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A dead Massachusetts mechanic and convicted sex criminal has been identified as the suspected killer of a teen lifeguard who disappeared more than 20 years ago.
Francis “Frank” P. Sumner Sr., who died in 2016, has been pinpointed as a “person of interest” in Molly Bish’s disappearance, according to the Worcester County District Attorney’s Office.
Bish’s belongings were found at Comins Pond in Warren, Massachusetts on June 27, 2000. For years, no trace of the teenager surfaced. Almost three years later, the girl's remains were discovered in a wooded area of a racetrack about four miles away near Palmer, Massachusetts. She was 16 at the time of her death.
"Our investigators have done a great job getting us to this point," Worcester County District Attorney Joseph D. Early Jr. told Oxygen.com in a statement.
Sumner, a convicted sex offender, "was active" in central Massachusetts from 1960 until his death, prosecutors said. He worked at car repair shops in the Worcester, Leicester, and Spencer areas. He lived in Spencer at the time of his death, officials said.
"Mr. Sumner had an extensive criminal record, more than 20 pages, including a conviction for aggravated rape and kidnapping," Early said. "We need to connect some more dots and are asking the public for their help with any tips they have about Mr. Sumner. We appreciate all the tips we have received in this case, and the new tips received since naming him as a person of interest. We want to give some closure to the Bish family. Of course, I can’t give them what they really want and that’s Molly back.”
The revelation regarding Sumner comes just weeks ahead of the 21st anniversary of Bish’s disappearance. The family said they didn’t know Sumner.
“This person, Frank Sumner, had been convicted of an aggravated rape and kidnapping,” Heather Bish, Molly's sister, told WBZ-TV. “He’s a bad guy and he hid amongst us. ... 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.”
Bish said the news also brings her family some solace after more than a two-decade search for her sister's killer.
"I have all kinds of feelings," Heather Bish, also told NBC Boston. "Most predominantly, I feel gratitude. ... I needed to know who took my sister and left her on the side of a mountain for a long time. That was important to me.”
Heather Bish, a career educator, said she looks forward to returning to some sense of normalcy following the investigators’ announcement regarding Sumner.
“I’m a teacher and I have been trying to find a murderer for 20 years and it’s been really hard,” Heather said. “I will be really grateful to be just a teacher again.”
In 2013, her mother penned a letter to her daughter’s killer, urging the individual responsible to come forward.
"We have walked in the valley of hell,” Magi Bish wrote. “You have created a fear that haunted my family. It must stop. We made a promise to Molly: you know we will never stop looking for you! That is the power of love.”
Molly Bish was born in 1983 and grew up in West Warren, Massachusetts. She attended grammar school and Quaboag Regional High School in Warren. The 16-year-old was active in soccer, basketball, and softball.
“She was always there for others, helping in any way she could," her obituary stated. “She had an amazing ability to make others laugh and a unique sensitivity which made her lovable to all.”
Bish also loved music, singing, and shopping, according to her obituary.
Investigators are urging the public to come forward with any additional information related to Sumner, including information about his employment, social circles, what vehicle he drove, as well as his lifestyle and other habits.
The investigation into Bish’s death is ongoing. The Worcester County District Attorney’s Office declined to comment further on the case on Monday.
“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 Bish said.
Anyone with information related to the case is asked to call the Worcester County District Attorney’s Office’s anonymous tip line at 508-453-7575.
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