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No giving up on missing girl; Deborah Quimby disappeared 30 years ago.

Byline: Matthew Bruun


TOWNSEND - Police Chief Erving M. Marshall Jr. said he thinks about the disappearance of 13-year-old Deborah A. Quimby every single day.

Reports about the girl's disappearance are in a conference room next to the chief's office at the police station, put there to get organized in case another investigator wants to take a look at them.

For years the records had been inside the chief's office, alongside those generated for the unsolved killing of Judith Vieweg, a 31-year-old teacher and artist found stabbed to death in September 1973.

Chief Marshall said he keeps the cases close because they are the only unsolved major crimes in this community.

Deborah's parents arrived at their Smith Street home 30 years ago today to find a note from the girl saying she had some issues and was going to go think things out. She told a friend she was going to go to her grandfather's camp on Vinton Pond Road on her brown Takara 10-speed bicycle.

"She was going to be in touch with her mother and she never called," the chief said.

Her parents looked for her at the camp but found no trace. They called police, and a search that has spanned three decades began.

No trace of Deborah or her bicycle has ever been found.

"It was like Debbie vanished from the face of the Earth," Chief Marshall said.

The disappearance has echoed for decades in this town of about 9,000 people, a peaceful community that was shaken by the disappearance.

Deborah's father, Richard "Jake" Quimby, died last fall. Her mother, Ann Quimby, declined to be interviewed for this article.

There have been some tantalizing leads in the investigation.

In 1987, Townsend police authorities traveled to Virginia to interview Townsend native Geoffrey Alan Ward, who had admitted raping and murdering a 38-year-old woman and a 14-year-old girl in that state. Mr. Ward denied any involvement in Deborah's disappearance, and no evidence could be found linking him to the crime.

Mr. Ward escaped from a Virginia prison in February 1996 and was recaptured a day later.

An anonymous handwritten letter sent to police almost five years ago sparked a major effort in the ongoing search for Deborah.

The letter was sent to the "chief of police" in Townsend in November 2002. It was about three-quarters of a page in length. It said police should search for her body in Walker Pond off Turnpike Road. The letter writer did not claim responsibility for the girl's disappearance.

Chief Marshall called the state police and Environmental Police, and they did a sonar search of the pond but did not reach any conclusions.

Another letter came in the winter of 2003 - in what the chief described as similar handwriting - urging police to take a closer look at a specific section of the pond.

The letters had come out of the blue, he said, noting the case had not been in public discussion for years, although pondering the case had been part of his own daily routine for a quarter-century.

"The decision was made to drain the pond," the chief said.

What followed was an arduous 38 days of intensive searching through the murky bottom of Walker Pond, as volunteers toiled with hands and heavy equipment for any trace of Deborah. They found none.

"The conditions over there were horrendous," the chief said, recalling the sight of cranes being lowered more than a dozen feet into the muck, material he described as "muddy quicksand."

"Out of all the stuff we've done on this," Chief Marshall said, "that was the biggest letdown."

Searchers were heartbroken when the effort was suspended, but the chief said it was clear there would be no resolution.

He waited for more correspondence from the anonymous tipster, but none has


"I'd go back (to the pond) tomorrow if I had anything specific," Chief Marshall said.

The letters have been analyzed for any forensic clues, but nothing ever materialized, he said.

Just weeks ago police were alerted to bones found by the side of Turnpike Road. An analysis by a forensic anthropologist determined they were animal bones, however. The experience was sadly typical of the investigation, the chief said, describing promising leads that fell apart.

"It's highs and lows," the chief said. "You get kind of hopeful and you're on the edge of your seat, and you get the results and it's kind of a letdown."

The search is not over. The FBI's behavioral science unit will take a look at the case, Chief Marshall said, and Mrs. Quimby has supplied a DNA sample to authorities that could help identify remains.

The chief, who was a member of the department when Deborah vanished, said he will never let the case be forgotten.

"I leave the files in my office for that reason," he said.


CUTLINE: (1) Deborah Quimby (2) Mud from the bank of Walker Pond is lifted by crane to be examined by searchers in Townsend on July 12, 2004. (3) Townsend Police Chief Erving M. Marshall Jr. addresses the media after searchers had probed Walker Pond on July 9, 2004.

PHOTOG: (2) T&G File Photo/RICK CINCLAIR (3) T&G File Photo/ED WOZNIAK
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Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Date:May 3, 2007
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