Editorial: After 51 years, still no closure for Louise Pietrewicz’s family

On Oct. 26, The Suffolk Times and the Riverhead News-Review published a special section on the story of Louise Pietrewicz, who disappeared Oct. 6, 1966, never to be seen or heard from again.

Louise was born in Sagaponack, a farming community on the South Fork, and in 1950 married a Cutchogue farmer named Albin Pietrewicz. She was 38 years old when she disappeared, leaving behind her 11-year-old daughter, Sandy. Ms. Pietrewicz’s husband told two state police investigators looking into the disappearance that he didn’t care what had happened to his wife and would be happy to never see her again.

Mr. Pietrewicz, a prominent member of the Cutchogue farming community, had no regard for his daughter, showed no interest that the person his wife was last seen with on the day she disappeared be brought before the bar of justice, and offered Sandy nothing but the back of his hand when she asked these painful words: “Where is my mother?”

Southold Town authorities also showed little or no interest in finding out who was responsible for the disappearance, which was reported to them by Louise’s sister, who knew that she had been seeing a married Southold Town police officer named William P. Boken.

There was every reason for Louise’s family to have turned to Southold authorities for help. She had lived in Cutchogue for 16 years, and Boken was a town employee. State police records show that Southold had jurisdiction in the case, and that the troopers were backup who became involved specifically because Louise’s family believed Southold was not acting.

In Southold, no official at Town Hall or in the police department seems to have broken a sweat trying to determine Louise’s fate. Nor did they show any regard for Sandy, who said no official ever came to the Cutchogue farm where she ended up living with her abusive father to talk to her about her mother or even to inquire how she was doing. A motherless child was simply ignored.

Louise didn’t count. Nor is there a shred of paperwork within town records that would show that anyone in the government after 1966 was interested in getting to the bottom of her disappearance. In a country where the rule of law is an underpinning of a democratic society, this callousness is hard to imagine.

Since the story came out, there have been positive developments. Southold police have taken DNA samples from Sandy, and from Louise’s last surviving sibling, 92-year-old Leo Jasinski, who lives in Riverhead. There are unclaimed and unknown remains in the Suffolk County Medical Examiner’s office, as there are in similar offices across the region.

It is therefore possible that, once the DNA results come back, there will be a match. This would allow Sandy to have a burial of sorts, but it is hardly what is euphemistically referred to as “closure.”

After 51 years, there is no closure. There is a reckoning with the truth, which these newspapers’ special section and a 53-minute documentary aspired to provide. But without a full explanation of Louise’s disappearance and murder — a virtual impossibility today — there is no closure on the deep wounds experienced by members of Louise’s family.

Anyone out there today who knows anything at all about this disappearance, who knew the parties involved and who may have been told something, anything, should come forward. Beyond that, a fact-finding grand jury should be empaneled by Suffolk County that could put people under oath under penalty of perjury. Maybe that would open some doors on this tragic story.