It Can’t Happen Here
“The dead cannot cry out for justice; it is the duty of the living to do so for them.”
---Lois McMaster Bujold
I had been on the air daily with my own show on WHJJ in Providence for a few months. The day after Labor Day, Tuesday, September 5, 1989 was like most days. I picked up my newspapers, spent an hour in the gym and went off to work.
Each day I watched the news on CNN, read the local newspapers including the Boston Herald, Boston Globe, Providence Journal and sometimes the Washington and New York papers, news magazines, and any other topic producing source I could find. At that point I’d put any solid news item I was not going to use that day aside for my WRKO Saturday morning show, Issues of the Day. There was not much time on Friday evening to search for good topics for the Saturday morning show, so I did ongoing show planning.
As usual the summer had been hot and muggy. That was alright with me. I’m a boy of summer and now that Labor Day came and went it seemed as though everything was downhill, heading for the dreaded and inevitable winter.
The Pawtucket Red Sox had finished their season, the Red Sox were out of the pennant race and all we had to look forward to was another New England Patriots season with all sorts of excuses of why they lost instead of how they won. Snow and the dregs of winter would soon follow.
One story jumped at me that day. The headline in the PJ (our nickname for the Providence Journal) read “Mother, daughters dead in their home, Triple homicide, Warwick police say” . We would later learn from the medical examiner that Joan M. Heaton, 39, and her daughters, Jennifer, 10, and Melissa, 8, were stabbed repeatedly and suffered blows to the head, neck and abdomen.
The memory of another gruesome murder in the same neighborhood a couple of years earlier immediately came to mind. The previous murder in the Buttonwood neighborhood, as was the case in the Baby Richard murder in Pawtucket, was never solved.
Like the Heaton’s, Rebecca Spencer had been stabbed repeatedly. Later we learned Mrs. Spencer had been stabbed fifty-eight times. The police kept the details of the Spencer murder from the public because only the killer would know the facts in the case.
In both the Heaton and Spencer murders, they were slaughtered by someone in a rage.
Buttonwood is a quiet family type section of Warwick, Rhode Island. The murders of the Heaton’s and Spencer occurred in close proximity to each other and the forced entries into the homes were similar. As was the case in Rebecca Spencer’s murder the bodies of an eight year old girl and her ten year old sister and their mom were butchered. The eight year old was stabbed in the head so hard her skull split open.
There were many other similarities. The killer used far more force than necessary to kill his victims. Blood had been splattered everywhere, including the ceilings, in both homes. No one saw anyone or heard anything. There were no clues at the scene. Dead end.
Police investigators thought openly, “What type of monster could have done such a thing?” The scene was as gruesome as the discovery of toddler Jerri Ann Richards in Pawtucket a few years earlier (more on that murder later). She had been swung by her ankles and her head slammed into a hard object, possibly a wall.
I began to wonder how anyone could perform such sadistic acts? Initially I fell into the trap of collective guilt. How do we produce such barbaric types who commit these horrific crimes?
Rhode Island is a small state and news travels quickly. Because of its proximity, Southeastern Massachusetts identifies nearly as much with Rhode Island as it does Boston. Major news in one is news in the other. The PJ has a network of news bureaus throughout the southeast area of Massachusetts, as well as separate news sections devoted to Massachusetts. We received calls on the murders from the entire southern New England area. Emotions everywhere ran high.
I pondered the gruesomeness of the murders of Mrs. Spencer and Mrs. Heaton and her daughters. I couldn’t help but be drawn to a series of murders in Southeastern Massachusetts only a few years before. Those killings had become fodder for many a talk show on WSAR. During the same period was the infamous Big Dan’s Tavern pool table gang rape in New Bedford where four men raped a woman on a pool table while bystanders cheered. The case was tried in Superior Court in Fall River.
Big Dan’s is a story which had an international following. It was the rape of a twenty-one year old woman on a pool table in a barroom in New Bedford, Massachusetts. There is a large population of people born in Portugal in the old Whaling City. Many worked in the garment industry, the fishing fleet (New Bedford in the 1980s was one of the major fishing ports in the world) and construction laborers.
The Portuguese émigrés are generally hard working family people who take advantage of the blessings America affords them. But like all other groups there are genuinely rotten apples in the barrel.
I worked the 7 PM to midnight shift on Sunday nights at WSAR. During the news break at 11 PM I received a call from a police contact I had, that a terrible crime had just occurred. At 10 PM, on that Sunday, March 6, 1983 a 21-year-old woman was held down on a pool table in Big Dan's Tavern and raped repeatedly by four men. Other patrons cheered on the rapists.
I was alone in the building at the time, no one else was with me, as usual. I wanted to find an independent source to confirm the story. I did. An old political friend quickly made a few calls to different contacts he had in various police organizations and confirmed the essential facts. Before he could get back to me I was back on the air. We had a direct caller line from New Bedford. That line lit up as soon as I switched on the microphone. The caller was a long time regular on the show. In small stations there is usually a core of regular callers along with those who seldom call. This fellow was a taxi driver and he stopped at a payphone to let me know he had just passed Big Dan’s Tavern and there were police “everywhere” and he had heard a rape occurred earlier inside the Big Dan’s.
I activated the dump button to remove the name of the establishment in the event this was misinformation.
I took an early commercial break at 11:15 instead of 11:20 so I could call my policeman friend again. He confirmed that four men had indeed been arrested for the gang rape of a woman in the bar.
Confident I had the story straight I reported it on the air. Immediately we had a reaction.
WSAR was the only radio station in the area with a live and local program on the air at the time. Needless to say, all hell broke lose.
I contacted a friend at a major Boston television station. He had heard “something” a few minutes earlier but none of the details.
Four men, all aliens, Daniel Silvia, 26, John Cordeiro, 23,Victor Raposo, 22, and Joseph Vieira, 26 were accused in various aspects of the rape. We later learned they were egged on by two onlookers and that the bartender did nothing to stop the rape.
News organizations around the world sent news teams to cover the incident and later the trial was held in Fall River Superior Court (where Lizzy Borden had been tried and found not guilty ninety some years before).
About a week after the crime occurred there was a candlelight march of thousands, mostly women, held in New Bedford. The dastardly crime had become the focal point for many feminist organizations throughout the country and many people from around world marched.
The phone lines were jammed night after night with callers wanting to voice one opinion or another.
I had an uneasy feeling the news and talk shows could poison the jury pool. Our signal and the signal of the other area talker (radio jargon for a talk station) in Bristol County, WBSM in New Bedford, covered reached the entire county. Jurors would be chosen from that group of people. The talk shows had become the lightening rod for all sorts of information. Attacks were made on the character of the victim, others voiced strong opinions on the worthiness of immigrants, even the temperance groups chimed in by pointing out the demon was in the alcohol and that was the cause of the bad behavior.
About three weeks into the case I made a decision, later supported by WSAR’s general manager and program director, that I would no longer discuss the matter on air. It was a pledge I kept for the entire remainder of my time there.
After I began to broadcast on WRKO in Boston on June 11,1983 I discussed what happened the night of the rape. Discussing the trial on WRKO when it occurred was also no problem since we were not the local station. Fall River is fifty miles south of Boston so our influence was limited.
Within a year the trials were completed with the original four defendants receiving stiff jail sentences for their deeds. Silva, Cordeiro, and Raposo received the 9-to-12-year sentences, and Vieira received a lesser sentence. Two others were lightly sentenced.
A jury of four women and eight men found two of the defendants in the Big Dan's rape case guilty of aggravated rape. The jury convicted the men despite conflicting testimony and defense efforts to suggest that the rape victim was flirtatious, that she had too much to drink, that she had kissed some of the men, they all but said she was responsible for the attack. The District Attorney acknowledged she may have exaggerated some of her testimony. However, the core of her testimony about being forced to have sex with more than one man was not.
After the trial the men were treated like heroes by many in the New Bedford/Fall River Portuguese/American community. An estimated 10 to 15,000 people marched in a mile-long circle around the courthouse where the four men were convicted of aggravated rape in the trials. The march was called to protest those guilty verdicts, but it also became a heroes’ welcome for two men who were declared not guilty of rape.
The four served their time and a couple of them returned to their native Portugal.
The woman victimized by the rape left the area before the verdict was reached. She left with her boyfriend and two small children. She died a few years later of an unreported cause.
The defendants had been separated and two juries heard the evidence in the case.
Another unusual aspect of the case was the judge ordered the local newspaper, The Standard Times, not to publish an article concerning the woman. One of its reporters had been granted an extensive interview with the woman in the case. The defense felt publishing the interview would unduly influence the potential jurors.
The emotional effects of the case remain today. The mere mention of Big Dan’s today in New Bedford conjures up emotions pro and con. The scars run deep.
Of all the comments and discussions, my strongest feeling after the guilty verdicts was the men should serve their time and then be deported to their country of origin. That didn’t happen but the issue of how we treat aliens and illegal aliens under the law would become one of the two biggest hot button issues in talk radio. The other is 9/11.
The illegal alien issue will be dealt with later as an appendix.
On a beautiful Fall Sunday afternoon in 1979, our oldest daughter, Georgette, received a call from a friend telling her a girl had been found dead at Diman Voke. We were still in the process of organizing our home after moving in the two previous days.
That call was only the tip of the iceberg. I thought some coked up punk probably had some bad drugs and went wild with his girlfriend. We are able to create a scenario in cases such as this without a whisper of evidence.
The cases of three young women and a teen girl murdered in the Fall River area back in 1978 to 1980 caused future events which are ongoing.
The first girl was murdered in 1978.
In November of that year the body of Mary Lou Arruda, a 15-year-old cheerleader abducted from Raynham, Massachusetts September 8th, was discovered tied to a tree. Her body was found by a dirt biker in the Freetown State Forrest, just North of Fall River. Her murder included torture and barbarism, a terribly grizzly deed. She had been tied to a tree, molested and then had her throat slashed severely enough to sever neck tendons. Two holes in her temple about the size of 22-caliber bullets were explained by the state medical examiner, Ambrose Keeley, to be worm holes and that she had chocked do death by one of the cords holding her to the tree.
On Friday, September 8, 1978, at about 4 P.M., fifteen year old Mary Lou Arruda disappeared while riding her bicycle near her home in Raynham. Her bicycle was found at approximately 4:30 P.M. by the side of a road. Next to it was an automobile tire track with an acceleration mark. The track characteristics suggested that the tire had an abnormal tread wear pattern. A Benson & Hedges brand cigarette was found nearby in the middle of the road. A number of witnesses had seen a bright green car with a black racing stripe in the vicinity.
Police obtained a description of the individual who drove the car and had one witness had seen the car with a passenger as it sped through the area. The witness could not describe the passenger.
The boy who found Mary Lou Arruda’s bicycle returned it to Arruda’s home at about 5 P.M. Shortly after that Arruda’s mother called the police.
For the next three days, police, civilian volunteers, and trained dogs searched the area where Miss Arruda had last been seen. On September 9th police developed photographs of the automobile tire tracks found near the bicycle. On September 10th they circulated a wanted poster containing a composite likeness of the driver of the bright green car. Three days later the police received information on James Kater. It included a photograph of him. He had been employed as a donut maker and was on probation.
On February 6, 1969, Kater pled guilty to indictments of assault with intent to rape, assault and battery by means of a dangerous weapon, and kidnapping. All of the indictments were related to the 1968 kidnapping and attacks on another young girl.
On June 22nd between 1:30 and 2:30 in the afternoon thirteen year old Jacalyn Bussiere was walking her bicycle home on a quiet street in North Andover when she noticed a small, light blue automobile had stopped in front of her. She was familiar with the car since it was the same car that had passed by her several times earlier that afternoon.
The driver, James M. Kater, was standing in the middle of the street. The driver’s side door was open and the engine was running. Kater stood facing her and asked for directions to a neighbor’s house. As Kater walked toward her and Bussiere toward him, he seemed friendly. But when she answered him by turning and pointing to the place he said he wanted to go, he covered her mouth and nose with his hand.
As she tried to get away, she dropped her bicycle and saw that Kater was holding an iron bar. He then forced a her into the car on the floor underneath the dashboard. He immediately got in the driver’s seat, put the car in reverse, backed down the street, and turned around at an intersection.
Driving very fast, they traveled for about thirty minutes, the last few along a wooded path.
Kater then stopped the car, pulled Bussiere out, and walked her into the woods. He hit her on the back of the head with the iron bar while forcing her to kneel at a stream.
As Kater tried to force Bussiere’s face into the water, she resisted and grabbed Kater’s glasses and flung them away. As he went after them, she ran but did not get far before he grabbed her again. Kater then forced her back into the car and drove deeper into the woods.
He stopped again, took the girl out of the car, walked further into the woods, and forced her to stand against a tree. Kater used strips from a torn bedspread to tie Bussiere’s hands, ankles, and torso against the tree. After twenty minutes of pacing back and forth, Kater came up behind Bussiere and pulled the last strip of bedspread very tight against her neck and strangled her with his hands.
Bussiere fell un-conscious.
When she regained consciousness, she found herself alone, slumped over, and bound to the tree. She managed to untie herself and ran until she found help. From there she was taken home, to a hospital, and then to the police department.
At trial for the murder of Mary Lou Arruda, Kater testified on his own behalf. He acknowledged pleading guilty to the vicious kidnapping and assault of Jacalyn Bussiere in 1968, and said he had been in the process of rebuilding his life since his release from prison in January, 1976. Kater denied having any responsibility for the disappearance and death of Mary Lou Arruda.
Two months later, November 11, 1978, the decomposing body of a young girl was found tied to a tree in Freetown State forest by a trail biker. The body was that of Mary Lou Arruda. Her decomposed, fully-clothed body was tied to a tree a short distance from a dirt fire access road.
According to the state pathologist the cause of her death was strangulation by ligature or positional asphyxia. He testified that Arruda “had been alive and in a standing position when she was tied to the tree, but that once she became unconscious, the weight of her head against the ligature around her neck caused her to suffocate. Arruda most likely died the same day she disappeared.”
Other facts in the case but not mentioned at trial were the presence of two small holes in her temple, the approximate size of a twenty-two caliber bullet. Her body was soaked in blood. Interestingly, she still had her wooden clogs on her feet (popular with teen girls at the time), despite having to traverse a heavy, thorny thicket from the fire road to the tree.
[Note: That area is now part of the Wampanoag Indian Reservation.]
Something very odd is the fact she apparently walked to the place of her death without a struggle. It is hard to conceive her being dragged to the place she was murdered without the clogs falling from her feet. What makes that odd is in simply walking through the thicket was difficult because the vines tugged even at regular laced shoes or sneakers.
My daughter Georgette had similar wooden clogs and she found them very difficult to keep on her feet. They’d fall off whenever she played hard even on a carpeted surface.
Kater was convicted of first degree murder by a Massachusetts jury and sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Retrials have been ordered twice. The testimony of those who saw him in Raynham had been tainted because they had been hypnotized as a means of getting them to remember the description of Kater’s car.
Kater was again found guilty in both his retrials and is currently incarcerated in a maximum security prison out of state presumably for the remainder of his life.
The other murders seem to be totally disconnected from the Arruda murder and are different, as well, in that the three other young women were active prostitutes with serious questions about drug use and satanic worship. Arruda was a fun loving mid-teen high school girl.
While I was at WSAR violent crime was center stage and personal safety was on the minds of many. The three prostitutes murdered in Fall River operated out of a couple of bars on Bedford Street in the city, primarily Pier Fourteen and another near the Braga Bridge. Those bars were used by the pimps and Johns as well as the hookers. Men regularly drove up to the bars, stopped and a girl would join them. They would then drive to a location behind one of the many old mills in the city. Sex acts, usually oral sex, were performed for a fee there. Upon completion the girls would collect their $20 or $30 and be returned to their bar. They would then turn over the money to their pimp. If they held out they would be slapped around in the presence of the other girls.
Before the trials began I frequented the most popular bar, the Pier Fourteen almost nightly after the conclusion of my show. I had allowed my hair to grow shaggy, didn’t shave often, and wore sloppy clothes.
I befriended a girl who called herself Maggie. She explained her pimp would sometimes buy her panty hose and a few other essentials, and sometimes some drugs, otherwise he kept all the receipts for himself. She said he protected her and really cared for her. Such was the mindset of many of the girls.
Though I grew up in Fall River I only knew of a couple of the Johns who went to “The Pier” for sexual services. It seemed most were from out of town. I was able to become friendly with another girl who, like Maggie, was from New Bedford. They explained many of the girls and the pimps were not native to Fall River and there was always friction between the local girls and their pimps and out-of town people.
Three young lives were snuffed out. Two men were convicted of first degree murder, which in Massachusetts carries a penalty of life without parole. A young woman pled guilty to second-degree murder and received twenty years to life and was freed from prison on May 15, 2004.
At Pier Fourteen Carl Drew and Andre Maltais, who were each convicted of murdering one of the three young murdered women. Pier Fourteen, where many of the prostitutes operated, was only a block from Fall River’s only police station. It was also the location of my “coming of age” and the same neighborhood where I got my start in radio with WALE.
The “coming of age” occurred across the street from Pier Fourteen about twenty years earlier, in 1960.
I was driving home late one night and saw a man beating a woman. They were under a street light on the corner of Bedford and Oak Streets. He was punching her about the head as she tried in vain to fend off his blows with her hands. The rest is just a blur.
My Sir Galahad complex got the best of me.
I stopped the car and moved directly at the man. I tackled him from behind as I ran at full speed. (My high school football coach would have been proud of me.) Just as we hit the ground I felt a dull thud on the back of my head and saw the flash of red light. The man I had tackled pushed me off him and ran off with the woman in tow. I staggered to my feet and stumbled toward my car as a police officer happened on the scene. He was driving toward the police station.
He thought I was a drunk. As I leaned against the car I explained to the officer what happened. He offered to take me to the hospital but I was already regaining my senses.
The policeman and I talked long enough for me to explain everything. He told me I was lucky I was not worse off since one of them could have had a gun or knife.
It was that night I learned about the role of prostitutes and pimps. He told me the area had a number of girls walk the side streets of the neighborhood in search of men looking for sex. They rarely walked Bedford Street because it was too heavily traveled and police routinely came through the area returning to the police station. The hookers usually walked the side streets.
That was both a rapid and painful education about the world’s oldest profession.
I paid only routine attention to the Mary Lou Arruda murder since I was away more than I was home at the time. The events surrounding the Arruda murder came and went and the trial was over before I could fully absorb the intensity of such a tragic crime. I only recall thinking something like that could not happen in a city family type neighborhood like we lived in.
That was not so for the three young prostitutes.
We were still moving out of our temporary trailer home in the back yard as a result of the house fire in March of 1979 when the story of the murder of Doreen Levesque hit the news. Our oldest daughter Georgette was only a few years younger than the eighteen year old Levesque girl and received calls from friends about the killing. She and her friends were shaken by the murder as were most of the young girls in the city.
On Saturday, October 13,1979, two young women were jogging on the running track which circled the football field at Diman Regional Vocational High School. One of the runners spotted a foot beneath the home stands. When they drew closer what they saw was the body of a savagely beaten young woman about their own age. She had been stripped from the waist down and her hands appeared to be bound behind her back. A baseball bat laid by her side.
Sickened by the sight they ran to the nearest home to call the police. (Because it was early on a Saturday, the school was not yet open for Fall activities.)
The football field is at the base of a steep hill just beneath the high school. Only the first few rows of bench type seats are over flat ground since the home stands are built along the contour of the hill. The stands are just a few feet from the track.
Diman Voke, as the school is known in the area, is situated in the middle of a single family neighborhood similar to the Buttonwood section of Warwick, Rhode Island. The school faces East with picturesque views of North Watuppa Pond and is directly adjacent to and slightly above Massachusetts Route 24, a major highway leading toward Boston.
The police were led to the lifeless body of eighteen year old Doreen Levesque of New Bedford by one of the joggers. There they discovered that not only had she been bound, she had been anally molested with the bat. It was later determined she had been murdered about eight to twelve hours earlier, in other words some time on Friday night. Her head had been crushed with a large rock.
Could it be there was a message being sent to someone or was it the sadistic act of some deranged person? From the scene, police surmised there was more than one person involved.
The name of Andre Maltais came up during the investigation as well as that of Robin Marie Murphy.
One of the confessed participants initially told the police Levesque was murdered in another location, a place known as Dave’s Beach at South Watuppa Pond, a few miles south on Route 24. She said the murder had taken place there and the body dumped at Diman. The evidence never supported that contention. Just one many lies by Robin Marie Murphy. More on her up and coming. Stay tuned.
Carl Drew was a known pimp from the Bedford Street area and Pier Fourteen. He had come to Fall River from Vermont where he had an unusual upbringing.
At some point of the investigation Drew told one of the detectives about some things from his childhood. He described to the investigator about a day when he was about twelve, his father tied a rope to his ankles and lowered him down a well to remove the bodies of dead rats that had drowned in the well. His sister later confirmed to me Drew had a very difficult time at home.
Drew also bragged about why he had calluses on his knees. He told of how he loved to get his prostitutes on the floor and have wild intercourse with them.
The pimp confided to one of the officers that he participated in Satanic activities in the area as a means of keeping his women in line.
On and on he went. The officers didn’t know what stories to believe.
It is important to mention here that no one has been brought to trial for the murder of Doreen Levesque. It is still an open investigation. Unsolved murders always remain open investigations.
No justice for Doreen.
Hers was only the first of three horrific murders of prostitutes in a short time.
Next murdered was a Fall River girl, Barbara Raposa, age twenty-two. She too frequented Pier Fourteen and was said to be under the partial control of Carl Drew. She was also a friend of a 44 year old local carpenter and cabinet maker by the name of Andy Maltais of Fall River. Maltais was the father of Raposa’s baby. She was also close to the above mentioned Robin Murphy.
Andy was well immersed into the local cult scene. He also had an on going affair with teenager Murphy from the time she was an early teen.
Maltais frequently picked Murphy up at Morton Junior High School after school and took her to the Freetown Forrest where they had sex. This went on after she entered B.M.C. Durfee High School of Fall River.
Murphy was known to be angered that Raposa had an affair with Maltais and had a baby with him, a fact not brought out at the Maltais trial where Murphy testified against Maltais.
There is ample evidence to place Maltais at the murder scene of Raposa and also of Levesque.
Maltais testified about an angel lifting him to hover over the murder scene where he said he saw two people, one a woman, crush the head of Barbara Raposa with a rock. He said it happened in a wooded area behind a printing company in Fall River where her body was found by a man walking his dog.
Maltais said she had her hands tied behind her back and had been tortured before being killed. Like Levesque, Raposa’s hands were bound with braided fishing twine. (There is reason to believe the twine was similar to that used on Mary Lou Arruda.)
I attended the Maltais trial with Fred Rhynes who was then covering the trial for The Fall River Herald News. We were surprised when Maltais’ attorney had him testify in court where he told his bizarre tale.
Maltais told police that same tale.
At least one detective said essentially the same thing about the murder of Levesque. Hands tied and her hear crushed with rocks.
The evidence against Maltais was compelling. The direct testimony of Robin Murphy and his own words and fishing line similar to that used in the murders was found in the trunk of his car. There is little doubt he was there and likely at Levesque’s murder as well.
It is worth keeping in mind Murphy was a plea-bargained witness. The charges against her were dropped to second degree murder, from first degree. That is significant since first degree carries a mandatory sentence of life without parole. Second degree is 20 years to life.
At the time Murphy began meeting Maltais, she was a student at Morton (7th to 9th grades) and later Durfee High School. She had a reputation as a tough character in both schools. Everyone who had to deal with her feared her. According to former teachers, she was very, very bright, a fact confirmed later by a couple of the police officers who questioned her about the murders.
As mentioned earlier, Maltais would pick Murphy up after school and take her to the Freetown State Forrest. They parked on the dirt “fire roads” where he had sex with her.
The practice which went on for some time frequently parked in the general vicinity of where Mary Lou Arruda had been found. Maltais started having sex with Murphy when she was about fourteen or fifteen.
It was also an area where Satanic activity took place for years and where a large perfectly constructed cross had been found. The cross had leather thongs attached to the crossbar. There had also been a large rock structure which looked very much like an altar.
According to those familiar with the Freetown State Forest, strange things also happened in an area they call Assonet Ledge. Roaming nudes at night, faces and bodies painted and weird singing took place there. The Ledge is within walking distance of where the cross had been found. Many stories of dead animals and other violent activities over the years are well known in the area.
(An interesting aside here is the Photos of the Cross became a part of one of James Kater’s many appeals in the Mary Lou Arruda murder. Apparently one of the negatives of the photos taken by a policeman investigating strange goings on in the forest just prior to Mary Lou Arruda’s disappearance was lost. Other items and notes of questions of witnesses formed part of his appeals. Photos of the cross also appeared in the local newspaper.
Another strange thing is it was the place where an automobile stolen from the neighborhood of one of the prostitutes under the influence of Carl Drew, had been found. The car had been burned. Found in the trunk were what appeared to be the remnants of charred bones. It turned out they were merely pieces of wood. No motive for the burning of the car was ever learned. The fire appeared to have been started in the trunk.
One more oddity is the car was found within walking distance of where Mary Lou Arruda had been murdered a couple of years earlier.
Lots of things happened within a few hundred yards of each other. The Freetown Forest is a very large area covering many acres and tens of miles of fire roads. I spent many hours driving the bumpy and pot hole filled roads of the forest.
The investigators on all three murders constantly heard stories of satanic activity in Fall River. Murphy hung around the apartment of a friend in one of the city’s public housing units. Drew and others as well as the three victims participated in Satanic play in the apartment. The scene there was described as a bad nightmare. Two of the police detectives who investigated the murders, Sergeant Paul Carey and detective Allan Sylvia of the Major Crimes Division of the Fall River Police Department attended one such séance.
No arrests were made in the three prostitutes’ murders until after Karen Marsden was murdered. Her murder took place sometime in the Spring of 1980 and her skull was found along with her clothes and remnants of a Satanic ritual near Davol Pond in nearby Westport months later.
Karen Marsden was the most pathetic of the three characters. She seemed to be tightly wound and always strung out. The investigators put pressure on her to get her to lead them to the murderers of Doreen Levesque and Barbara Raposa. They suspected she had actually witnessed the Levesque and Raposa murders.
The petite woman told the police of being taken to the Freetown Forest and told by Carl Drew that she was going to meet the same fate Levesque and Raposa suffered.
Marsden told police that on one moonlit night the police investigators were told Drew took her along a dark dirt fire road. They pulled up to a pool in the forest.
Many pools had been built during the Great Depression by one works project or another as a source of water for firefighters in the event of a forest fire. The pools are about twenty-five feet in diameter and some are quite deep. They can be found throughout the forest. All have a layer of green algae, making them appear even more ominous.
Marsden told one of the investigators Drew would point to them from his car and tell her she would be drowned in one of them.
Robin Marie Murphy and Karen Marsden were close friends and lovers. Murphy, who fashioned herself as a pimp, arranged “tricks” for the diminutive blond. All those familiar with Marsden said she was not much to look at and very difficult to converse with, not exactly what you would expect in a lady of the night.
Marsden told officers the Satanic activity frightened her. One of Murphy’s girl friends was a large woman. Murphy and her “friend” said Murphy hated Drew because he tried to have all the hookers to himself and cut them out of their activities.
Murphy had also been slapped by Drew when he tried to recover a false ID she stole from one of Drew’s hookers.
Finally, Karen Marsden became too much of a risk. According to the prosecutor she was invited to a family type picnic area near Davol Pond in Westport (east of Fall River) by Drew. At least that was what Murphy said. Murphy also told the detectives there were others there as well.
Murphy said, at first they had sex and then did some drugs. Finally, Murphy later testified, Drew laid out a Satanic pentagram. She said he had cat skulls and they forced Marsden to lay in the center of the pentagram. Stripped of her clothes, Drew ordered Murphy to knock Marsden out and slash her throat. Murphy also carved a cross on Marsden’s chest. Murphy said Drew then dipped his hand in Marsden’s blood and placed a cross on Murphy’s forehead.
Drew had all present take turns in stabbing and further mutilating Marsden’s lifeless body in a scene reminiscent of the murder of Sharon Tate in the sixties by the Charles Manson cult.
Originally Murphy named two other men as being participating in the Marsden murder. She had to alter here testimony when both the other men had verifiable alibis.
Murphy said Drew wrenched Marsden’s head from the woman’s lifeless body. She also told police Marsden’s jawbone was ripped out since dental records had been used to identify Doreen Levesque only weeks earlier. Supposedly Drew wanted to make certain that even if Marsden was found she could not be identified.
After Marsden’s jawbone had been removed Murphy says they played soccer with her head. She did not so testify in court though because the other men she originally said were present she later admitted were not there. She had originally told investigators the other two men played in the game.
Another problem with Murphy’s story is police did not find blood in the ground where the murder is alleged to have taken place. Certainly blood would have been present in a decapitation and activities described by Murphy.
In the intervening quarter century no one has discovered the body of Karen Marsden. The Bristol County District Attorney, Ronald Pina, did not make the location of where Marsden’s torso had been disposed of a part of his deal. That was very unusual for a plea deal.
Based on the comments of some of the people at Pier Fourteen (and nearby Charley’s Café, another pimp and whore hangout) the murder of Marsden may not have occurred in Westport.
She may have been killed on the roof of the housing project in Fall River where satanic activities had occurred. It is likely Marsden was decapitated there. Her body is thought to possibly been deposited in a dumpster in the housing project.
Her skull and clothes and satanic paraphernalia was spread about at the pond site to throw off investigators. If it was thought Marsden had been murdered in Westport, the Fall River detectives would be off that case.
The car stolen in the neighborhood of one of the cult participants and burned in the forest may have been used to carry the skull and clothing. It may have been burned in the forest to destroy all evidence of blood dripping from Marsden’s severed head.
I had spent a great deal of time searching the pond with friend and Fall River Herald News seasoned reporter Fred Rhynes. Fred and I intended to write a book about the murders. We spent countless hours in the woods and waters surrounding Davol Pond as well as areas of the Freetown Forest. I also spent much time in the forest with one of the Fall River Police Department investigators after the trials had concluded. I spent time with an officer from Freetown who had investigated the Arruda murder.
Here is a summary of those three murders. Some of this may be repetitious, however, there are so many threads in this fabric it is hard to follow each one on its own.
Carl Drew was convicted for the first degree murder of Karen Marsden. He filed an appeal on the basis some of the witnesses changed their statements. The lead Fall River Police investigator, detective Sergeant Paul Carey of the Major Crimes Division, also believed Drew was not the ring leader. Drew denied being present. There is no physical evidence to suggest he was present at one or more of the murders. His fate was determined only by the testimony of Robin Murphy, which was supported by testimony of another prostitute, Carol Fletcher. Fletcher changed her testimony and said Murphy did it on the roof of the apartment in Harbor Terrace. His appeal was denied after seven days of hearings in 2005.
The state’s primary witness was Robin Marie Murphy, who (as we described earlier) had reached a plea deal with the district attorney. In Massachusetts, first degree murder carries with it a mandatory life without parole. She pled to second degree murder, a twenty years to life sentence. She was released to a halfway house in Dorchester, Massachusetts (a part of Boston) on May 15, 2004. When Murphy was hooked up with Maltais she was the same age as Mary Lou Arruda when she was murdered. (Arruda is the only totally innocent victim in the sordid murders.)
Andre Maltais told his “floating angel” story at trial and was convicted of first degree murder. He was sentenced to life without parole and died in prison a few years later. The police who interviewed him said he was mentally ill. When he was arrested in the home of his parents a 22 caliber rifle was found between his mattress and box spring in his bedroom. I earlier mentioned the holes in the temple of Mary Lou Arruda which were both the size of 22 caliber bullets. Is it possible she may have been shot as well. The medical examiner insisted the holes were worm holes. Worm holes in bone is not very common. Also, Maltais thought he was a special agent of the police even while he was incarcerated in Bridgewater Prison.
All the others named in police reports and pursued in the case, especially two men and two women named from time to time by Murphy were cleared as a result of one of the frequent times Murphy changed her story. She lied at every turn and changed her story each time she was trapped. Police even pursued one of the women (Carol Fletcher) to the state of Washington Just prior to the Drew trial to interview her and return her to Massachusetts to either face charges or provide testimony. The witnesses have since scattered around the country except for a woman who was Murphy’s lover, who now lives in Taunton. She hosted many of the Satanic activities in her apartment. For many years after the murders she continued to live in public housing in Fall River.
I recall discussing the case with one of the lead investigators, how difficult it was to examine the goings on without being personally affected by all the events. His wife and mine noticed subtle changes in our behavior and personalities during that time. Paul Carey acknowledged it is a very difficult part of detective work. He looked upon himself as the advocate for the victims and took on the weight of the pain and suffering they may have experienced.
He said the need to maintain civility with those he thought committed the crimes was a completely unnatural thing. Our normal reflexive response is to meet out justice and a touch of revenge for the victims. The had no one else reaching out on their behalf.
One of the most difficult parts of doing talk shows at that time was not revealing all I knew. The temptation for this big mouth was especially great.
This is the first time and place I’ve revealed much of what I know and think happened publicly. At some time in the future I’d like to do a whole book based on what I and one of the key investigators believe is the whole truth. Justice demands no less.
One final appeal is currently awaiting Massachusetts Supreme Court action. Michael Cutler, a Newton, Massachusetts defense lawyer took his appeals to Superior Court in Bristol County. After witness after witness recanted their testimony in the Drew trial, the judge refused the appeal.
The Supreme Court will hear defense arguments that Drew was not properly represented. Drew’s court appointed lawyer had never handled a capital case. John Birknes has not heard one since.
Massachusetts was later changed to ensure someone charged with murder have an attorney who is experienced in such cases.
It is still possible Drew could receive a new trial where the testimony of those who testified against him could make a difference.
Murphy has since recanted her testimony and said she was not present at the murder of Karen Marsden.
When the murders of the two women and children in the Buttonwood neighborhood of Warwick took place my stomach churned each time it became a topic on air. Not only were my thoughts with them, my memories of seeing the police photographs of the four young women in the Fall River area surfaced in my mind.
It is one thing to see gory photographs, it is yet another to get to know them and see the photos. I felt I had gotten to know the four Fall River area victims and upon learning more about Mrs. Spencer and Mrs. Heaton and her two young daughters the same uneasy feeling again came over me. The studio and station was different. The callers were different. The grimness of the murders, however, were the same.
I love being the father of four daughters, a son and now six wonderful granddaughters. The danger with that status is I began to identify personally with the victims. I was afraid to as much as discuss it with my wife. I didn’t want to harm her emotions with these cases. I’ve told you more about what I knew about all these sordid deeds than I ever told my family, until now. My old friend Fred Rhynes expressed the same feelings.
“Here we go again”. I kept repeating that thought in my mind as events surrounding the Spencer and Heaton murders evolved. My great fear after no leads seemed to develop shortly after the second crime had been discovered was the culprit may get away. Most police will tell you crime trails grow cold very fast. I know there was never going to be justice for Baby Richards. “Damn, no justice here either,” I thought.
My “on air” demeanor is and has always been to have a little edge. I like to challenge the audience and enjoy callers who challenge me. Frankly, I delight in a good argument. To me a talk show is akin to a family get together. They never run smooth but it is part of what makes them fun.
Just as in the case of the Fall River murders, the killer of Mrs. Spencer and the Heaton’s talked too much. Their teen age neighbor had done the crime.
The slaughter of the Heaton’s occurred on a Friday night, September 1, 1989. After the murder Craig Price returned home and ate fried chicken. The day following the killings he slept until noon, played Nintendo with friends, listened to music and talked.
These were some of the things revealed after Price, then fifteen, admitted to killing Rebecca Spencer, and Joan Heaton, and her daughters, Jennifer, and Melissa, in cold blood. The confession came after the police noticed a cut on Price’s hand while interviewing him. They talked to all the immediate Heaton neighbors. Price at that point had merely been one of them.
Police related later he had said much too much and had changed his story of how he cut his hand the next day. They also learned his sister had complained he had beaten her in the past.
Before the arrest of Price on September 17th, calls to the my talk show on WHJJ from Warwick were intense. Not only the women, but the men as well, out of fear of harm of their female family members.
Since two years had gone by with nary a stitch of evidence or suspicion of who may have murdered Rebecca Spencer and that there were rewards posted by neighborhood groups, fear already ran high.
It was amazing how different people reacted to the killer of four because of his age. Some thought he could be rehabilitated and there must have been “something” to trigger his rage. Others felt he was simply evil and a way needed to be found to keep him incarcerated because there certainly is reason to believe he could do it again. Rhode Island law didn’t permit anyone to be tried in adult court for a crime committed before he turned sixteen. That meant he would have to be released by his twenty-first birthday.
Over time Price became his own worst enemy. He threatened other inmates and guards as well. He assaulted a guard while in confinement and was tried in adult court where the judge handed out the most severe penalty the law permitted. He’s had other scrapes with the law behind bars which led to an extension of his sentence for assaulting the guard.
How long he will be kept is not a question anyone can answer. One can only hope he never sees a day out of confinement. As it stands now he is serving twenty years for the assaults and in incarcerated in a Florida prison.
These events, the Buttonwood murders, the three prostitutes and a lovely young girl whose only crime was to be struck by the car of a sadistic, ritualistic, killer and the murder of Baby Richards are the most bizarre experiences I’ve had in radio.
I am still haunted by the images of these young people brutally tortured and murdered.
At the time, Satanism was a problem throughout the country. Reports of animal torture, torture murders, and the like were reported everywhere. A story appeared in a New York City newspaper in the early 1980s where one police officer in Brooklyn broke down over the crimes he investigated. He became fearful Satanism would sweep the country.
I thought the same. Graves were robbed, animals offered as sacrifices, and murders everywhere.
In the Fall River experience one woman was beheaded after she had been stabbed brutally. Two others had their skulls crushed as well as brutally tortured before being killed. One of the alleged crime scenes was littered with human as well as animal bones.
I had the occasion of knowing a couple of the investigators at the time. About a year after I had been on air the trial of two of the men who stood accused of the murders took place. According to the lead detective, he many years later wrote, “It was the weirdest multiple-murder case I ever saw as a detective sergeant in the Fall River Police Department. Not only did I go undercover to attend a Satan worship ritual I even brought beer.”
The following are comments made by Sgt. Paul Carey of the Fall River Police Department major crimes unit on a web site in 1999.
“October 1979 with a dead body beneath the bleachers of a vocational high school in Fall River. We ID’d the corpse as Doreen Levesque, a runaway from a foster home in New Bedford. She had been working as a prostitute in Fall River’s red-light district.“Hands bound, skull crushed ……“The young woman’s hands had been bound behind her back; her head had been caved in with a rock. There were signs of peculiar sexual activities. (Ed. note, a baseball bat had been used as an insertion in her body…)
“Three months later, another woman’s body turned up. This one was found in a wooded area behind a local printing plant. She was identified as Barbara Raposa, 22. Like the first victim, her skull had been crushed with a rock and her hands bound behind her back. The slaying had ritualistic overtones to it. Three months before her body was found, Raposa-also a prostitute-was reported missing by her boyfriend, Andre Maltais, 44, of New Bedford.
“We interviewed Maltais. He told us that the second dead woman was a devil worshiper. We later discovered that Maltais was part of the same devil worship group that held some of its rituals in the same area. We also stumbled on another relevant name: Robin Murphy, a 17-year-old prostitute and pimp who was a former girlfriend of Maltais. We learned that Maltais had ended a long-running relationship with Murphy in order to become Raposa’s lover.“Maltais told investigators that he had a dream of hovering over the crime scene where Raposa’s body was found. Apparently, he saw or remembered too much while he was hovering. The district attorney had him arrested, charging him with Raposa’s murder.
“When she was questioned, Robin Murphy fingered Maltais as Raposa’s killer and agreed to turn state’s evidence in return for a lighter sentence. But there was still the killing of Levesque to solve. We had long heard there was satanic rituals taking place in the area, but never had cause to investigate. Then, a woman I had helped years ago told me that a satanic group periodically met at her [the detective’s contact’s] apartment. More importantly, she told me that Raposa, Murphy and a man identified as Carl Drew, 25, all came to satanic rites there. I told my partner, ‘Lets go. We’re going to meet Satin’.“We got two six-packs of beer and went to the apartment. We didn’t tell anyone we were cops. People started arriving including Drew, a known pimp, and Murphy. They were soon joined by a woman named Karen Marsden – who would later end up the third victim in the satanic slaying. At the apartment, we watched a satanic ritual. There were strange chants. A “Hail, Satan!” announcement indicated that Satin had entered the room.“We later found out that Drew had been pimping for Levesque, the first victim, at the time she was murdered and that Murphy was pimping for Marsden. It was an ugly tangle, but we always thought Marsden, 20, was the key.
“We later interviewed Marsden about the murders of Levesque and Raposa. She was nervous and cried. We started to believe that she might have been at the scene when the murders occurred. She wouldn’t admit that she took part in or saw anything. I was supposed to meet and interview her again weeks later. But she disappeared. I knew she was dead.“Marsden’s skull was found about six months later in Westport. When we searched the area, we found cat skulls, sheep bones and some jewelry that belonged to Marsden. We also found large clumps of hair – ripped out by the roots - that we believe were from her head. More of Marsden’s possessions were found about half mile away. We also found a ring with the symbol of the devil on it. It was spooky.“When Maltais went on trial for Raposa’s murder. Murphy was the prosecution’s key witness. She convinced the DA to grant her immunity in exchange for her testimony that she was present at the slaying of Raposa and had participated in the Marsden murder.
“I thought it was a bad move to grant Murphy immunity. I still believe [twenty years later] that she was the ringleader behind all the slayings. In the Marsden killing, Murphy’s testimony painted a grisly scene. She said Drew, ordered Marsden killed in a nighttime ritual because the young woman wanted to leave the cult. She said Drew also killed Levesque and that “’he two girls’ souls were offered up to Satan’.
“Drew, she testified, ordered her to cut Marsden’s throat after he crushed the victim’s skull with a rock. She said Drew whispered words in a strange language, used blood from the body to paint a cross on her forehead, and then wrenched the head from the body with his bare hands. Murphy told the jury that Drew had called himself the “son of Satan” Murphy admitted that Raposa, the second victim, was her lover and was involved with her in a prostitution ring. Maltais continuously denied that he murdered Raposa or was involved in a devil cult. However, he was convicted of Raposa’s murder in March 1981 and [Murphy] sentenced to life in prison after pleading guilty to second – degree murder. [Maltais was sentenced to life without parole and died in prison a few years later.]“But I still believe Murphy was the real ringleader, not Drew: that Levesque was murdered because Murphy was also in love with her and became jealous when Levesque starting seeing Drew. I believe Murphy and Marsden were present when Levesque was killed.
“I think Murphy killed Raposa because Raposa was in love with Maltais. Murphy admitted that she and Raposa had previously been lovers. And, I believe Murphy killed Marsden because of the two previous murders. Marsden was at the scene of those murders, and I believe Murphy knew she was the weak link and might get them convicted. Also, Murphy later admitted during the Levesque investigation that she lied in naming two other men as Levesque’s killers. She later told the DA that she didn’t even know the men she had accused. The DA was then forced to release the men. No one was ever prosecuted for the murder of Levesque.“Maltais died in prison, thinking he was an ‘agent for the police. ”’He was mentally ill. I visited Drew in prison a few weeks ago . I am convinced that it was Murphy, not Drew, who ran the whole cult and prostitution ring. Murphy was the dominant personality in the cult and had the motives to commit the slayings. To this day, I am still not satisfied that Drew was present at any of the murders. But he’s in for life. Murphy will soon be eligible for parole [freed to a halfway house May 15, 2004]. She was denied parole about five years ago. “The deals were struck and Robin Murphy decided to tell ‘Their’ tale to the jury. They treated her like a princess. Provided accommodations to keep her comfortable and even drove her to get drugs when she requested them. "
Carl Drew later wrote:
“They had succeeded in scaring the wits out of a 17 year old ‘Street Kid’. Then treated her to a temporary life of all she wanted. That was all to assure their story came before the court. Real or not didn’t matter. The trial began, we were appointed attorneys that fumbled their way through the whole trial. If they had any experience, it sure wasn’t reflective in their skills during court. Their attempt to show my innocence was weak to say the least. Local police and the District Attorneys office threatened and manipulated witnesses and experts. The publicity was so exploited that they had to change the location of the trial. It was placed in a predominately Catholic Community.
“All done so that reaction to anyone with a Gothic way of life background would be conceived as evil. The trial had not started and they were setting up the situation to guarantee conviction. Guilt or innocence wasn’t the factor, it was the ‘goal’ of conviction. Evidence was presented as to ‘Appear’ to be connected to the defendant. Even though they could never make a direct tie between me, and what they presented. Words were manipulated and presentations so profound as to appear as fact. Again, it was obvious they did not match, by the naked eye.
“Needless to say, after all the ‘Theatrics’, the verdict was guilty. They would have convicted a rock based on the fictitious information they piled on. After my conviction, a book titled, ‘Mortal Remains’, came out. It was filled with the nonsense of false statements and lies presented at court. It surely does not reflect the truth of the situation, even when known and available to the author. Evidence that would prove innocents [sic], but that wouldn’t sell someone’s book now, would it.[?]”
Now you know as much of the story as anyone alive regarding both Craig Price and the various sadistic murders.