"Greenwich's other Unsolved Murder."
Matthew's Story:The narrow winding streets of the Pemberwick section of Greenwich (Connecticut) are a far cry from the leafy back roads, expansive lawns, and stately multi-floored homes that have come to characterize this well-to-do community. The neighborhood would never be mistaken for the more moneyed sections of town such as Round Hill Road, Rock Ridge, or Belle Haven.
The residents of Pemberwick fondly refer to it as "The Valley". In the Valley the homes are modest, rarely exceeding one story. The yards are small but neat, and vinyl siding seems to be the exterior of choice here. It is a community that seems to be proud of the fact that it is a pocket of working class people set amidst the conspicuously wealthy.
The Byram River is the defining geographic identity of Pemberwick. It is not much of a river, a meandering stream would be a more apt description. Until it empties into the Long Island Sound, where it widens to river-like proportions and divides Connecticut and New York in the process, it is a shallow winding ribbon of water that few outsiders in the hunt of sport or adventure bother with. Matthew Margolies, age 13, born and raised in Pemberwick, was an avid fisherman that loved this un-remarkable river nonetheless. Matthew was a regular angler on the muddy waters that coursed through peoples backyards in Pemberwick and the nearby Glenville section of town.
That last Friday of the month was a day off for Maryann Margolies, having just completed a double shift at the hospital the day before. Her kids had stayed over at her mothers house the previous evening. She drove over early on Friday morning. Matthew and his older sister Stacey were still asleep. She looked in on Matthew and remembers how he had looked so peaceful. Maryann elected not to awaken her youngest just to accompany her on her errands. She left a note that she would call later.
Arising that morning, the soon to be 8th grader at Western Junior High grabbed one of his favorite fishing rods and set out like so many other times before to idle away the waning days of Summer casting for trout in the suburban waterway.
Back in 1984 residents of the Valley would be hard pressed to come up with anyone who was more intimate with the secrets of the Byram River than the young Margolies boy. He knew every twist and turn, and more importantly every prime fishing hole. A son of a single mother, a nurse who drew long hours at a skilled nursing facility in Stamford, Matthew would spend his time exploring the modest wonders of the Byram River with his beloved grandfather George Miazga. But on the eve of the holiday weekend Matthew was no longer able to share his appreciation of the river with his maternal grandfather. He had died just two weeks before, succumbing to a long and painful illness that the young boy had been witness to.
At around 5PM Maryann Margolies drove over to her mothers house to pick up her son to bring him home for dinner. Mrs. Miazga had taken Stacey to an appointment. Matthew was not there and that worried her. She waited until her mother and daughter returned to see if Matthew had accompanied them. He had not. At around 7PM, with no word or sign of Matthew, Maryann knew that something was drastically wrong. She called the police.
A Greenwich youth division officer along with a few neighbors of the Margolies and Miazgas fanned out across the area of Byram River. Concerned phone calls were made to the homes of Matthew's friends inquiring if they knew his whereabouts. No one had seen or heard from the boy.
On Saturday the search intensified. More police were assigned to the dragnet and the volunteer firemen pitched in. The boys father, who was now living in the Dallas area, was called. He had not been contacted by his son. On Sunday the FBI was notified of his disappearance and Maryann Margolies made an emotional appeal in the local newspaper, The Greenwich Time, for help in finding her son. Police divers began to make underwater forays in the murky waters for what they hoped they would never find - young Matthew's body.
On Monday, September 2nd Maryann and her boyfriend Jim (later to become her husband) decided to look around for themselves in the area near Pemberwick Road just above the Glenville Civic Center around Hawthorne Street. She remembered just days before that her son had asked her about what was up there. His interest in the area had mystified her. She asked him why he was curious about the terrain that rose sharply to a secluded neighborhood of Glenville. He had replied that he was just curious. She asked him if anyone had approached him about going up there. Matthew said no. If he wanted to see it, Maryann told him, she would happily take him there otherwise he was not to go up there. He shrugged it off and the subject was dropped. But Maryann was troubled by Matthew's interest in the remote spot. Now, days later she was there looking for some sign of her son.
Near the dead end of Hawthorne Street in a rock strewn dump area frequented by neighborhood kids and adjacent to the wooded area above Pemberwick Road Maryann and Jim detected a foul, overpowering odor. They did not investigate any further. She notified the police of the suspicious smell upon returning home figuring the residents of the neighborhood must have complained about it as well. The police said the odor was probably just discarded fish offal from anglers on the nearby river. But being an accomplished fisherman herself Maryann remembers the stench was certainly no gutted fish, nor was it a skunk. The police did not search the area for two more days.
Fred Lambert had just returned from a trip to Virginia when he had heard of the search for the lost boy. A life long resident of Greenwich and a volunteer fire policeman who had experience in searches he took it upon himself to look up in the area that was across the street from where he worked. The Mill, his place of employment, was an old felt producing mill that had been converted into a collection of chic shops, offices, and a restaurant and was less than a mile up the road from where Matthew was last seen. The wooded hills that he climbed were just below Hawthorne and Greenway Streets. Lambert walked through the deserted dump area then followed the densely forested path. Almost immediately he saw a single sneaker, a black and white checkered one. He knew from reports the missing boy was described as wearing just such footwear when he was last seen. Lambert immediately ran down the hill and marked the spot with a bicycle tire he had found along the trail and hung it on a telephone pole on Pemberwick Road, then he dashed off to call the police.
Matthew Margolies had been dead for some time. There were multiple stab wounds on his torso. An autopsy performed by Dr. H. Wayne Carver, the states deputy medical examiner, determined he had died of the stab wounds and traumatic asphyxiation. Traumatic asphyxiation occurs when a sudden or severe compression of the chest or upper abdomen results in death by preventing a person from breathing. It was to become a telltale clue that still has not been resolved some 15 years later.
The autopsy -according to the Greenwich Police - also determined that there were no signs that the boy had been sexually molested. His athletic shorts, along with his sneakers, were found near his body but he still had his underpants on. Many have speculated that this indicates the body may have been dragged down or up the wooded embankment but the police have insisted the boy was killed where he was found. A 10-inch kitchen boning knife was also found near the body several days later. Other than declaring it the weapon used to inflict the wounds on Matthew Margolies, the Greenwich Police Department (GPD) claims to know nothing more about it having spent hundreds of hours trying to track it down. Matthew's fishing rod was no where to be found.
The GPD rarely handled this type of a crime. It had been nine years since they investigated the last homicide - the notorious Martha Moxley murder. The results would be the same. No arrests, no indictments, no convictions.
As in the Moxley case there was some crucial mistakes made by the GPD. In 1986 Police Chief Thomas Keegan over the protests of his detective division commissioned outside consultant Vernon J. Geberth, a former lieutenant commander in the New York City Police Department, to determine how the GPD handled the Margolies homicide investigation. The report was kept secret until a Freedom of Information suit brought by The Greenwich Time forced the town to release it in 1992. There were significant sections that had been blacked out on the order of Superior Court Judge Harold Dean who allowed the police to withhold that information since the GPD claimed making it public would "harm the Margolies investigation".
It was revealed, however, that there was a "clear lack of effective coordination in the early stages of the investigation". No detective had been assigned to check into the missing person report, even though it was a small boy. That oversight may have cost the department a chance of cracking the case early. Geberth added that by the time the body was found "the investigative arm of the Greenwich Police Department had, in effect, lost six days of crucial informational interviews and neighborhood canvasses, which would later prove to be significant to the homicide investigation."
Geberth also criticized then Captain William Andersen, head of the investigation, for not delegating more authority to subordinates. The department was praised, nonetheless, for conducting a "diligent, professional investigation." But recently discovered facts concerning the case would seem to challenge that ultimate pat on the back for a job well done.
One week after finding Matthew Margolies' body the GPD revealed that they had located the missing fishing pole. By all reports Matthew was last seen in possession of that rod the day he disappeared and was presumably killed. In a prepared statement the GPD Chief Keegan (the lead detective in the Moxley case back in 1975) said that the rod "had been sold by Matthew to a friend." The police would not identify the "friend" who had bought the rod. In the interview with Chief Robbins (who was a lieutenant detective working on the Margolies case in ’84) the finding of the rod had no significance and they were satisfied that the holder of the rod was not a material witness or a suspect in the homicide case.
Maryann Margolies, also in a recent interview with this reporter, would not comment about the fishing rod indicating that she had received either police or legal advice concerning the matter. However, she did say that Matthew would never have willingly parted with that fishing rod since it was gift from his grandfather and that the finding of the rod in the possession of another was "significant". If indeed Matthew was carrying that rod at 5PM on August 31st, 1984 the person who was later found in possession of it was the last person to see him alive.
It has been learned that the investigation has centered on three to five individuals who fit the profile provided by the FBI's Behavioral Science Unit in Quantico, Virginia. In the interview Chief Robbins said that his department executed three search warrants on the basis of the profile, the first ever such search warrant granted by a Connecticut judge. Robbins said no new evidence was turned up due, no doubt, to the elapsed time since the commission of the crime. Robbins would not add for the record to the description of the suspect described only as a "white male" - a description that fits nearly half of all the residents of Pemberwick and Glenville.
The chief of the 162 man force said in the interview that, "We know what happened at the crime scene." He clarified the "we" as being the perpetrator and the police investigators, and that releasing any more information on what has been learned by forensics, the psychological profile, the DNA results, and interviews would compromise their case. Yet, in the Greenwich Police chiefs own words the Margolies homicide is a "cold case".
Will the Matthew Margolies homicide ever be solved? There are indications, profoundly mysterious and troubling, that justice and some kind of closure is attainable.
One of the suspects, it has been learned, is an especially logical choice for being the perpetrator of this heinous crime. The suspect was a known bully with a history of trouble making. Matthew's body was found directly behind the suspects house, practically in his backyard. A former neighbor (who wishes to remain anonymous) claims the suspect threatened his own son using a knife similar to the one that killed Matthew Margolies just weeks before the murder. The suspect and a handful of friends often terrorized the neighborhood. Had Matthew crossed paths with these toughs in the woods that his mother had forbidden him to explore? Was this slight, gangly boy bullied? Had they demanded his fishing rod and did he resist? Traumatic asphyxiation, the telltale clue. Was Matthew thrown to the ground and pounced upon, his shorts pulled off to humiliate him, his chest so compressed that he could not breathe? Did his assailant(s) panic? Was the knife produced for the coup de grace or for some ritualistic bonding?
A second teenage suspect, also with a criminal history and a friend of the first suspect, was a resident of a Port Chester neighborhood not far from Matthew's house. Prior to the finding of the body a Port Chester policeman contacted the detective division of the Port Chester Police Department (PCPD) inquiring about a homicide in Greenwich which they were unaware of at that time. When the body did turn up the detectives were naturally suspicious especially since the policeman's son had a criminal record and was known to frequent the Byram River to fish. One PCPD detective who was interviewed said, "We always knew this kid was heading to bigger and more serious things."
The detective approached the teenager unofficially and learned from him that he had known Matthew Margolies and had often fished with him. The suspect and the father agreed to a meeting with a Greenwich detective but the boy never showed up. Eventually the boy and his father agreed that he would take a polygraph. On the day the lie detecting test was to be administered the suspect was no where to be found and the father informed the detectives that they would no longer cooperate. According to the now retired PCPD detective the suspect later joined the military, was dismissed because of a criminal offense and is now doing time in a state penitentiary. The retired detective said the GPD never followed up on the investigation of the suspect after his refusal of the polygraph.
Matthew Margolies was last seen alive in the late afternoon of August 31st almost a mile from where his body was found. No one reported seeing him walk along Pemberwick Road on any of the side streets on that bright sunny Summer afternoon. Perhaps he was not seen along those roads because he never traversed them by foot. Maryann Margolies says on the day of her sons disappearance suspicious fresh tire marks were found in front of her mothers house on Morgan Avenue which is just a short distance from the intersection of Comly Avenue and Pemberwick Road. A kid just showing off and laying some rubber, or was it a car whose cargo demanded a speedy exit? Maryann Margolies says the GPD discounted the importance of the tire marks, and to her knowledge never pursued the matter. Suspect number one had a car at his disposal.
Chillingly provocative questions that only the murderer and the police seem able to answer.
After 15 years the loss of her only son to such horrible circumstances is an everyday reality for Maryann Margolies. She still lives in the same home on Pilgrim Drive with her husband Jim. The troubling possibility that some one in her neighborhood brutally murdered her defenseless child is a pain that is compounded by the belief that there are individuals who know who that person is and they are protecting him for whatever reason. Just the thought of that brings tears to the eyes of the now 54-year old grandmother.
Maryann Margolies has been reassured by police investigators that the murder of her only son was probably not a premeditated crime and that the person or persons responsible for it would never repeat it. But as the mother of the murdered child said:
"How can anyone confidently say that. I feel that if someone has done something like this once what's to prevent them from repeating this under the same set of circumstances. People have to wake up in this community and realize this is not Apple pie, USA. Bad things happen here just like anywhere else and people have to be alert and attuned to that. Maybe I can be blamed for using poor judgment but at the time I believed a 13-year old boy could be left to fish in his own backyard in Greenwich, Connecticut. Well, obviously I was wrong. And if it wasn't safe then, what makes it more safe now?"
There is a memorial plaque on the small bridge that spans the Byram River over a dammed portion in Glenville that he was so fond of fishing. It reads:
Narrative and some photos contributed by Kevin F. McMurray (Thank you Kevin!),