Speaking with Southold police investigators in March 2018, shortly before the remains of a Cutchogue woman missing for more than 50 years were discovered, the former wife of the suspected killer revealed that she had told one person about the murder: the man who had been chief of police when it occurred.
That statement by Judith Terry is among the new details revealed in official reports about the Southold police department’s renewed investigation into the October 1966 disappearance of Louise Pietrewicz, whose remains were unearthed March 19, 2018, in the basement of the Lower Road home where Ms. Terry had lived with her husband, William Boken.
The reports, including notes from detectives’ interviews, were released Monday under a Freedom of Information request filed by The Suffolk Times. According to those notes, Ms. Terry was asked by Det. Kenneth Richert during an interview March 15, 2018, if she had previously told anyone that she’d witnessed Mr. Boken, a Southold police officer, bury a body in the basement of their home.
“Judith stated that at some point, she doesn’t remember when, she told Joseph Sawicki Sr. what had happened,” Det. Richert wrote about that interview, which he and retired Southold detective Joseph Conway Jr. conducted. “She stated that she was very close with him and his wife and was godmother to one of their children and because he was a police officer.”
Mr. Sawicki Sr., who died in 2013, spent 29 years with the Southold Town Police Department, serving as acting chief in the mid-1960s. He retired as a detective in 1980. His son, former Southold GOP chairman Joseph Sawicki Jr., currently serves as deputy commissioner of finance for the Suffolk County Police Department.
A statement released Tuesday by Patchogue attorney Brian Egan on behalf of the Sawicki family states, in full: “Our family has followed the Boken case matter with interest over this last half century. Our husband and father was Joseph H. Sawicki Sr., a Southold Town Police Officer from the 1950s, was Acting Chief for the years 1964-1967, and served as Detective Sergeant until his retirement in 1981. Mr. Sawicki passed away approximately five and a half years ago.
“Constance Sawicki, Mr. Sawicki’s widow, issues the following statement on behalf of her family: ‘I remember clearly Judy [Boken, who later married and became Judy Terry], told my husband [who was Chief of Police at the time] that a body was buried in the basement of her home. Based on that information, my husband Joe went with two State Police Troopers to dig up and search the basement. He returned home after the search stating ‘we found nothing.’
“The family notes that Southold Detective Joseph Conway searched and dug in the same basement in 2013 and found nothing. Det. Sergeant John Sinning searched and dug with the Suffolk County Police Homicide Squad in March 2018 and again found nothing. Apparently, after re-interviewing Judy Terry, a fourth search was found using sonar and radar techniques.
“The Sawicki family remains proud of Joe’s exemplary service to his community as a Fire Chief, Police Chief, Fire Commissioner and Town Official. Any implied or explicit negative implications regarding his conduct of investigations is a reckless distortion and a disregard for the truth.”
Ms. Terry’s attorney, William Keahon of Hauppauge, did not respond to a request for comment this week.
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Louise’s disappearance and murder, though whispered about for decades in her small farming community, never resulted in an arrest and remained unpublicized until October 2017, when The Suffolk Times published a special report that pointed to Mr. Boken as her killer. The story sparked a fresh police investigation into the cold case.
The reports and notes released Monday detail how Southold investigators, led by Det. Sgt. John Sinning, went about re-examining the case and how new interviews with Ms. Terry in February and March 2018 provided the breakthrough that solved the mystery, which had haunted Louise’s family for over five decades.
Told of the revelations Monday, Louise’s only child, Sandy Blampied, was left with even more questions. “She told the police chief about the murder?” asked Ms. Blampied, who was 12 years old when her mother vanished. “What did he do about it?”
A statement given by former state investigator Thomas Cobey in December 1969 mentions interviews with Chief Sawicki and others that failed to lead them to Louise.
Bud Griffiths, a retired state investigator who had looked into the case at the request of Louise’s family, said Investigator Cobey’s partner, Dick Fairchild, had told him that Chief Sawicki was present one day 14 months after the murder when they dug in the basement and found nothing. Mr. Griffiths said no mention was made at the time of Ms. Terry telling the chief that she witnessed the burial. He said Investigator Fairchild told him that Chief Sawicki observed but did not help with the digging efforts.
“Fairchild said they had no cooperation from the town’s P.D.,” Mr. Griffiths said.
Police also came up empty in June 2013, when they dug in the Boken basement following an interview with Ms. Terry, according to a police report filed at that time.
Mr. Boken died in 1982 and was buried in a pauper’s grave in New York City — a fact Ms. Terry told town detectives she’d been unaware of until The Suffolk Times report.
Her former husband’s death — supported by a copy of his death certificate — reassured Ms. Terry that her ex-husband was in fact dead and seems to have helped her be more forthcoming with detectives, according to the newly released reports. Ms. Terry, now 83 and suffering from dementia, was interviewed by Det. Sgt. Sinning Feb. 16, 2018, at the Islandia assisted living facility where she now lives, according to the reports.
The detectives’ notes released Monday include more specifics about exactly what Ms. Terry said she witnessed in 1966 — providing key details detectives needed to find the remains, which lay beneath seven feet of soil in the basement.
The account of Det. Sgt. Sinning’s interview states that Ms. Terry “recognizes her [current] husband and remembers people by name.” She said then that she suspected Louise was buried in her basement because of threatening comments her husband had made to her that he would kill her and bury her in the same location.
Det. Sgt. Sinning wrote that Ms. Terry “had a clear and detailed memory of the layout of the basement of the house on Lower Road.” During that conversation, she went much farther than in previous interviews, and admitted witnessing her husband bringing a body into their basement.
“I was there when he brought her into the house,” she told the detective. “He laid her on the cement floor. I don’t know if she was dead or alive. I would assume she was dead because she was wrapped in burlap or something.” Det. Sgt. Sinning wrote: “Judith states that she never saw Louise again.”
Four days later, Det. Sgt. Sinning reported receiving a call from Ms. Terry’s husband, George, who said his wife had since recalled even more details. Mr. Terry said his wife told him Mr. Boken had demanded that she untie the binds around the burlap before he “rolled Louise out of the burlap and into the hole.”
Ms. Terry expanded on her account during the subsequent March 15 interview with Det. Richert and former detective Conway Jr. She said she saw Mr. Boken carrying the body wrapped in burlap out of the barn behind their house and that, after he began digging in the basement, he realized that he could be seen from outside through the basement windows.
He then switched locations, Ms. Terry said, and dug a new hole. It was there, thanks to a diagram drawn by Ms. Terry and her recollection as to the hole’s depth, that police would ultimately find Louise’s remains.
On Sunday, the day before the release of the reports and notes, Det. Sgt. Sinning visited Ms. Blampied at her home in Middletown, N.Y. He gave her the clothing found with her mother’s remains, including a blouse, a slip and a garter, which Ms. Blampied had requested.
“It’s something tangible that I can hold on to,” Ms. Blampied said. “I’m glad I have them.”
Bullet holes in the clothes, along with .38 caliber bullets recovered with the body, led the Suffolk Medical Examiner’s office to conclude that Louise died from three gunshot wounds to her torso. The Southold Town police uniform code adopted the year before the murder — which is visible today on the town website — shows that officers were required to carry .38 caliber revolvers at that time.
The reports released Monday also reveal that investigators learned last year that Mr. Boken had used sick days for his three shifts immediately preceding Louise’s disappearance on Oct. 6, 1966. He resigned from the department Oct. 7.
The police blotter from 1966 is among “several years” missing from the town’s archives, the reports state.
“It’s like she wasn’t even a person,” Ms. Blampied said. “It was a cover-up. There’s no doubt in my mind.”