By Dennis Griffin
A few minutes before 10 o'clock on the morning of June 27, 2000, Magi Bish dropped her daughter Molly off at the local swimming hole, Comins Pond, in the town of Warren, Mass. The 16-year-old Molly, a high school junior, had just started a summer job as a lifeguard there the week before.
The parking lot was empty, except for a dump truck dropping off a load of sand. Magi, watched her daughter walk toward the beach. She then waited for the dump truck to drive out before driving away. But when swimmers arrived twenty minutes later, the only traces of Molly were her water-bottle, sandals, a police radio and an opened first aid kit. Molly had vanished, and for Magi and her husband John, a nightmare like no other began.
The only lead the police had to work with was a man Magi remembered having seen when she dropped Molly off the previous day. He had been sitting alone in a white vehicle in the parking lot. Nervous over his presence, Magi waited around for about 20 minutes until the man drove off.
The ensuing search for Molly became the most extensive in Massachusetts history. Molly's story was told on America's Most Wanted, 48 Hours, Court TV, Unsolved Mysteries, Larry King, Nancy Grace and other national and local media outlets.
But in spite of everyone's best efforts, Molly's fate remained a mystery for three long years. And then in June 2003, the search for Molly came to a heartbreaking end when 26 of her bones were found scattered on the side of a mountain only five miles from her home. Molly was buried on her 20th Birthday.
Investigators believed Molly's killer was probably a local with intimate knowledge of the area. However, no arrests were made and the case went cold.
And then in January, 2009, a suspect surfaced, 60-year-old Rodney Stanger. He was a longtime resident of Southbridge, Mass., located just a few miles from Warren. Stanger had moved to Florida the year after Molly disappeared. Neighbors say he was an outdoorsman who was known to hunt and fish in the area around Comins Pond. And he had access to his brother's car, which was same type that Magi had seen the day before Molly disappeared. He also matched the composite sketch of the driver of that car.
Stanger was brought to the attention of the authorities when the Massachusetts State Police got a call from the sister of Stanger's live-in girlfriend, Crystal Morrison. The sister told police that Crystal had hinted to her that Stanger was involved in Molly's murder. On February 25, 2008, just days after the conversation between the sisters, Crystal was found stabbed to death in their mobile home. Rodney Stanger was charged with the murder.
On October 28, 2010, under a negotiated plea deal with prosecutors, the now 62-year-old Stanger was sentenced to serve 25 years in a Florida prison for second-degree murder of Crystal Morrison, and concurrent sentences for burglary of a dwelling and battery. The chances of Stanger ever breathing free air again are slim.
On the Molly Bish Foundation Website is this message from Molly's parents, Magi and John Bish:
"We will find... the person that harmed her. It's been a journey, a story of love and loss, but we are still hopeful and we want Molly to know we'll never give up."
If Rodney Stanger is in fact Molly's murderer, let's hope sufficient evidence can be developed to charge and convict him. The Bish family's journey needs to come to an end. And Molly is entitled to justice.
Note: Molly's case will be profiled on the Discovery ID Channel on January 17 and on Crime Wire on January 18.