Between 1968 and 1978, 10 girls vanished from Tolland County. Some of the bodies have been recovered, others have not.
Two of those girls are 7-year-old Janice Pockett of Tolland and 13-year-old Lisa White of Vernon. Their cases will be profiled on the Investigation Discovery television show Dark Minds in an episode entitled, “Blonde, Blue-Eyed, and Gone.” The episode will air at 10 p.m. on Wednesday on ID.
Dark Minds creator, and investigative journalist and author, M. William Phelps has a personal connection in that he grew up in the area and knew White’s family. He said that this episode is one of the most, if not the most, emotional one of the season.
On July 26, 1973, Pockett left her Rhodes Road home to go get a butterfly she had left under a rock just down the road from her home. Her family found her bicycle on the side of the road, but she was gone. She has never been found.
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Pockett’s sister Mary Engelbrecht said that she is thrilled that her sister’s case is getting national attention.
“This July it will be 40 years since she went missing,” she said. “Although it is still an open case and the state police still occasionally receive tips to follow up on, I am excited that Mathew Phelps is taking a fresh look at her disappearance. His theory is very interesting, and I am hoping that it may lead to something.”
She added that although it has been almost 40 years, she is always hopeful that her sister’s case can be solved.
“I will never give up,” she said.
On Nov. 1, 1974, White waited until her mother left for work and then walked to a friend’s house on Prospect Street in Rockville. White was grounded because she was in trouble for something the night before. She left her friend’s house to try to beat her mother home and has never been seen again.
Phelps said that while looking into these two cases, he couldn’t overlook a possible connection to two cases in the Sturbridge-Warren area of southern Massachusetts. In 1993, 8-year-old Holly Piirainen was abducted and murdered and in 2000, 16-year-old Molly Bish was abducted and murdered. These girls, like Pockett and White, had blue eyes and blonde hair.
The Persons of Interest
Phelps works on the cases he covers on the show with criminal profiler John Kelly and an incarcerated serial killer they call “Raven.” As hard as the men tried, they could not exclude a few persons of interest in any of the four missing girl cases.
The men, referred to as the “Hunter,” the “middle brother,” and the “little brother,” all had connections to and were in the area at the time.
Phelps said that a 1975 Hartford Courant story reported how a 7-year-old girl had been abducted and released in Sturbridge, and police were trying to determine if that abduction was related to Pockett’s. The description of the perpetrator and his vehicle, along with the location, were of great interest to Phelps. The perpetrator was described as a white male, late 20s, in peak physical condition, brown hair, mustache, driving a “yellow Pinto.”
“From my years of research, I was familiar with an alleged pedophile and murderer from that area fitting this same description,” he said.
According to Phelps, he showed White’s sister, Aprille, a photo of the Hunter and she visibly reacted. The photo of the Hunter had been taken near the time White was abducted. He would have been in his early 20s, had a mustache and a solid build, and drove a yellow Starfire, which is similar to a Pinto.
The Hunter is serving 25 years for stabbing his live-in girlfriend to death in 2008, nearly decapitating her, and the two brothers both live in other states now.
Phelps said that his aim is not to solve cases, but to rekindle interest, hoping that someone remembers something and the information that is uncovered helps law enforcement move one step closer to identifying a strong suspect.
If you have any information about the disappearance of Pockett or White and would like to pass it along, please call the Connecticut State Police Missing Persons tip line at (800) 367-5678. In the cases of Bish and Piirainen, please contact the Massachusetts State Police at (413) 505-5993. If you would like to contact Phelps with any information about these cases, or other cold cases, please e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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