Molly Bish

The unsolved murder of a 16-year-old girl continues to haunt Warren, Massachusetts. Molly Bish arrived for her shift as a lifeguard at Comins Pond on June 27, 2000, and then vanished.

Magi, Bish’s mother, remembered seeing a mysterious man hanging around the pond on that fateful day, but he was never identified. And Bish’s disappearance triggered the state’s largest missing persons search in history.

Authorities recovered her body in the woods near her family’s home three years later, but the murder of Molly Bish remains unsolved to this day.

The Chilling Disappearance Of Molly Bish

Police released a sketch of the man Magi Bish saw the day before her daughter’s disappearance. 2000.

On August 2, 1983, in Warren, Massachusetts, Molly Bish was born. She was a smart, popular, and energetic young woman who had accepted a summer job as a lifeguard at Comins Pond. The day before she vanished, when her mother dropped her off, she saw a mustachioed man sitting in a white sedan, seemingly watching her 16-year-old daughter.

On June 27, 2000, just before 10 a.m., Magi and Molly Bish made a quick stop at a nearby convenience store so Bish could get everything she needed for her shift at the pond. Bish’s mother left her daughter behind as she set up her shift for the day at the lifeguard station because she did not recognize the man when they got there.

According to Western Mass News, a few hours later Magi Bish received a call from the police informing her that although there had not been a lifeguard on duty, Molly’s belongings were still at the lifeguard station where her mother had dropped her off earlier.

The Worcester County Sheriff’s Office opened an investigation after receiving this information. The same man, according to a local employee, was parked at a cemetery close by that was connected to the pond by a short path.

The investigation became the largest and most expensive in the state’s history, but it was years before Molly Bish was found.

The Search For Molly Bish Becomes A Murder Investigation

Two years into the investigation, a local hunter in Palmer, a town about 20 minutes from the pond, gave police a tip that he had discovered a blue bathing suit in the woods on nearby Whiskey Hill. He told a friend about it the following spring. Bish had been wearing a blue bathing suit when she vanished, so the friend called the police, who swarmed the area.

The body of Molly Bish was discovered on June 9, 2003, about five miles from her home. She wasn’t given an official cause of death, but it has been assumed that she was murdered and buried there.

Police were persistent in their search for a suspect, but the case quickly went cold. An individual suspected in the attempted kidnapping of Molly in 2005 was exonerated in that investigation.

2009 saw Rodney Stanger, who had just received a murder conviction, emerge as the case’s top suspect. He lived a few miles from Bish’s hometown for twenty years, then shortly after her disappearance he moved to Florida.

Stanger also had a white car, frequently went fishing at Comins Pond, and loved to go hunting at the location where her body was discovered. Stanger was never charged in the incident, despite the fact that he matched the description of the man her mother gave to police.

Soon after the police were unable to prove Stanger was the perpetrator, the case went cold for the second time.

New Leads In The Molly Bish Case

The newest suspect was identified in November 2011 as Confidential Informant #62 with the Eastern Hampden County Narcotic Task Force. After learning he was a person of interest in the Bish case, the informant, Gerald Battistoni, made an attempt on his life while incarcerated.

Battistoni, who also resided in the vicinity where Bish vanished, had a lengthy criminal history that dated back to the 1980s. In Texas, where he was serving his sentence, his DNA was examined. Battistoni passed away in November 2014 without being charged.

Francis P. Sumner, Sr. was named as a new person of interest in the case on June 3, 2021, according to NBC. This announcement was made by Worcester County District Attorney Joseph Early. Five years earlier, he had been found dead in his home, but police received a verifiable tip that Sumner was involved in the disappearance of Molly Bish.

Authorities are unable to disclose many details of the case against Sumner because the investigation is still ongoing, but his criminal record is one of the factors that led to his inclusion as a suspect. In the region where Bish worked, Sumner had a lengthy criminal history and had served concurrent sentences for numerous crimes against women.

It’s known that Sumner did return to the area after serving a prison sentence, and it’s possible that he was the person who last saw Molly Bish alive as early as 1997. The Bish family conducted a number of interviews after a new suspect was named.

Heather Bish, Bish’s older sister, told a media outlet that she thought police were making the best use of the new suspect’s information. Since Sumner passed away, police traveled to Ohio to collect DNA from his son, who was incarcerated in a federal facility, in order to conduct a DNA match.

Heather Bish reportedly said, “Here’s a guy who is a convicted rapist, Level 2 sex offender, should have been in the registry, wasn’t, and DNA is not available,” as reported by Mass Live. I get the impression that they are genuinely trying and trying hard to find a solution. I do believe that we are very, very close. In terms of what might have happened to Molly on June 27, 2000, I believe this could provide the resolution we’ve been searching for.

The disappearance and murder of Molly Bish are still unsolved as of 2022, but the family thinks the culprit is close at hand, even if that means there may never be complete closure.

In the same interview, Bish’s sister noted that the end of the decades-long investigation would bring peace, saying, “There’s always this sadness that’s always going to be carried with me because she’s not here … maybe it will never make sense, and we will always miss her, but at least we won’t have to keep trying to figure this out.”

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