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Sunday, February 15, 2015

The Discovery of Karen Everett

Foliage junkies across Connecticut know that the peak of the season is around Columbus Day each year. In Litchfield County, the landscape is set afire every October with violent flames of red, orange and yellow, intermixed with broken lines of evergreen. Tourists with credit and debit cards in hand make the easy day's drive from New York City and Boston to behold the beauty up close. They visit the quaint small towns along the winding country roads, most of which are replete with seventeenth and eighteenth century history, local artisans, cozy eateries, and many, many family-owned Italian restaurants. The Nutmeg State warmly welcomes the tourists, who give a great boost to the state's economy.

The residents of Northwest Connecticut, on the other hand, tend to rake leaves.

Tom Pollack was doing yard work on the Saturday (or maybe it was a Sunday, he now forgets) when he got the call about the body in the ravine. It was October 16, 1988, or maybe it was October 15, 1988. Today, on February 14,  2015, Tom can't recall what kind of yard work he was doing. Rest assured, like most locals with more than a quarter acre of land, Tom was probably raking leaves that day. Or mowing grass before the first frost arrived. Or picking up branches from the windblown trees....

Virginia Brown's house was located just off Route 8, at the Harwinton Exit. She called to alert Tom to a "very bad road problem" nearby. It made sense for Mrs. Brown to call Tom. As the highway supervisor, a job otherwise titled Public Works Director in many towns across the country, Tom was, after all, in charge of all things road related. He asked her for details but Mrs. Brown would say nothing else. Seems she was too disturbed to expound. Tom wasn't on the clock that day, and a general indication that there was a "very bad road problem" wasn't enough to incite him to immediately drop his rake and run to investigate.

Minutes later, Tom was called by Lloyd Shanley. A longtime resident of Harwinton, now deceased, Lloyd was the town's first Democratic selectman in a town that historically voted Republican. Mrs. Brown had just phoned him as well, complaining about the "very bad road problem" stating, "you have to come see this", with no further explanation. Lloyd's follow up call prompted Tom to put down the rake, so to speak.

Tom and Lloyd parked their vehicles at Mrs. Brown's house and she led them to the place of concern on foot. She stopped at the top of an embankment and pointed to the object, placed about three quarters of the way down the incline. There, at the foot of a tree, lay the partially dressed body of Karen Everett.

Tom cannot recall if the dead young woman had a top on, but she definitely wore no garments from the waist down. (A subsequent source says she wore only a grey tank top). Needless to say, that detail indicated that the crime was sexual in nature. (That's my observation, not Tom's. As an aside, another source has told me that two of the bodies wore only one sock, indicating that the killer had taken a sock from each victim as a perverse kind of "trophy". More on this detail later).

The killer must have thrown the woman's body over the guardrail and it toppled down to that position. My first thought is that the killer must have been a strong, sturdily built man, or perhaps two men did the job of dumping the approximately 5'4, 110 pound victim over the rails. Tom counters that the body may have been tossed off the back of a pick-up truck, as a future suspect was known to drive a pick up truck, and so body size or strength was not an issue. Regardless, it appears that poor Karen was dead on arrival at the grisly burial ground.

Tom and Lloyd did not go to the body, but immediately phoned the state police. They quickly arrived at the scene, and within an hour, the body had been carried up to the roadside. The absence of decomposition indicated that this was a relatively fresh kill. Karen had obviously been strangled. Police would subsequently identify her based on fingerprints.

Does Tom have anything else to share about his observations of the victim? I'm hoping he may get a little teary and touch upon his feelings at that moment in time. Not Tom. His eyes drift to the table and he flatly says, "No, not really. That's it."

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