After 51 years the truth of a disappearance surfaces

Remains believed to be those of Louise Pietrewicz, a Cutchogue farmer’s wife who vanished suddenly in October 1966, were unearthed Monday in the basement of the Southold house her married boyfriend, former Southold police officer William Boken, shared with his wife and children.

After digging last Thursday and finding nothing, Southold police and county investigators returned to the home on Lower Road, this time armed with more specific information as to where the remains were, and dug deeper than before. By late morning they came upon a burlap bag wrapped around skeletal remains and the brightly colored remnants of a woman’s dress. At that moment, investigators felt confident a 51-year-old mystery was on the verge of being solved.

Later on Monday, Southold Det. Sgt. John Sinning called Louise’s daughter, Sandy Blampied, 63, at her upstate New York home to say a detective was en route to speak with her. Det. Sgt. Sinning wanted the momentous news delivered in person, and also needed to collect a fresh DNA sample. Det. Ned Grathwohl arrived at Ms. Blampied’s doorstep before 8 p.m.

When Det. Grathwohl entered the home, Ms. Blampied asked a question that had been on her mind since she was an 11-year-old hoping and praying her mother would return home: “Did they find her?”

“Yes,” the detective said.

On Tuesday, Ms. Blampied said the news all but sent her into shock.

“I was so happy, but it was surreal,” she said. “Fifty-one years of looking for somebody — and between my cousin Babsie and I, we’ve truly looked for her … It was like two steps forward, three steps back. We always hit a wall.”

The investigation into Louise’s disappearance was re-energized late last year after The Suffolk Times launched its own investigation into the case. The paper released a 10,000-word special report, along with a three-part documentary, in October.

Former Southold detective Joseph Conway Jr., who had worked on the case before his retirement and remained keenly interested in finding answers for Ms. Blampied, joined up with Det. Sgt. Sinning, who was also committed to finding a solution. Within the last few weeks, they re-interviewed Mr. Boken’s former wife, Judith Terry. In previous interviews, Ms. Terry had expressed great fear that her former husband was alive and could harm her. This time, though, the detectives presented her with Mr. Boken’s death certificate.

Ms. Blampied said investigators have told her it was information Ms. Terry gave them in those recent interviews that led them to the basement of the Lower Road home, which the former Ms. Boken sold in August 1980.

In those interviews, which began Feb. 16, Ms. Terry, herself a victim of Mr. Boken’s repeated and violent physical abuse, told police her husband had buried a body deep in the basement of their former home.

Prior information from Ms. Terry had led police to dig in the same basement in June 2013, but that search came up short, as did last Thursday’s initial excavation.

Related editorial: After remains discovered, still more must be done

Ms. Blampied said she was told by police that investigators returned to Ms. Terry last week with a photo showing a police officer in the hole they dug last Thursday. Ms. Terry told them she had seen her husband standing even deeper in the hole.

At a press conference Tuesday, Suffolk County police showed pictures of the hole that was dug under the basement of the home to reveal the skeletal remains. (Credit: Grant Parpan)

The digging was continued Monday and shortly before noon a jawbone was found at six and a half feet.
As was reported in The Suffolk Times story in October, Mr. Boken died in Queens in 1982 and, his body unclaimed, was buried in a pauper’s grave on Hart Island.

Ms. Terry, who served for years as Southold town clerk, was not at her Southold home Tuesday. In the past, she has told The Suffolk Times she would not speak about her marriage to Mr. Boken.

“It is too painful for me,” she told an editor last summer.

Exactly why Ms. Terry kept secret for so long the information that led investigators to Monday’s discovery is not known today. The police chief at the time of Louise’s disappearance was Joseph Sawicki Sr., whose son, Joseph Jr., attended a police press conference Tuesday announcing the discovery of the remains. The department in those years was a trough of political patronage controlled by then-town supervisor Lester Albertson.

The Suffolk Times’ reporting from last fall showed that town officials not only failed to act in any way to investigate Louise’s fate, but orchestrated a maneuver in which Mr. Boken was picked up by a town police officer to appear before a town justice, who then, in a bizarre move, committed him to a psychiatric hospital. At the time, two state troopers had informed Southold they were coming to arrest

Mr. Boken. That commitment put him out of their reach.

“I said from the beginning Judy Boken Terry was the key,” Ms. Blampied said. “I said, ‘She knows.’ And she did.”

On Tuesday, one television crew after another arrived at Leo Jasinski’s doorstep in Riverhead. The 92-year-old is Louise’s brother and sole surviving sibling.

When he learned Monday night that the remains had been found in the former Boken house, he said, “I was so shocked.” His voice broke as he spoke. “I choked. I really choked. I lost my sister and it always seemed to the family that the Southold police back then did nothing to find her. Why?

“But this is a big relief,” he added. “We get to have a burial now, and Sandy can have a place to visit her mother. It’s the best news. I never thought I would hear this.”

Ms. Blampied said she never gave up hope, but the passage of time had slowly convinced her that there would be nothing close to closure for her, nor a burial and a stone with her mother’s name on it. She hoped for small miracles, not big ones.

But a big one came with the discovery of the remains.

She said police officers usually knock on doors bringing horrible news of the death of a loved one. Not this time, Ms. Blampied said. This sad news was good news.

“After fifty-one years, it’s all so unbelievable,” she said.

She spoke about Ms. Terry and the horrible secret she held, and said her heart goes out to her.

“He beat her, and God knows what else he did to her,” she said of Mr. Boken. “The man was a psycho and he was a cop … My heart went out to her … I think I myself could not keep a secret like that, especially if I know that a family is looking. There had to be a lot of fear. I think when she saw that death certificate, she began to talk.”

With remains to be cremated, Ms. Blampied said she would like to have a wake on Long Island. Her mother was born and raised on a potato farm in Sagaponack. In 1950, she married Albin Pietrewicz and moved to Cutchogue.

“Then I’ll bring her back with me,” she said. “She’ll probably be happy to be in her daughter’s house.”

This is the print version of a story that appeared online March 19, 2018

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