This is the story of the day my mom never came home. I’m not gonna lie, it’s a sad story. But with your help, there might be hope too. (Spoiler: it’s an unsolved murder that police are re-investigating, and we’re asking for tips and shares on social media.) That’s my mom at the top.
It was August 20, 1979, six days before my 9th birthday. I was still young enough for summers to feel endless, but things had been rough both financially and emotionally since my parents had divorced a couple of years earlier. I was one of four siblings aged six to 13, though my eldest brother was living with my dad.
My parents had the kind of marriage where he worked outside the home and she managed the house and kids, so after the divorce my mom had to look for a job. Or rather three jobs that were all unskilled and part-time since she had no work experience during an economic recession, and she only had a high school diploma.
Her three jobs were (if I recall correctly—remember I was eight), fast food cashier, factory assembly line and, most fatefully, the night shift at the reception desk of a hotel in Seekonk, MA. For her to work the night shift, my grandfather (I called him Vovô, Portuguese for granddad) would spend the night with us. He was quite a character, and he would say “you hot potato” or “you hot tomato” when one of us beat him at cards or did something mildly rascally.
Working the night shift at the hotel wasn’t easy. It was in a dangerous neighborhood, and my mom had been robbed at least three times in the two years she’d worked there. She had testified against robbers in court twice before and was getting ready to testify a third time.
When Vovô spent the night, his breakfast was often an open-faced sandwich of sliced tomatoes on toast, topped with cheese and broiled until bubbly. He rose at the crack of dawn and if I got up early enough, he would make me one too. I tried to wake up early for this special treat.
I wish I could remember if I got up early enough on August 20. I don’t remember much of the early morning, other than sensing Vovô’s growing unease when my mom didn’t come home on time. This was long before cellphones, and if he called the hotel, I doubt anyone answered.
About 45 minutes across town, my dad had been contacted by the police. He rushed to be the one to tell us and asked one of our neighbors to come over and stay with us until he arrived. But it was too late. The phone rang and it was a reporter asking for a comment on my mom’s murder.
I can still remember Vovô’s shock and disbelief. He repeated over and over, “She was so good and so young. Why did she have to die?” She was only 35. And the person who killed her was never caught.
Hard truth: losing your mom at so young an age is a shit sandwich on rye.
But I’m not trying to garner sympathy. I’m telling this story because the Bristol County DA’s office created an unsolved cases unit, and they are actively reviewing all the evidence in my mom’s case in the hope of finally catching her killer.
They arranged for an article to appear in The Sun Chronical local newspaper last Friday, appealing to anyone who might have any information about the case to come forward. Unfortunately, the election overshadowed all other news last week.
I can’t adequately express what it’s been like to have this giant question mark shadowing my life. But even at nine years old, it was frightening to know that the person who did this to my mom—who robbed me of any chance to get to know her as a person—was out there, somewhere.
So here’s my ask: please recommend this post so more people here see it. If you use social media, please either share the article or retweet my thread on Twitter (it’s very similar to this post). Chances are that someone out there knows something that could help, and it’s just a matter of reaching that person. You could be the key to solving this.
For me, it’s not really about retribution or even about justice, per se. It’s about knowing WHY. If it was about the money, why kill her? If it was personal, what on earth triggered that kind of horrific violence? It’s been 41 years and these questions still haunt me.
Finally, if you know something, PLEASE say something. Contact State Police Lt. Ann Marie Robertson at 508-961-1918, Massachusetts State Police Unresolved Cases Tip Line at 855-MA-SOLVE (855-627-6583) or text the word “Bristol” to CRIMES (274637), followed by the tip. Your help could really make a difference, and I’m deeply grateful to anyone recommends this, retweets the Twitter thread or shares the article.
Thanks for reading!
wide eyed lib
I’ve been contacted by a local TV reporter interested in doing a story. Please keep sharing because it’s working. Thank you!