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Sunday, March 1, 2015

The Route 8 Copy Cat Killer

Hell hath no fury like a man scorned.

Michael Curry sat at a bar with a friend in early January, 1993. He was both devastated and enraged. His girlfriend had dumped him the week before, on Christmas Eve. Now, chugging down some beers and stewing over the break-up, the Thomaston man swore to his friend that he would get revenge by killing another woman. Didn't matter who. He just wanted the satisfaction of seeing a female beg for her life before he shot her in the head.

That same evening, Curry drove his Yugo to the Hillside section of Waterbury, where he picked up Evelyn Betancourt, a prostitute and crack addict.

At age 27, the unwed Betancourt had already mothered four children, two of whom had been adopted out through the state's Department of Children and Families. Needless to say, birth control was not a part of Betancourt's daily routine. Her life had long since disintegrated into a tail spin of sexual tricks in exchange for money with which she purchased crystal rocks of crack cocaine.

For just one greasy twenty dollar bill, Betancourt could experience the juxtapositional euphoria that only crack provides: the mellow buzz of marijuana, combined with an almost otherworldly sense of clarity and empowerment. When the high went away after only twenty minutes, her mouth tasted like chemicals and she was left with a lingering desire for another rock. Hours afterward, all she could think of was how she could find the next twenty dollar bill and smoke some more crack. It didn't matter that she was currently five months pregnant. She needed that high.

Brenda Betancourt later described her sister Evelyn, known to friends as "Lisa", as a tough woman who was familiar with the rules of the streets. Lisa knew not to to go into the cars of strangers, especially after the murders of Everett and Alvarado. She kept a book with the names and numbers of her regular clientele. According to Brenda Betancourt, those were the only men that her sister served.
But for some reason, perhaps due to her ravenous craving for crack, on that cold night January night in 1993 Betancourt broke her own rule and stepped into Curry's vehicle.

It would be the biggest mistake of her life.

Curry drove Betancourt to an abandoned drive-in theater in Waterton and pulled out a pistol. Betancourt fought for her life. She bit Curry and tore a clump of hair from his head. It was no use- Curry overpowered the pregnant prostitute. He forced her to her knees. Betancourt plead for Curry not to shoot. In response, Curry shot her four times in the head. He then drove 10 miles north, to the desolate area off Valley Road in Harwinton, and disposed of the body. Curry had read in local newspapers that two other bodies had been dumped in that location a few years earlier. It made sense to him to mislead the police into thinking the crime was the work of the cold case serial killer.

It was a sunny afternoon in January when Harwinton's Highway Supervisor, Tom Pollack, drove past the ravine where he had found the body of Karen Everett five years before. Known by locals as "The Forgotten Valley", the vacant stretch of land was once a hub of activity. In the mid-eighteenth century that part of Harwinton, known as Campville, boasted a mill, a post office, and a railroad that ran through the valley. The Hopkins-Alfred Clock shop, powered by the rambling waters of the Naugatuck River, employed many locals and was the pride of the town. In addition to clocks, it produced a variety of items essential to the Yankee way of life, including clothes pins, cash register components, and rifles.
The Hopkins-Alfred clock shop in Campville, CT. 

When the Great Flood came upon Harwinton in 1955, the old clock shop had been vacant for decades. Still, there were many residents living in Campville, and the small hamlet had a hotel, a bar, a restaurant, and various shops. The river was also a great draw to avid fishermen.

After the flood, homeowners sold their washed out land to the Army Corps of Engineers. They were given five years to vacate the premises. Consequently, Campville took on something of a post-apocalyptic air: residents stopped caring for their lawns, weeds grew the size of small trees, and farmers sold their herd and let their chickens run free through the empty streets.

One by one, homes were torn down, effectively erasing a once vibrant community.

After the Everett and Alvarado murders, Tom Pollack was assigned to create a roadway leading from Valley Road part-way up a mountain. Police then placed a camera within a fiberglass stone and camouflaged it with a hemlock branch. Night and day, the hidden blue eye gazed upon "The Forgotten Valley", surveilling for killers.

From the distance of the roadway, Tom saw what looked to be a human mannequin down by the river, about 500 feet from where the bodies of Everett and Alvarado were discovered. Three days later, his neighbor, Charlie Thierry, would also see the mannequin from the roadway. Both men suspected teenagers had stolen it as some kind of prank. By then, Campville had a nasty reputation as a place where all types of mischief occurred: drag racing, midnight parties in the woods, and acts of prostitution, for example.

When Thierry saw the mannequin, it had been moved up from the river's edge and was located about fifty feet away from where Pollack first saw it. Had Curry returned to the body to further corrupt it? Now it was positioned against the stone foundation of the old clock shop. Was this location not within the camouflaged camera's purview?

Thierry and a friend walked over to take a look and saw something that few mannequin's possess: pubic hair. In the winter sun, the nose was starting to thaw; a bug crawled out of the dead woman's nostril, across a fresh stream of blood that trickled into her mouth. Some reddish-brown hairs were subsequently removed from the corpse's left hand and stored as forensic evidence. Police initially thought that the body was the work of the Route 8 serial killer and that strangling was the cause of death. An autopsy later confirmed that Betancourt's swollen black and blue eye was in fact the site of the gun shot wounds.

Not long after, an anonymous caller tipped off the police that Curry was the killer. Interestingly, questioning of Curry led nowhere, and Curry went on to live as a free man until he began serving an eight year sentence in 1994 for setting a fire in Thomaston back in 1988. The fact that Curry was an arsonist, facing more arson charges originating in Plymouth, fits the profile of a revenge killer with low impulse control. While in prison, Curry bragged to a cellmate about killing Betancourt. Curry was thereafter arraigned on charges of capital felony murder, murder, and first-degree kidnapping. He had an alibi for the murders of Everett and Alvarado, however, and is not the Route 8 killer.

Her knees hit the cracked pavement. A giant white movie screen hovered in the background. 
'You son of a bitch', she thought.
'My life is nothing but shit, and here I'm begging to keep it. 
Don't shoot. Don't....'
The film fades to black.  
Evelyn "Lisa" Betancourt. Rest in Peace. 

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