Molly Bish murder: Sex offender named person of interest in 21-year-old cold case

The 16-year-old’s remains were found three years after she went missing but her cause of death and suspect were not revealed till date


                            Molly Bish murder: Sex offender named person of interest in 21-year-old cold case
Molly Bish disappeared in 2000 and Francis 'Frank' P Sumner Sr has now been named person of interest (Boston Herald/Getty Images and Facebook/ Joseph D Early Jr, Worcester County District Attorney's Office)
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WARREN, MASSACHUSETTS: More than two decades after Molly Bish disappeared and since her remains were found in 2003, a person of interest in her case has been named. The Worcester County District Attorney's Office said on Thursday, June 3, said that a local named Francis "Frank" P Sumner Sr, a convicted sex offender who died in 2016, has been identified as a suspect in the teen’s death.

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Who was Molly Bish?

In the summer of 2000, Molly had started her new summer job as a lifeguard. On June 27, the day she went missing, she was dropped off at Comins Pond by her mother, Magi Bish, where she was working. A day earlier, her mother saw a suspicious man in a white car parked near the beach where her daughter was posted, but she did not pay much heed. But the next day, on June 27, when the 16-year-old disappeared, a witness reported that they saw a stranger matching the description of the man seen the previous day in the pond's parking lot just minutes before Bish arrived. Another local worker also said they saw a similar car parked near the pond.

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Magi was the last person who saw her daughter before she disappeared. The family was contacted by police, who told them Molly was not on duty on June 27, and her belongings had been left unattended at her station. Soon after that, an extensive search operation was launched but to no avail. However, two years later, a hunter found a blue bathing suit in the woods on Whiskey Hill in Palmer. And, in May 2003, he told this to Tim McGuigan, who informed the police. After an intense search, Molly’s remains were discovered on June 9, 2003, on nearby Whisky Hill - just five miles from her family home. The cause of her death was not ascertained, but investigators believe that Molly was murdered and then she was buried.

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A message adorns the yard of the family of missing lifeguard Molly Bish June 12, 2003 in Warren, Massachusetts. The remains of Bish, who disappeared in 2000 from her post at the rural pond where she worked, were positively identified this week. (Photo by Jessica Rinaldi/Getty Images)

What’s the latest development?

After years of trauma and seeking answers to several questions, it seems Molly’s family is now near to getting closure. About the person of interest, Worcester County District Attorney Joseph Early Jr told PEOPLE, “We got a tip on this. We investigated the tip. The guy lived in the area. He had an extensive record, a 25-page record. He did time for aggravated rape and kidnapping.”

“He was out of jail when this occurred. He ran auto repair shops in the Central Massachusetts area in the towns surrounding Warren in the Spencer, Leicester and Worcester areas. And we have growing confidence in the tip because a number of facts that have been corroborated to a continuing investigation have come through,” the attorney mentioned, before adding, “We've been working on it over the last several months.” However, Early also said that Sumner is “a person of interest and a suspect”.

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“We haven't ruled anyone out. But we still want the public's help. No bit of information should be overlooked, no matter how small,” he mentioned.

Francis "Frank" P. Sumner Sr (Facebook/ Joseph D. Early Jr., Worcester County District Attorney's Office)

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Bish family reaction

Molly’s sister, Heather Bish, told PEOPLE, “I would like to express my gratitude, first, to everyone who shared Molly's story, supported us, provided tips and information, and especially to the MA State Police and district attorneys who have given 2000% effort towards this case and its resolution. My family was shaken to learn of Frank Sumner and the atrocities he has committed against women. We have worked in Molly's love to provide advocacy to victims and safety to children in our communities, and today we feel that love coming back to us from our community.”

The grieving sister also said that though it’s important for the family to know who was the culprit, it scares them too. “Knowing who did this to Molly has always been important to us and been our objective and our goal to get this person off the street, so of course we are grateful and relieved that that is possible but we are scared. We are scared to know what happened to Molly. Just reading about what he has done to other women and that potentiality of what he could have done to Molly is frightening and it makes sort of the nightmares become real so it’s bittersweet. It brings us back to that day. I don’t know that we’ll know exactly what happened to Molly, but if we know the person who did it, that’s good enough for me,” Heather added.

If anyone has any information related to the case, they are urged to call the district attorney’s anonymous tip line at 508-453-7575.

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