Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Into The Woods

Billy Smolinski Vanished Five Years Ago. The Cops Believe His Body Is Buried in Shelton or Seymour. The Big Question Is Where?

Janice Smolinski watches as private investigator Todd Lovejoy searches through debris in a wooded area in Shelton.

Bands of electrical storms surged across Connecticut and heavy air hung oppressively across the lower Naugatuck Valley. It was a day to sit on the front porch and drink iced tea, not a day to stomp through the forest, scramble up embankments, and peer beneath rubbish looking for the body of your murdered son.

Welcome to the world of Janice and Bill Smolinski, which for the past five years has been a living nightmare as they relentlessly search for the remains of their 31-year-old son.

“We have to bring him home,” Janice Smolinski said. “We may never find out exactly what happened to him, but we aren’t going to give up until we find Billy.”

Billy Smolinski vanished in August 2004.

And the Smolinskis think they are getting close. They’ve been working with a private investigator, Todd Lovejoy, who has brought a sense of purpose to an investigation that has been more hot potato, than priority, to various law enforcement agencies involved since August 2004.

Lovejoy, a former sergeant in the Waterbury police department, left the force five years ago to launch his own business, Spyglass Investigations. Lovejoy stumbled into the case by accident two years ago while working on a separate investigation. While interviewing a witness he uncovered pertinent information that was linked to Billy’s disappearance.

Despite five years of desperation and anxiety, Janice Smolinski remains confident her son’s body will be found and she and her husband, Bill, will have closure. She is pictured here with P.I. Todd Lovejoy.

On June 14th the Smolinskis met Lovejoy in a gravel parking lot in Shelton to scout a wooded area for Billy’s remains. Lovejoy had pieced together several clues and believed there was an outside chance that Billy was buried beneath construction debris on the edge of a densely wooded forest in Shelton.

Frustrated with the pace of the federal investigation, the Smolinskis and Lovejoy decided to take action. The night before the search Janice Smolinski was optimistic – even joyful – that the search for Billy was about to come to an end. She barely slept. She and Bill attended church in the morning and met Lovejoy at noon.

Todd Lovejoy of Spyglass Investigations reads the VIN # off an abandoned car in the area the Smolinskis believe their son is buried. Lovejoy, a former sergeant in the Waterbury Police Department, has refueled the Smolinskis hope they will find their son.

Janice Smolinski watches Todd Lovejoy search through debris for her son Billy.

They climbed hills, slid down steep embankments, walked along railroad tracks, poked through piles of industrial debris and peered into dark barrels.

Three hours later the search came to an end with no Billy. “I’m not disappointed,” Janice said, “I’m on a mission. I really feel like we are very close to finding him. This spot is so isolated. It’s a great place to get rid of a body if you don’t want anyone to see you.”

While the Smolinskis have no proof that Billy was murdered five years ago, several suspects have provided detailed information about what happened that fateful night – and though the stories contradict – the end result in all the versions is the same – Billy was murdered, and his body was buried.

One suspect went so far as to lead the police to an isolated meadow in Seymour and point to the exact spot where he said he had helped bury Billy’s body. That information was used by the FBI to launch a massive dig in Seymour last August. Backhoes from the town of Seymour tore up an entire meadow, but no Billy.

An overhead view of the massive dig for Billy Smolinski in August 2008.

Other leads have pointed beneath a driveway and inside the foundation of a new house. One of the suspects was a former grave digger and there was speculation that Billy might have been buried in a cemetery in Seymour.

To date there has been more speculation than answers. No law enforcement agency is giving the Smolinskis any hope that Billy is still alive, they just don’t know where he’s buried. And all the suspects are either dead, in prison, or have a track record of substance abuse.

In the past five years the investigation has involved the Waterbury Police Department, the FBI, the Connecticut State Police, the Seymour police, and the Shelton police.

There is some confusion as to which organization is the lead investigator in the case. It started in Waterbury, was taken over by the FBI three years ago, and now involves the State Police, Seymour Police and the Shelton Police.

In a series of telephone calls the Observer tried to get an answer to the question of what law enforcement agency was in charge of the investigation.

An inquiry to the FBI resulted in an agency spokesperson leaving a message on the Observer voicemail stating that the FBI’s official policy is to not comment on ongoing investigations.

Detective Ben Trabka of the Shelton Police Department said the investigation was a multi-jurisdictional case and was very complicated. “The case has bounced around as the information has bounced around,” Trabka said. “No one agency wants to say they are the lead, but a lot of the leads point to a Shelton involvement.”

Trabka said that Waterbury was still actively involved in the case and that Waterbury police had processed a house in Seymour last autumn.

This was news to Waterbury police chief Neil O’Leary, who 90 minutes before he retired, told the Observer that he believed the FBI was the lead investigator.

“Technically we still have some standing in the case,” O’Leary said, “but if we got a tip today the first call we’d make is to the FBI. It’s their case now.”

The State Police refused the Smolinskis plea for help for two years telling the family that the case was under the jurisdiction of the Waterbury Police Department, and unless they were called in by Waterbury, they couldn’t help.

After the FBI took over the case in August 2006 it appears that the feds reached out to other police departments for assistance. Trabka said the FBI came to Shelton two years ago and that his department has been assisting ever since.

In addition, the Woodbridge Police Department is a key player in the story because they made the only arrest in the case when they pinched Janice Smolinski for hanging missing person flyers on a telephone poll too close to a public school.

It didn’t seem to matter to the Woodbridge cops that a Woodbridge school bus driver, Madeline Gleason, had been tearing down Billy’s missing person flyers for weeks. It didn’t seem to matter to the Woodbridge police, or the Waterbury police, that Madeline Gleason was Billy’s ex-girlfriend, and that the couple had split after Billy discovered Madeleine was having an affair with a prominent Woodbridge politician.

Madeline Gleason

It didn’t seem to matter that Billy’s last telephone call was to the home of the Woodbridge politician telling him to “watch his back.”

Nearly two years after Billy disappeared the Deputy Assistant police chief in Waterbury told the Observer that “Billy was probably having a beer in Europe.”

The Waterbury police collected and lost five individual DNA samples from the Smolinski family, and despite impossibly strong leads, they repeatedly stated that they had nothing to investigate, that they had exhausted all leads in the investigation.

Private investigator Todd Lovejoy told the Observer that in the past five years no law enforcement organization has been to, or processed, the house he believes Billy Smolinski might have been murdered in.

It took almost five years before any police thoroughly processed Billy’s pick-up truck for forensic clues. The truck was recently combed over by the State Police Major Crime Squad, and Shelton Detective Ben Trabka said “they got some fingerprints out of the truck and they are trying to I.D. them now. They also got some DNA evidence, but they are not sure whose it is, and what significance it has.”

Trabka said that if any of the material links the suspects to the truck it will send off alarms. “There is no reason for any of the suspects to be in that truck,” Trabka said. “One theory is that after they buried him they drove his truck back home and parked it in the wrong place.”

The DNA and fingerprints can provide a direct link to the individuals who murdered and buried Billy Smolinski.

‘This case has had it’s ups and downs,” Trabka said, “but right now all the information points to this end of the valley.”


Anonymous said...

John Murray, he digs deep. Society needs more men like him.

S said...

Don't stop looking. The police response has been pathetic. And the FBI's refusal to even admit ownership of the investigation is the height of hubris.

deskside said...

Good article by John Murray. Few seem to get just what many families of the missing go through in their search for the their loved ones. Few writers pen what is exactly taking place but instead focus their story from law enforcement's perspective. They totally miss the real story.

The Smolinski's deserve to have Billy found. Honestly, for those that have information or who took part in Billy's murder do you really think the Smolinski's aren't going to find you? That's not an option for them. They will bring Billy home.


Anonymous said...

Good work John as always!!!!
Another heartwrenching and truly eye opening story ! many of us still can't believe you continue to have to go through all of this to try to "DIG UP " the truth and the answers you more than deserve!!!!

Anonymous said...

We are hearing that there are some snaggles and snafus in the Missing persons Public awareness/assistance day this year, what the heck is going on????
This is a defintely beneficial day with definitely beneficial offerings that can help may, educate many and it is for families, friends and the benefit of the PUBLIC, the PEOPLE of this state how can it not be approved?
The Duck Race in the valley was for the People and it ran, the Naugatuck River Revival canoe and kayak race was for the public, families, sports and water enthusiasts and the public to learn about the river help the outreach aboout the river and watershed importance and a good place /event to network with others who share the same enthusiasms Now why not the MISSINg persons DAY for this area and of course giving credit to this STATE for conducting it and offering good availability on information and beneficial offeriings to the public??? Especially in this economy and stress filled atmospheres?? Look at the Home invasions, and robberies all can be related to senseless acts of unpredicted violence and could have or could end up in Missing persons/unsolved cases....COME ON AMERICANS WAKE UP STAND UP THIS IS FOR YOU! PUBLIC AWARENESS< PUBLIC SAFETY and assistance is your right!!

Anonymous said...

TRUTH4us says:
Are we reading and viewing this?look here - once again is this pint sized little dynamo is out digging through debris, human cast offs, human carelessly thrown, heedlessly discarded debris and garbage and GOD knows what else to try to find, locate HUMAN REMAINS Just that in itself creates a deep shudder not to mentiion the fact she is still determined to find her son her very flesh and Bloods REMAINS to Find the deserved truth and answers to be able to Bring his soul back home, to lay him to rest, How many of us would or do have this KIND of LOVE and shear COURAGE ????? The Smolinski's have had to fight every step of the way in a system that is suppossed to be designed to FIGHT for what is right, to stand up against EVIL and right wrongs and stop injustice ....
What is GOING WRONG people What has gone HAYWIRE?? To have to fight for justice, to fight the VERY sytem you are taught to believe in, to support to trust from Childhood to grow up hardworking and honest and kind and fair so yu don't stray and get into trouble.. the very system that seems to be mysteriously dragging it's feet on a yearly Missing persons Unsolved cases day in our struggling state of Connecticut in spite of the unexplainable senseless acts of violence and home invasions with unspeakable outrageous violence ??
Missing persons events can also be places where domestic violence information, womens support information and helpful information for Parents on how to protect their children and themselves as well as that for the eldery , for those with ALZHEIMERs and those who are disabled... many resources can be networked and publicy offered that DAY every YEAR
think, of Computer seccurity information for families and parents/grandparents, Latest in WEB use concerns, Identity Theft concerns /scams and updates, Kids cell phone use concerns, Neighborhood Crime watch startup information and contacts...the possibilities for a productive highly beneficial PUBLIC information/Awareness day are LIMITLESS in even MORE Important because of NOT in spite of such a stressful, challenging economy!

Justice For Joanie Hall said...

This was a wonderful article & blog. Thank you for this. I know from following Billy's case for several years that the case of Billy Smolinski will now never be forgotten. It is not going to fade away as the people involved had hoped. Because we who care about the Smolinski's are not going to ALLOW it to fade away.

Karwishbear said...

Jan is a powerhouse of courage and strength. It makes me sick what she has to go through but I fully believe that justice will prevail in the end. GOD bless Jan and her family.

Dawn Luddy said...

Jan you are a power house and a tribute to victims every where. If you ever need a force assembled you know wher to find us. Love and hugs Dawn Barrett luddy SOH

Anonymous said...

I'm wondering with the search in the woods and the Digs in Seymour, were cadaver dogs used? What if you had a team of dogs walk the meadow ad surrounding area

Jan said...

Thank you for your comment on the search dogs.
We were told the state police had their dogs walk over the site on Bungay Road and the other sites they searched. Yes they were cadaver dogs.

The search you read about in this article was in Shelton and the dog team did not come on that particular search, however we do have well certified cadavor dogs
to come on our next search, the team is called "Resources in Search and Rescue"
We welcome thoughts, tips and comments someone may feel helpful to help find Billy. Thank You

Anonymous said...

Cadaver dogs I would think would be the best tool. I am curious how deep the dogs can sense.

I found this...

"Most soils carry the scent upward. Slightly wet, green grasses are ideal for transmitting buried scents to the surface. Somewhat cloudy conditions with a light breeze are also preferred. More wind is better for forensic cases requiring the identification of fresh bodies, but too much wind is not favored for surveying buried and/or historic remains"

Although only touching the surface of this story, I read that one suspect was a grave digger? Would a cadaver dog be helpful in searching cemeteries where the suspect worked? Now don't laugh, I realize there are many buried there, but usually in sealed vaults. Would the dogs be able to pick up the scent from a sealed vault vs. someone buried on top of ones grave?

Jan said...

The cemetary question constantly haunts me. The answer to your questions about the cadaver dogs we really are not sure if a dog will have the ability to pick up a scent or be confused.
Although most people are sealed in vaults it is a sure thing the scent will stay contained and the dogs will not be able to pick it up, however being a cemetary there are people who have been buried for a number of years, with the corrosion factor and many others things to consider-- that is the million dollar question.
We have asked a number of people and researched, the final answer really boils down to find graves dug around August 24, 2004 and try it.

Anonymous said...

I drive by the sign on Rt. 8 and finally looked up this site. My prayers are with the family....I pray for closure and justice.

Anonymous said...

I wish someone would organize a day donated just to help search for Billy on August 24th this year and people can volunteer to help this poor family. God bless these people each day! These Parent's have had to fight for everything and it's ridiculous that the Ex Girlfriend & the Woodbridge Politician have not been arrested by now! Also the nerve of the Ex Girlfriend to sue Billy's Family! God see's & hears everything, Billy will be found!
Justice for Billy & his Family!

Anonymous said...

First of all, John Murray the Smolinski's deserve you so very much and you are respected for being by their side. Janice and Bill deserve closer and peace. I, a retired missing person detective, am sickened over the initial investigation of Billy Smolinski's disappearance. Mainly the comment about Billy being in Europe drinking a beer. Yes, that must be where he is, leaving is wallet at home, in his truck, he must have swam to Europe! How insulting! 5 years to process Billy's truck, when the Smolinski's had it available and preserved it to the best of their ability and at their expense. Janice, who I call "the paintball sniper" is someone I think about all the time, and I pray that Billy is found. I just pray that she does not have to suffer the devistation of finding Billy in the condition Billy may be in. yet, does she have a choice? After all she got arrested for putting up a poster of her missing son. By the way, did they ever arrest the person who was posting up posters of their missing cat? What a criminal Janice is! Janice, Bill and Paula- I pray for you all daily and pray that there be an end to this nightmare. Janice, have you contacted Equasearch to see if they can help with your next search? If you need help getting in touch with them, you know who to call- ME!

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Discombobulated said...

It is terrible what this mother is going through. Unfortunately the justice system works only when all the people within it are doing their part. It must be devastating to have both the local and federal law enforcement agencies relinquishing responsibility at various times. We need more folks to hold law enforcement to account.

Things are similar here in Canada. Law enforcement needs the push from the family and friends of victims for things to get moving.

I hope and pray this courageous mother will find her son, so the mourning can begin.

Best Regards from Vancouver, B.C.

dede & dale said...

There are no comforting words that one can say to grieving Parents,but there IS something that we all as Human beings can do to HELP these precious people who are Missing a Family member.
We can encourage our State Officials to have (Billy's Law),in place,HELPING folks who do not know where to begin or who or where to turn when reporting a Missing Person.
No one wants to think that such horrible things can happen to our own loved ones,UNFORTUNATELY it can and does.IF people "WHO do HAVE A VOICE"do not take the initiative and support the efforts of those who "will" fight for the rights of the Silenced MISSING,Murdered and Unidentified,then WHO WILL?
I BEG anyone who reads this to send a letter and call your State REPRESENTATIVES and SUPPORT Billy's Law!
Don't wait until this kind of tradgedy touches your life!
DO something NOW!
You will be spared the torment the Smolinskis and countless other families have suffered due to lack of knowledge and concern when it is about MISSING ADULTS especially!
Billy's LAW will already be there in effect for you as well!
PRAISE GOD for Jan & Bill Smolinski and their daughter Paula who have turned their tragedy into triumph.
Billy's Law will change the way Enforcement Agencies handles a Missing Persons Case.

Silence can be deafening when it is YOUR CHILD who is Missing!

GOD BLESS all searching for a Missing loved one.
We pray for you all.

DeDe & Dale Keene
Voices for he Missing & Unidentified
America's Missing,Abducted and Lost Persons

Strickland said...

I'm wondering with the search in the woods and the Digs in Seymour, were cadaver dogs used? What if you had a team of dogs walk the meadow ad surrounding area

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