Investigators from both Vernon, Connecticut, and state police as well as the Chief State Attorney’s Office in Tolland County have joined forces to create a task force charged with looking again at three cases of girls gone missing decades ago from eastern Connecticut. The organization of the Tolland County Cold Case Task Force was announced on Thursday by prosecutors and police. Michael Foley, a former Connecticut police detective, will consult with the task force. He was a member of the Eastern District Crime Squad, which was involved in the investigation of one of the disappearances.
The first disappearance occurred in 1968 when Debra Spickler, 13, went missing while walking in Henry Park on her way to a Vernon swimming pool. Spickler had been visiting relatives in the area. In Tolland, located near Vernon, 7-year-old Janice Pockett was last seen in July 1973 while riding her bicycle. She was on her way to retrieve a dead butterfly that she had placed under a rock. The last case, on Nov. 1, 1974, is of Lisa White, 13, last seen while on a walk on Prospect Street near a park in Vernon.
According to Lt. William Meier of the Vernon police, the task force will work to determine whether the three girls’ cases are related. They will also investigateother disappearances from the Vernon,Connecticut, area to decide whether they also should be included as part of the task force’s probe. The 40th anniversary of the disappearances along with the discovery of unidentified human remains last year in Vernon renewed the public’s interest in the three girls’ cases. Tests later revealed that the remains were consistent with a woman who had been middle-aged at the time of her death. DNA was recovered from the remains that did not match that of any of the missing girls.
Meier asserted that thorough investigations into the disappearances had been done, but with modern technology and improvements in the procedures followed by law enforcement, the task force may be able to unearth new information. Lisa White’s sister, Aprille Falletti, expressed excitement over the formation of the task force. Just 10 when her sister went missing, Falletti said that she “truly believe[s] that there is somebody out there who knows something.”
Mary Engelbrecht, 47, is the sister of Janice Pockett. She said that over the years, there have been many tips that have come in regarding the case, including a confession by a carnival worker. Charles Pierce was found guilty of the murder of a 13-year-old Massachusetts girl in 1969. Before his 1999 death in prison,
Pierce admitted to killing several other children, but charges were never filed. In 1980, a search of the area where Pierce confessed to burying the body of Janice Pockett failed to find any evidence. Engelbrecht added that the loss of her sister is sometimes “overwhelming,” but she maintains hope that her disappearance will be solved.
Speaking about the formation of the task force, Kevin Kane, chief attorney for Connecticut, said that the state “owe[s] it to them…to take another crack at these cases.” In an effort to stir up new information, a reward of $150,000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of any person responsible for the disappearance of the girls.
By Jennifer Pfalz