Why Do-Nothing Cops
Must Be Held Accountable
And Ordered To Do Their Jobs,
Especially When They Drop The Ball
On Missing Persons Reports
Some Details Related
To The Trail
Of Dead Bodies
A TIME FOR GOOD COPS TO STAND UP
This Is The Backdrop For CT Legislative Hearing Tuesday
Support Courageous State Rep. Vickie Nardello,
Who Is Standing Up For Missing Persons
And Their Loved Ones Everywhere
By ANDY THIBAULT
The Cool Justice Report
March 2, 2009
EDITOR'S NOTE: This column is available for reprint courtesy of The Cool Justice Report, http://cooljustice.blogspot.com
Billy Smolinski -- the missing man forsaken by management of the Waterbury, CT Police Department and presumed murdered - could have a legacy that will help save the lives of other missing persons.
The level of police ineptitude and callousness in the Smolinski case was so startling that politicians are actually doing something about it.
State Rep. Vickie Orsini Nardello, elected to the Connecticut General Assembly in 1994, represents the 89th Assembly District that includes the towns of Bethany, part of Cheshire, and Prospect. Nardello's bill - the subject of a hearing Tuesday before the Legislature's Public Safety Committee - would require police to immediately accept a report of an adult missing person.
How about that!
As one reader remarked: "Isn't it amazing that they even have to propose legislation like that? Unbelievable!"
The Nardello bill would also mandate sensitivity training for cops, force them to follow up and file reports and get appropriate training in the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System known as NamUs.
Why is this necessary? Cops everywhere can thank the Waterbury Police Department and irresponsible elements of the Connecticut Police Chief's Association that would deflect, evade and fight to the death such elements of civilian oversight.
What would people think? That the cops actually work for us?
The Smolinski case was marked alternately by official local inaction and intense searches directed by state and federal law enforcement officials and volunteers.
The case began in August 2004 with a visit to the Waterbury PD by Smolinski's relatives who were seeking help. Despite efforts by some Waterbury detectives, management did virtually nothing to solve the case. The department even suppressed information about a tip that Smolinski was strangled in Woodbridge and buried in Shelton.
As documents detailing the tip were ordered released by the Connecticut Freedom of Information Commission in April 2007, the FBI took on the case and ordered a number of major digs.
Waterbury, like several Connecticut municipalities including New London and Middletown, has been referred to as a "closed city" over the years by state police detectives and even some commanders. The closed-city designation means that local law enforcement is virtually unaccountable and impenetrable.
Indeed, Waterbury's current police chief, Neil O'Leary, is widely considered a top contender to become the city's next mayor. In a bit of political theater, O'Leary recently challenged his nominal boss, Mayor Michael Jarjura, to a boxing match. Backed by scores of cops at a Lincoln Day Dinner, The Waterbury-Republican American reported that O'Leary suggested he and Jarjura rumble at the new Police Athletic League boxing center.
The question remains, what did Waterbury police do besides drive by a site where Smolinski might have been buried?
"The case was investigated as thoroughly as it could be," O'Leary said in the fall of 2006.
Deputy Chief James Nardozzi told the FBI in the Aug. 4, 2006 letter that the Waterbury PD had "exhausted all avenues of investigation available to us."
In fairness to O'Leary, a detective told me today that Waterbury officers now accept missing persons reports, even from out of towners. When they get such a report from someone outside Waterbury, they notify the appropriate department, the detective said.
"The chief is doing a lot of new stuff," the detective said.
I left two messages for O'Leary today, wanting to talk with him about aspects of the Smolinski case noted in this column. I also wanted to know if he supports or opposes the new missing persons bill, and whether he will testify tomorrow in Hartford. Answers to those questions will have to wait for a follow-up, as the chief was unavailable.
Janice Smolinski will go into tomorrow's hearing believing O'Leary is an ally on the Nardello bill. She said she and her husband met with O'Leary in January, and he was very supportive.
"We went over all the issues in the Nardello bill with him," Smolinski said. "He said he was with us 100 percent, and if we need anything he'll be there."
Perhaps, as O'Leary contemplated running for mayor, he got the memo on responding to constituents. From Janice and Bill Smolinski's account, O'Leary at least talked the talk.
Still, there are a number of trails that Waterbury and other police did not or could not follow, for whatever reasons. Hopefully, those trails have been and are being pursued by the FBI.
The body of an associate of Smolinski -- Thomas Karpiuk Jr. -- washed up on shore in East Hampton, NY, on May 25, 2008. Another body -- not Smolinski's -- was found in Sag Harbor Bay days earlier.
Sources said Karpiuk, a young man who was gainfully employed, was in excellent physical health before his death. It is not known whether the local police on Long Island did anything to pursue the Smolinski connection, but they were made aware of it.
Worth noting: Thomas Karpiuk, Krystal Rapuano and Shaun Karpiuk -- three of the dead connected with this case -- are all children of Smolinski's former girlfriend, Madeleine Gleason.
Smolinski and Gleason broke up after Smolinski learned Gleason was having an affair with [former] Woodbridge Selectman Chris Sorenson, Waterbury police confirmed -- as first reported by The Waterbury Observer's John Murray, who has broken key stories in the case.
Gleason ultimately set herself up to gain notoriety by tearing down Billy Smolinski missing posters while working as a bus driver.
It was in Florida while on vacation that Smolinski learned he was part of the love triangle. He was friendly with Thomas Karpiuk and visited him in Florida.
News reports said Karpiuk had been working last year as an estate manager in Sagaponack, NY, and he had been a sailing companion of the other dead man found off Long Island, Thomas Leone. Karpiuk had last been seen driving a 2003 GMC Yukon Denali with Florida plates. Leone was last seen heading to Muff's Tavern in Sag Harbor while Karpiuk was on his way to Rowdy Hall in East Hampton.
In other developments
related by sources to The Cool Justice Report:
* A construction worker from Oxford, CT told an associate the FBI did not dig deep enough when looking for Smolinski's body in Shelton in 2007.
The Connecticut Post reported that yards of some newer homes on Edgewood and Fort Hill avenues were searched, as well as an area underneath the Route 8 overpass near Wharf Street, across from the city's skateboard park. The construction worker, however, said the body was buried on a different street.
As the ground thaws in Spring 2009, the FBI is expected to resume digs. Other tips say he might be buried on a farm in Seymour.
* The Seymour Police Department's investigation of the apparent suicide of Smolinski's former girlfriend's daughter -- Krystal Karpiuk -- might have been compromised by a conflict of interest. The extent of a relationship between a Seymour police officer and a subject in the case might be explored.
* Another fatality -- that of Shaun Karpiuk, another son of Smolinski's former girlfriend -- might not have been investigated promptly or thoroughly by Waterbury police. This son -- a gravedigger -- apparently died of an overdose after shooting five bags or heroin. His face was bruised. The car used by associates was examined by Waterbury police only after it was washed with bleach.
* Some of Waterbury's top detectives initially worked on the Smolinski case and tried to pursue the case vigorously. Leadership did not support these efforts.
* Two individuals unrelated to Smolinski searched his house after the Smolinski family went to Waterbury police. No action was taken.
As a footnote, I'm wondering whether Woodbridge police should have been noted in the Nardello bill. They distinguished themselves by arresting Janice Smolinski as she sought to retrieve the missing person posters about her son.
Smolinski case, ongoing, Waterbury:
[scroll to Friday, Sept. 14, 2007]
We first told you about Billy Smolinski a year ago. He disappeared from his Waterbury, Conn. home in August, 2004 after breaking up with his girlfriend.
CBS News Correspondent Bianca Solorzano got an update from investigators, and the missing man's family.
Smolinsksi was 31 when he vanished.
He had just returned from a trip to Florida with his girlfriend. The next night, he told his sister that his girlfriend was having an affair with a local politician. They argued and broke up.
Smolinski's sister, Paula Bell recalls that, "I said, 'Well, what are you going to do" And he just said, 'What am I going to do?'"
Authorities say Smolinski was last seen at his home. His next-door neighbor says he asked him to watch his dog for a few days, because he was headed north to look at a car he wanted to buy. His truck was found in his driveway, his keys and wallet were under his front seat.
That, says Solorzano, is where Smolinski's trail ends.
The FBI calls it a difficult case.
"Essentially," says Special Agent Bill Aldenberg, "the man just disappeared off the face of the Earth."
He says there's been no sign of Smolinski but, "There are suspects, based on tips and based on interviews and based on investigations that we've conducted."
The bureau was tipped off and, in the spring, searched in Shelton, about 20 miles from Waterbury. Agents looked for evidence near several homes, dug up a driveway, and also searched near a river, but found nothing.
The Smolinskis, Solorzano points out, have never stopped searching.
They posted thousands of missing person flyers but, in a strange twist, found Smolinski's ex-girlfriend tearing them down.
At the time, local police say, she was not a suspect.
Article Details Waterbury Police Data
That Was Suppressed For About A Year
The Missing - A Weekly exposé of Lost Souls - Issue #9