Thursday, March 18, 1999

Dogs to search for buried bodies

By Jim Patten
Eagle-Tribune Writer

LAWRENCE -- Police will search for the remains of two children in a small plot of land off West Street in their investigation into a deathbed confession by convicted child killer Charles E. Pierce.

A dog specially trained to detect the scent of human remains will be brought in within the next two weeks to help officers put to rest lingering doubts about the tale of murder decades ago.

Mr. Pierce, a Haverhill drifter and carnival worker, was in prison for kidnapping and killing 13-year-old Michelle Wilson of Boxford in 1969.

Shortly before Mr. Pierce died in prison, he confessed to killing two other children in Lawrence in the mid- to late 1950s, Lawrence police revealed last month.

"It's always the things you don't do that come back and haunt you, so we'll do it and see what happens," Detective Capt. Michael S. Molchan said yesterday.

Mr. Pierce called Capt. Molchan and State Police Detective Sgt. Jack Garvin to his prison bedside in Shirley three weeks before he died of cancer at 78 and confessed to the other murders. He said he buried the children in an open field off West Street.

Police department records don't go back that far, and retired officers who served in the 1950's could not recall any cases that matched Mr. Pierce's claims, Capt. Molchan said.

Mr. Pierce confessed on his deathbed that 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, land that may now be occupied by a Massachusetts Electric Co. building.

The convict, who had traveled extensively with carnivals, also said he buried a girl he abducted in Connecticut in the same field as the boy.

He said he had killed the girl first, and then the boy, in an eight-month period during the mid-1950s and buried them within 30 feet of each other in a field off West Street.

At the time police met with Mr. Pierce, he was drifting in and out of consciousness.

"He was incoherent at times. He'd talk for a bit then fall asleep," Capt. Molchan said.

Capt. Molchan and Sgt. Garvin have already walked the site on Massachusetts Electric Co. property off West Street in preparation for the search with a dog.

A power transformer substation was built there in 1951, and a building built on the site in 1964.

All that's left of open space is the 40-foot wide by 150- to 200-foot long grassy area in the back of the property.

Capt. Molchan said Mr. Pierce insisted he buried the children in an open field and there were no transformers there at the time.

If that were true, "you are talking pre-1951," Capt. Molchan said.

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