The daughter of Louise Pietrewicz, the Cutchogue woman who disappeared in 1966 and whose remains were found 51 years later, has filed a notice of claim against Southold Town and its police department, charging that officials “knowingly” concealed the circumstances of the death and “thoroughly” failed to investigate who was responsible.
Sandra Blampied of Middletown, N.Y., who was 12 when her mother disappeared on Oct. 6, 1966, filed the notice of claim — the first step in a lawsuit — last week, with the paperwork arriving in Town Hall in Southold on March 15.
The filing, she said, is her way of honoring her mother’s memory by pursuing as best she can the truth of the murder, who knew about it and did little or nothing to uncover the facts, and what the notice characterizes as the subsequent coverup by town officials.
“They know what happened to my mother, and they knew it at the time, and they went out of their way to make sure the guilty party was not arrested and no one was held accountable,” Ms. Blampied said. “And we now know, they even knew where my mother was buried. They knew that all along, but kept it to themselves.”
Southold Town Attorney William Duffy confirmed that the town had been served with the notice of claim. He said the next step, prior to the filing of a formal lawsuit, will be a municipal hearing in which the town can depose, among others, Ms. Blampied to better understand the basis of the suit.
“We are prepared to proceed and to defend the town,” Mr. Duffy said.
The filing is the latest in a series of developments that have unfolded since October 2017, with the publication by The Suffolk Times of “Gone,” a 10,000-word special report and three-part documentary about Louise’s murder. The story pointed the blame for Louise’s murder at William Boken, a former Southold Town cop who was having an affair with Louise that fall and who was the last person seen with her. Mr. Boken died in 1982 and was buried in a pauper’s grave in New York City.
In March 2018, Southold investigators dug in the basement of the Southold home that, in 1966, was occupied by Mr. Boken and his wife, Judith, who subsequently remarried and became Judith Terry. Acting on information from Ms. Terry, who said she had been forced to witness the burial by her husband, Louise’s remains were dug up, along with articles of her clothing and two .38-caliber bullets.
In a March 15, 2018 interview with Southold Det. Kenneth Richert and former Southold detective Joseph Conway Jr., Ms. Terry dropped a bombshell: that at about the time of the murder, she told the man who had been the town police chief at the time, Joseph Sawicki Sr. what had occurred. Mr. Sawicki Sr. died in 2013.
Ms. Terry said she told the chief because he was a family friend and because he was a police officer.
In late January, the former chief’s wife, Constance Sawicki, released a statement in which she confirmed that Ms. Terry had told her husband “that a body was buried in the basement of her home.” She said her husband searched the basement, but found nothing. She went on to praise her husband’s “exemplary service” as the town police chief.
On Thursday, Ms. Blampied’s attorney, Ted Rosenberg, characterized the suit as “unique” because of the passage of more than a half century. “It is our position that the town, that people who worked for the town, knew where the body was and should have done the right thing back then,” he said.
“And we knew in January with the statement from Mrs. Sawicki that the chief was told,” he added. “There are people we want to talk to. We want to take a deposition from anyone who has knowledge of the death and coverup.”
The language in the notice of claim states that officials knowingly concealed the burial and whereabouts of Louise’s remains, failed to investigate her disappearance and murder, and impeded the investigation into the death by other parties.
Two substantial paragraphs in the claim center on Ms. Terry, stating that she told Chief Sawicki of the burial in the basement of her home. The claim specifically refers to the statement put out by Ms. Sawicki in January confirming that.
“Those facts are very important to our case,” Mr. Rosenberg said in an interview.
For Ms. Blampied, the filing of the notice, if it goes to a lawsuit and eventually to a courtroom, is perhaps a way to find answers to questions that remain about her mother’s fate.
“There are still things I would like to know,” she said. “I want to know what really happened that day. She was shot and buried — but what really happened? Who was there when it happened? Why did they go to his house? What did he say to her before he killed her?”
“I think there is still more to learn,” Ms. Blampied added. “And this was my mother — this was my mother.”
Photo caption: Sandra Blampied holds a picture of her mother, Louise Pietrewicz, outside her Middletown, N.Y., the summer before her mother’s remains were recovered. (Credit: Krysten Massa)