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Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Serial Killings in Springfield, MA: Did Police Do Enough?

Ernestine was a loving mother, sister and daughter.
Frederick Snell is not just grief-stricken- he is outraged. The body of his 47-year old sister, Ernerstine Ryans, was discovered at purported serial killer Stewart Weldon's Springfield home last May, along with the bodies of two other women. When police officers pulled Weldon over in late May for driving without a tail light they found a woman being held captive in his vehicle. She had apparently been repeatedly raped, beaten and stabbed over the course of the last month. The police did not go to Weldon's house to search for other possible victims immediately after the arrest. Three days passed with Weldon in jail before they received a report from his mother of a foul odor on the premises. It was that report that finally prompted them to search Weldon's house.

"Why didn't the police go after this guy at his house months ago?" Snell asked me in an interview on June 5th. "They knew he was dangerous, and he cut off his ankle bracelet in February. Didn't anyone look into that? If they did, my sister would be alive today." Snell also wonders if Weldon's mother knew more than she let on. Was that the first time she smelt a foul odor?

According to an article in the Daily Mail published on June 5, 2018, Stewart Weldon has a long criminal history dating back to adolescence and at the time of his arrest on the charge of kidnapping and rape to assault on May 27th, he was already known to authorities as a high risk offender in the community. He had outstanding warrants for assault and traffic violations, and he had just served two months for beating a woman on the street in October of 2017. At the time of that arrest, he tried to flee from police and 9 officers had to subdue him. Weldon bit one of the officers as he was being handcuffed. Police did not track the woman down for follow-up questioning. He was released in December to witness the birth of his child, and given an electronic ankle bracelet.

Ordinarily, a probation officer would get a signal indicating that an ankle bracelet had been removed, and there are procedures in place whereby the officer notifies the court to seek a warrant for immediate arrest. Did Weldon's probation officer contact the court about this development, and was anything done to locate Weldon? I contacted the Public Relations Department for the Commissioner of Probation in Massachusetts on June 6th and spoke with Coira Holland. She advised me to send her my questions in an email. Here are the questions that I asked Ms. Holland on June 6th:

Weldon reportedly cut off his electronic ankle bracelet in February 2017. Did his probation officer or any other member of law enforcement know about it? Do they receive some kind of a signal in such events? If they did not know, why not? If they did know, did anyone contact the court to request that an arrest warrant be issued in the matter? If not, why? If actions were taken regarding the destruction of the bracelet, what did those actions involve? What is normal procedure in such matters? Was that procedure followed?

 I am still waiting for her answer.
Ernestine is deeply missed by her family.

According to Snell, a resident of Torrington, Connecticut, his sister Ernerstine Ryans had been missing since early March of 2018. She lived right around the corner from Weldon in Springfield. He states that when his mother first went to the police to file a Missing Persons Report, "They did not even take it." He states that the police initially told his mother that because his sister was a drug user, she had probably just fallen off the radar and would show up eventually. According to Ryan Walsh, a Public Information Officer at the Springfield Police Department, a Missing Persons Report was filed on March 18th stating that Ryans had been missing since March 8th. "We do not have a 24-48 hour requirement before filing the reports," he told me. "In 2017, our department received 1270 Missing Person Reports on Juveniles, and 274 on adults. Each one was investigated."

Snell said that his family knew that something was seriously wrong in the weeks and months following his sister's disappearance. His sister would sometimes be out of touch with everyone- but never for more than 3-4 days. "She did have a drug problem, we knew that, but she always stayed in touch with her two daughters. One of them is 13 years old. There's no way she would go a week without talking to her daughters. And she sent messages to our sisters on Facebook all the time." Snell recently saw that his sister's last post on Facebook was in February. It was a photo of him and his son. "That just upset me so much," he said. "That we were the last ones she posted about."

He stated that his mother visited with the police multiple times and a Missing Person Report was eventually filed. Snell states that no Missing Persons Report was filed on the other victim with ties to Bristol, Connecticut, and he wonders why no report was filed. Did anyone contact the police about her? In the months that followed his sister's disappearance, people would tell family members that they thought they saw Ryans around Hartford, and this gave the family hope. Still, they could not help but wonder if the reports were false, and if something terrible had happened. Now he is haunted by the reality that his sister probably suffered for months at the hands of a deranged serial killer, and that she could possibly have been rescued by the police before dying. "We didn't get served justice," he said. "Ernerstine was a sister and a mother, a grandmother, a great friend and a big part of my family. Those girls suffered slowly."



  1. Been watching this story. Thoughts of maybe next book?

  2. I will watch and see how the legal proceedings unfold. No doubt, he will be locked up for life. I must say that I don't want to write about a serial killer again any time soon.