Filling in Gaps
As the scant remaining record shows, however, no further official police action was taken in the case of Louise Pietrewicz from approximately 1968 until 2012.
With investigatory documentation lacking – and with so many of the key players now dead – the exact events and chronology of those years, and the activities of those involved, are almost impossible to nail down.
But details have emerged through interviews and from documents filed many years after Louise vanished that shed some additional light on this clouded story.
There is, for example, a filing submitted in 1974 to Suffolk County Surrogate’s Court by Judith Boken, who was then pursuing a “judgment of absolute divorce by reason of abandonment and cruel inhuman treatment.” That filing gives the date of the assault by her husband as Dec. 17, 1967, and states that her children, then 2 years and 7 months old, were witnesses to the abuse.
Why Boken was not arrested until two days later remains unknown. But by 1974, he had not been seen by family members for years. In fact, a woman who was married to a Boken at that time said in an interview that she never saw him after 1969 and did not know where he was or if he were even alive.
He was alive.
Judith Boken, who declined to be interviewed for this story, became Southold town clerk in 1975 and remarried about a year later. Court papers filed on her behalf in 1978, related to ownership of the Southold house, show that her attorney, William Price, had discovered Boken was living in Vineland, N.J., where his sister, Jennie Rivituso, also resided.
The same filing shows that Boken had hired Greenport attorney Frederick J. Tedeschi to represent him in the case.
A year later, on May 3, 1979, an obituary appeared in The Suffolk Times for his mother, Stella Boken. It listed her surviving children and their hometowns, but gave no location for “William.” Any town official who might still have felt the Louise Pietrewicz case should be pursued, and who read that obituary, would have seen that he was still alive.
A May 1981 probate proceeding in Suffolk County Surrogate’s Court over the estate of Boken’s father, Joseph Boken Sr., who died in July 1980, shows that he had talked with members of his family but refused to disclose where he was living.
An attorney for Suffolk’s Public Administrator wrote in a filing for that proceeding that “it is obvious … that William Boken is ‘playing games’ and for what purpose your deponent is not aware; but he appears to be a man on the move, and he refuses to let anybody know of his whereabouts.”
In a related affidavit, Jennie Rivituso said she spoke with her brother by telephone on Feb. 16, 1981, and that he told her he was “fully aware of the probate proceeding” but again would not disclose his whereabouts. Boken also told his sister that he’d hired an Atlantic City attorney, who did know where he lived.
Correspondence from the Surrogate’s Court file shows that efforts to serve Boken with papers so his father’s estate could be settled continued for several years. An envelope in the file marked “returned to sender” suggests Boken was living on West 68th Street in New York City.
In a January 1983 statement, his brother, Joseph Jr., said he’d last seen William four years earlier in Manhattan.
“That was the first and last time I saw him in 15 years,” his brother wrote.
That meant he’d likely seen Boken in 1968, two years after Louise’s disappearance and a year after the failed state police effort to arrest him. There is no written record to show if town police ever inquired of the family about Boken’s whereabouts.
In 2010 and 2011, after women’s bones were found at Gilgo Beach, members of Louise’s family feared hers might be among them. The passage of more than four decades had not dimmed their hope that one day they would learn her fate.
Beanie Zuhoski said that some years earlier, she had received a call concerning remains that had been discovered and asking about Louise’s dental records. But by then, those records were no longer available.
The family continued to appeal to the Southold Town Police Department to pursue the case, never losing hope that a break might someday emerge.
Louise’s case also came up in conversation at an April 2012 birthday party in Southold for the Zuhoskis’ son-in-law Edward King. Bud Griffiths, a retired New York State Police investigator, was a guest at the party and heard the story for the first time.
“Several family members told me what happened to Louise in 1966,” he recalled in an interview. “They had not forgotten and they asked me … if I knew investigators Cobey and Fairchild. I knew that Cobey had died years before and Fairchild was living in upstate New York and retired from the state police.”
Griffiths told the family to call Southold Town police and ask them about the results of any investigation. He also told them he would call Dick Fairchild to see if he remembered the case from 46 years earlier.
“When I got him on the phone, he said, ‘You mean the Cutchogue woman?’ ” Griffiths recalled. “He had never forgotten it.”
In the 90-minute conversation that followed, Fairchild expressed bitterness that, all these years later, the case remained open and without an arrest. “He was very frustrated about that,” Griffiths said. “It still really bothered him.”
He even volunteered to return to Long Island if it would help restart an investigation. Griffiths wrote down his comments in the hope they would help launch a new probe.
Fairchild said he was convinced that Boken and Louise had, in fact, gone to Florida and that both had returned. He said he had confirmed it with an airline. That trip, he estimated, took place in the days just after Stephanie wrote her first note that she’d gone missing Oct. 6.
Fairchild also told Griffiths that he’d spoken with Dr. Honig, the Glen Cove physician whose name was found in Louise’s pocketbook, and who confirmed that she was pregnant at the time of her disappearance. (Other interviews for this story show that Dr. Honig, who is deceased, was a well-known cardiologist, not a gynecologist.)
He also recalled interviewing Pietrewicz, who confirmed that Louise had been in a relationship with a Cutchogue man before Boken.
According to Fairchild, Pietrewicz also made it clear his wife was an acute embarrassment to him, that he knew she was pregnant and that he “hoped she remained missing.”
Bud Griffiths also wrote down the following comments:
“Fairchild believed that it was possible that Boken killed Louise upon returning from Florida and dumped her body somewhere between the airport and Southold and intentionally told his wife that he buried her in the basement, knowing his wife would share the information with the police.
“Fairchild further advised that it was becoming apparent that many local politicians were knowledgeable of what happened and were ‘clamming’ up. Based on numerous interviews conducted, he advised that Southold was a den of iniquity and had nothing over Peyton Place.” [“Peyton Place” was a 1956 novel and 1960s television soap opera about murder and extramarital affairs in a small New England town.]
“That after interviewing Mrs. Boken, and finding numerous inconsistencies in Mr. Boken’s interviews, Cobey and Fairchild contacted the Southold PD and out of courtesy invited them to send an officer with them to arrest him for the murder of Louise Pietrewicz.
“That upon arriving in Southold and going to Boken’s residence, a family member told them that William Boken had committed himself to a mental institution and was unavailable for interviews. Fairchild later confirmed that he had been admitted to Central Islip State Hospital as an insane person before their arrival.
“Fairchild further advised that after this it was becoming apparent that there was definitely some sort of collusion going on between the police department and/or Town fathers and felt that Boken had been tipped off that the SP was enroute to lock him up.”
Backing up Fairchild’s sense of collusion and the involvement of town officials beyond Judge Tuthill are minutes from a Town Board meeting held the evening of Boken’s arrest. Those records show a special board meeting was convened without public notice at 10:30 p.m. in Supervisor Albertson’s Greenport law office. Tuthill was in attendance along with the entire board.
Retired investigator Fairchild never made it back to Southold to assist in a reopening of the Pietrewicz case. He died not long after speaking with Griffiths.
But Griffiths did put Fairchild in touch with Southold police Det. Joseph Conway Jr.
Conway, in turn, spoke with Judith Terry, who told him that Boken had been “aware that the police were coming for him and placed guns in several closets as if he were preparing for a fight.” She also reiterated her ex-husband’s comment that he’d buried the “bitch” in their basement. That news prompted the detective to contact the Suffolk County Police Department’s Homicide Squad.
Det. Sgt. Ed Fandry came out to Southold, where a portion of the basement floor at the former Boken home, which was now concrete, was ripped up. Ground-penetrating radar was used to search for remains, but again, nothing was found.
On June 25, 2013, shortly before he retired from the Southold police force, Det. Conway filed a report that detailed, among other things, his own interactions with Dick Fairchild.
“On 01/10/13, the undersigned Detective contacted … Fairchild … He remembered the incident in very fine detail. Fairchild indicated that the NYSP were contacted by the family and asked to look into the Pietrewicz disappearance. At that time the family indicated that they did not believe that the Southold Police Department was adequately investigating the incident because he was a member of the force.”
“Investigator Fairchild indicated that at this point he was convinced that Boken was responsible for Louise Pietrewicz’s disappearance and began the process of attempting to locate Boken. Fairchild advised that it appeared as if information got out that they were looking to speak with Boken and a family member alerted him and he was committed to a psychiatric hospital in Central Islip. This happened prior to the NYSP being able to question Boken and he was subsequently found to be mentally ill and retained in the facility for treatment. After Boken received this diagnosis the NYSP were unable to pursue the matter any further.”
This summer, Sandy emailed state police requesting records on its 1966 investigation. She received a letter in July informing her that they “failed to locate any records responsive to your request.” Earlier she had learned that the file on her mother’s case had been “purged,” according to state procedure. The July letter also described the New York State Police as the “assisting” agency in the case and directed her to Southold police for information.
The ball had always been in Southold’s court.