“When I saw the sand truck I realized that they were businessmen in town and I felt that I could leave Molly and it would be okay.”
But Magi never saw Molly again. The police investigation focused on the man in the white car. The sand truck driver had seen a similar car in the parking lot just moments before Molly and Magi arrived. On the other side of the pond is a cemetery. A worker there also saw a white car later the same morning. A path leads from the graveyard to the swimming hole. Molly’s father suspects this is where his daughter was abducted:
“It’s my fear that this person parked at that path, went to the pond and had taken Molly through that path, into his car and out of the cemetery and down the road.”
A composite sketch based on Magi’s description produced no solid leads. Desperate for information, Magi took action:
“We came up with the idea that an e-mail chain would be a wonderful explosive way to make more than one person, you know, get this picture, and keep sharing it with others.”
More than 35,000 people were e-mailed pictures of Molly. A web site devoted to finding her received thousands of hits. But a year passed without a single solid lead.
Magi contacted a sketch artist, Jeanne Boylan, who had worked on the Unabomber and Polly Klaas cases. Jeanne agreed to try to create a more accurate drawing of the man in the white car. For nine hours, the two women chatted as Jeanne carefully sketched a portrait. Finally, the drawing was complete. But Magi still felt something was missing, and Jeanne worked hard to render it:
“I stayed up fairly late that night using my own hand as a model, creating the image of the hand holding the cigarette and then added that to the drawing. And I think that was just sort of the finishing touch that really brought everything into focus.”
The drawing unnerved Magi Bish:
“When I saw the completed picture with the cigarette I had instant fear. I mean, it was him. You know, the eyes. It was this cockiness. It was this look.”
Three years after Molly Bish disappeared, her remains were found about five miles from Warren Pond. The case remains open and active. The police have no suspects, just several persons of interest. There is a $100,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of whoever took the life of Molly Bish.
CrimePAY$ $100,000 Murder Reward TipLine 1-888-755-TIPS (8477)