Wednesday, May 19, 1999

Break in 23-year-old murder?

By Jim Patten
Eagle-Tribune Writer

LAWRENCE -- The 23-year-old case of the disappearance of Angelo "Andy" Puglisi, 10, took a new turn yesterday when specially trained dogs detected the possible presence of human remains buried about 200 yards from where he was last seen.

State police cadaver-sniffing dog "Altos" kept returning to the same spot along this stream near the Shawsheen River. Officers, including Lawrence's Michael Molchan (foreground), look on.
Andy disappeared from the Higgins Memorial Pool without a trace Aug. 22, 1976.

Police have revisited the case several times in the years since, most recently last August. Little new information has come to light on his fate.

But yesterday, using a tool not available to them when he first disappeared -- cadaver-sniffing dogs -- police found two areas along a stream behind South Lawrence East School that they want to check further.

The Medical Examiner's Officer will be contacted to decide how to proceed next.

"We've discounted the other locations there and narrowed in on two areas," said State Police Detective Sgt. Jack Garvin, assigned to the district attorney's office.

Before the dogs were brought in, police walked through the wooded area to be searched, probing the ground with sticks to aerate it.

Then, the two dogs -- Altos, handled by Trooper Chet Warawka, and Dan, handled by Trooper Kathy Barrett -- were allowed to roam the area, one at a time.

The dogs indicated, by digging with their forepaws, where remains might be located.

One of the locations was in the middle of a small stream feeding into the Shawsheen River; the other was a sandy mound just up the hill.

Police asked that the exact locations not be publicly pinpointed for fear they might be disrupted by curiosity-seekers.

The edge of the banking at the side of the stream was filled with bottles and other refuse, Sgt. Garvin said.

"It is apt to be made up of rubbish, and possibly medical waste. And there may be something there," he said.

Detective Capt. Michael S. Molchan and Sgt. Garvin said the search yesterday was just a start, and the reaction of the dogs may indicate the presence of human remains that have been buried, or possibly a bag of medical waste.

Over the years, people have dumped things there and the silt coming down the stream bed buried it in a layering effect, Sgt. Garvin said.

Sgt. Garvin said he would ask Dr. Anne-Marie Myers, of the Medical Examiner's Office, to visit the scene and determine what to do next.

He said investigators may bring in ground-penetrating radar which could help detect the presence of bones.

Nutrients from a decomposing body flow downhill and can even be detected by a tree, Sgt. Garvin said.

Capt. Molchan said police used to call the area "The Pits."

"There used to be big sand mounds. There was heavy construction here, heavy construction, and if the boy was buried a few feet under, he probably got dug up and turned over," Capt. Molchan said.

One of the dogs found a rubber glove, which was placed in a bag and taken from the scene by police.

The 1976 case drew nationwide attention, and triggered an intensive search throughout South Lawrence.

In the first two years of the investigation, police returned several times to the same area searched yesterday. They excavated several spots, including some pointed out by a psychic as the possible burial spot, without finding anything.

Wayne Chapman, of Rhode Island, whom police once considered the primary suspect in the boy's disappearance, is at the Bridgewater Treatment Center for the Sexually Dangerous. He was convicted of raping two Lawrence boys in 1975 after luring them from the same swimming pool where Andy disappeared a year later.

But police are now less certain that Mr. Chapman abducted Andy.

Last August, police re-examined evidence in the case when a childhood friend of Andy's, who is now a documentary filmmaker, began work on a documentary on the case for public television.

The filmmaker, Melanie Perkins, 32, of Boston, was present during yesterday's search.

This report was prepared by police reporter Jim Patten. If you have questions, comments or material to add on this subject, please feel free to contact him by phone at 685-1000, by mail at Box 100, Lawrence, MA 01842, or by e-mail at

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