“We’re not in Wonderland anymore Alice.”
It was the 5th of August 1993. A Thursday. Ten year old Holly Piirainen was visiting her grandmother at her grandmother's cottage in Sturbridge with her brothers and father Richard. They were from Grafton, Massachusetts, United States but visited Sturbridge many times. As Holly's grandmother, Maureen Lemieux, lived there they often went there for a vacation and that month, August in 1993, they planned a week long vacation. They had just arrived the day before. The cottage was a beautiful lake front cottage in a quiet area. Holly loved it there. She wanted to one day be a marine biologist and she loved being close to the water in Sturbridge.
Holly heard that one of her grandmother's neighbours had a dog who had just given birth to some puppies. They were little collie pups and they were in a farmhouse at the corner of the street. Holly adored dogs and couldn't wait to go see them. Holly left her grandmother's house and walked down the street at 11.45 am. She went with her five year old brother Zachary. Richard saw them walking down the street.
Holly and Zachary arrived at the residence in the area of Allen and South Shore Roads in Sturbridge to play with the puppies but just a short while later, Zachary returned to his grandmother's cottage. He was alone. Zachary told his father that Holly told him to go home without her.
Richard sent Holly’s other brother, Andrew, down the street to tell her to come home. He did as he was told but returned a few minutes later without Holly. There was no sign of Holly on that street but he found one of her shoes. Richard put the two boys into the jeep and went out to try to find Holly. He drove up and down the street but there was no sign of her anywhere. Nobody saw anything or heard anything.
Richard reported Holly missing to the police. A huge search began. A ground search was carried out along with a search by air and the lake was searched. Dogs and search teams searched the woods but found nothing. They believed Holly disappeared around 12.50pm. They believed she was abducted but thought it may have been an opportunistic attack as Holly had just arrived the day before and very few people knew she was in the area.
Just one week before Holly went missing, Holly had attended a 4H Camp and one of the counselors told the children to leave something behind if they were ever taken.Holly's grandmother believes Holly left behind her shoe on purpose.
The family were suspicious of everybody. Maureen asked to search neighbour's homes and their cars and if they refused, they gave their names to the police. Despite the huge search, there were no solid leads in the case and it would be a further 72 days before the family received some news.
On the 23rd of October 1993, a group of hunters made a harrowing discovery. They found Holly’s remains in a wooded area off Five Bridge Road in Brimfield. Brimfield is a few miles from where Holly was last seen. Her cause of death could not be determined.
Police found items of interest in the area where Holly's remains were found but it wasn't until years later that they could test them to any degree of accuracy. Investigators named David Pouliot, a Vietnam veteran, who worked for a juvenile detention center, as a "person of interest." Mark Mastroianni, Hampden's District Attorney, said that David was linked to the evidence found near Holly's body. He said:
"The nature and character of the item tested, as well as its condition and location upon discovery, suggests Mr. Pouliot and/or persons associated with him were in the immediate crime scene area at a time relevant to Holly's disappearance and the location of her remains."
He did not reveal what that item was. David was known to frequent Brimfield at the time to hunt and fish. David died before the evidence allegedly linked him to the crime. Holly's family did not know David and had not heard his name until the police mentioned it.
To further add to the mystery of this case, a girl called Molly Bish wrote to Holly's family when Holly went missing. Molly was ten years old at the time. In the letter , she wrote:
"I am very sorry. I wish I could make it up to you. Holly is a very pretty girl. She is almost as tall as me. I wish I knew Holly. I hope they found her."
Just seven years after Holly went missing, Molly's name also appeared in the news. Molly was kidnapped and murdered. Molly's remains were found in wooded are in Worcester County. She was just sixteen years old.
Holly's family are still searching for answers.
To date, both Holly's case and Molly's case remain unsolved.
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