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Who killed Marcy Fusillo?

July 27, 2011

A Special 180 Report

Marcy Fusillo Martini, pictured outside her Swan Pond condo with her dog, Rocky, was murdered in Walpole in 1996, and the killer remains at large. (Photo courtesy of Fusillo family)

This story is the result of a year-long investigation by 180, involving extensive research, numerous interviews including multiple interviews with the same specific people, dozens of phone calls and emails to sources, and numerous public records requests and public records appeals. This story has gone through a number of revisions. 180 would like to thank all those who were involved, most of whom are not even quoted in this article.

A number of sources who participated in interviews for this article have continued to provide tips and information for 180 to investigate regarding this case, and not all tips were pursued for this particular version of the article. 180 expects that this will be the first of multiple stories about this case over the coming months or years as all information is fully explored from our sources. For one, the role of the Walpole Police Department still has not been fully explored.

A local murder that has remained unsolved for fifteen years and was botched from the beginning continues to frustrate investigators as the victim’s family waits for a resolution. In the summer of 1996, Marcy Fusillo Martini was murdered in her Walpole townhouse and no suspect in her death has ever emerged. Four different District Attorneys have worked on the case to no avail, but police continue to hope the killer will be identified.

Impatient with the pace of the investigation, and growing mistrustful of investigators as the case drags on, the victim’s family believes the Norfolk D.A.’s office is not being as aggressive in pursuing the case as it should be. Michael Fusillo, Martini’s brother, said he perceives the lack of progress in the case to a “lack of interest” by the D.A.’s office over the years.

A graduate of Regis College, Marcella “Marcy” Fusillo grew up in Lincoln and moved to Walpole in 1993 with her new husband Robert Martini. She soon divorced, but stayed in Walpole and soon met boyfriend Brian J. Bowler.

Her relationship with Bowler quickly ended, and she began battling depression. She started taking antidepressants, and family members said by mid-1996 she was pulling her life together and was optimistic for the future. “She was quite happy about extricating herself from two bad relationships and further was looking forward to better times ahead,” Fusillo said.

Early in the morning of July 11, 1996, Bowler called 911 to report that he had come home and found Martini on the floor in her bedroom, apparently unconscious. Her pills were scattered on the floor next to her, and she was only partially clothed. Police responded to the home, and concluded that she had deliberately or accidentally overdosed on drugs. Medical Examiner Samuel Barrera followed standard protocol in not conducting a closer examination of the body so as not to affect any potential evidence in the event a criminal investigation occurred.

For unknown reasons, uniformed officers who responded decided not to call their own department’s detectives to the crime scene. Officers did take pictures of the body and nearby evidence, but did not secure the scene and quietly cleaned up Martini’s body within hours, never even dusting for fingerprints. By the morning, her body was at Delaney Funeral Home in Walpole, and police thought the case was closed.

But a few days later, Stanton Kessler, an official within the office of the state’s Chief Medical Examiner, called the Fusillo family directly to report that an autopsy showed Martini had been strangled, and blood tests showed that there was no overdose of drugs in Martini’s system.

Detectives’ failure to properly secure the scene and to quickly consider the death a suicide turned out to be a damaging decision, permanently affecting the chances of ever finding the killer. A Walpole police detective currently working on the case did not respond to numerous phone calls and emails requesting comment for this story.

The office of Norfolk County D.A. William Delahunt had a murder investigation on their hands, but the Fusillo family asserts staff members in the office did not immediately admit it. Although the manner of death was clear, the D.A.’s office continued to pursue the possibility that Martini had killed herself.

According to Fusillo, Frances McIntyre, who was an Assistant District Attorney at the time, came with another investigator to the Fusillo family home in Lincoln soon after the autopsy was completed. They took a look at her dog, Rocky, wanting to know whether marks on her neck, signs of strangulation, could have been caused by the dog trying to revive Martini after her death.

“Even though they had the autopsy report in their hands, they told us that the bruises were caused by the dog,” Fusillo said. From that point on, the family realized that there was something “very wrong” with the investigation, he said.

McIntyre is now a Massachusetts Superior Court judge. In response to a request for comment for this story, a court spokesperson issued a statement saying McIntyre was unwilling to discuss the case.

At the time of Martini’s death, Delahunt was running for Congress, a race he would eventually win. According to Fusillo, Delahunt and his office were extremely uncommunicative with the family regarding the investigation. He issued no public statements and held no press conferences to discuss the case. Delahunt also never offered to meet with the Fusillo family.

After Delahunt’s election to Congress in November 1996, Governor Bill Weld appointed Jeffrey Locke to take over the D.A.’s office, but Locke made no progress in the case during the two years he served. After Bill Keating became D.A. in 1999, and at the request of the Fusillo family, the investigation was brought to the State Police Cold Case Squad. But the squad was abruptly disbanded less than a year into their investigation.

The Cold Case Squad did get an opportunity to look at photos of the crime scene and to re-examine some of the physical evidence from the scene. DNA tests were conducted in an effort to identify the killer, but they revealed nothing.

Norfolk D.A. Spokesman David Traub said Keating and his team reviewed the Fusillo case, along with other unsolved mysteries, at the beginning of Keating’s tenure. Investigators re-interviewed numerous individuals throughout the country in an effort to solve the case. “There was significant investigation done in the early years of Keating’s term,” Traub said. Keating solved many other area unsolved murders during that period, but the Fusillo case continued to baffle investigators.

In 2004, the family asked Keating’s office to exhume the body with hopes of obtaining further evidence. Connie Fusillo, Martini’s mother, said the exhumation process was unnecessarily delayed. It took almost a year for the family to get approval from various authorities for the exhumation to move forward.

According to Traub, the exhumation had to wait until warmer weather. In addition, town officials in Lincoln, Mass., where Martini was buried, requested a court order before it could proceed, further holding up the process.

But Fusillo said the family first asked for the exhumation in the summer, when the body could have been dug from the ground. Furthermore, a court order is not required under Massachusetts law to perform an exhumation. According to a copy of the order provided by the Norfolk D.A.’s office, Lincoln officials requested one anyway “in order to facilitate a peaceful and expeditious exhumation.” Lincoln Town Clerk Susan Brooks did not respond to a request for comment for this story. Lincoln Police Chief Kevin Mooney, who was familiar with with the process, asked that all inquiries from a reporter go to the D.A.’s office.

Kessler, who has worked extensively with other murders in the state, said the delay would have been unusual for an exhumation. “The family can get it exhumed anytime they want,” Kessler said.

But exhumations are so rare, Traub said, that it is hard to judge whether the length of the exhumation process was unusually long. “I don’t know how long that process takes,” Traub said.

Regardless, Michael Fusillo said he came away from the exhumation with a negative opinion of the D.A.’s office. “Why was it that we were made to ask them [for the exhumation] as if we were the only ones interested in investigating it?,” Fusillo said he wondered.

When the exhumation finally occurred, in April 2005, Martini’s fingernails were removed and examined for DNA evidence. But again, DNA tests revealed nothing and the exhumation provided no new evidence of a suspect. Investigators were once again at a dead end.

Another question that the Fusillo family says the D.A.’s office has not adequately answered regards Martini’s fingernails, and what role they have played and could play in the investigation. The family presumes that Martini would have been clawing at her attacker while she was being strangled, and DNA evidence thus could be gleaned from her fingernails.

The autopsy report referenced Martini’s fingernails as “long, intact, and focally cyanotic,” which Connie Fusillo said contrasts with her memory of the nails when viewing her daughter during the funeral. “At the funeral, she noticed the nails had clearly been cut,” Michael Fusillo said. Martini characteristically wore her fingernails long, but it was not clear whether they were clipped and where the clippings are now.

The family said they have received conflicting information from detectives. Michael Fusillo said investigators told the family at one point that the fingernails were clipped for the initial autopsy but then the clippings were lost, while a different investigator has said the fingernails were never cut in the first place.

Traub said the fingernails were not kept after the autopsy and therefore remained intact. “There is nothing in the autopsy report that lists fingernails,” Traub said, referring to the list of items that were kept for testing. All the same, the lack of a clear answer from investigators rankles the Fusillo family.

Some potential assailants have been considered over the years, but Traub said no suspects have ever been officially identified. Investigators have said they believe Martini knew her killer, as there were no signs of forced entry to her home, and neighbors reported that Rocky, who was known to often bark at strangers, was quiet that night.

One local man who lived near Martini was believed to have had a relationship with her for a period of time. Area residents said he was frequently seen with Martini, but their relationship appears to have ended long before her death. The man was questioned by police, but ultimately cleared. He did not respond to two voicemail messages requesting comment for this story.

Bowler, too, was heavily questioned by police. At the time of the murder, Michael Fusillo reported Bowler’s clothes were packed in trash bags at Martini’s home as if he was moving out. According to public records, Martini filed a restraining order against Bowler in March 1996, just a few months before she was killed. The order appears to have expired by the time Martini died, however. Bowler’s address listed on the order was in Norwood, but it is not clear how long he lived there, or what prompted the order.

Bowler told police he had been working late that evening, and stopped off at two different local restaurants before arriving at Martini’s home that night and finding her body. Police confirmed his whereabouts with other witnesses.

Soon after the murder, Bowler moved out of state. His last known address was in Deerfield Beach, Florida, according to Michael Fusillo. Multiple attempts by reporters over the years, including recently, to get in touch with him have been unsuccessful. His mother, Sheila Bowler, lives in Dedham, and told a reporter on the phone she had not spoken to him in many months and does not know where he presently lives.

Other potential suspects that were ruled out by police included Martini’s estranged husband, Robert. Robert was not in Massachusetts at the time of the murder, and others confirmed his alibi. Police questioned others, but investigators have never specifically identified any suspects.

The Fusillo family says they are losing trust in investigators as the case remains open. As a result, the family is actively attempting to move the case out of the hands of the Norfolk D.A.’s office and into the jurisdiction of the Massachusetts Attorney General, who they hope will pursue the case with more ferocity.

But the family has had no success persuading Attorney General Martha Coakley to take over the case, despite communications with her office. Traub said his office has informed Coakley’s staff they have “no opposition” to allowing her office to take the case, but he noted Coakley must explicitly request to take it over. A spokeswoman for Coakley could not offer comment for this story, because it is still under the control of the D.A.

Traub maintained his office has been aggressively pursuing the case. He cited Keating’s early efforts to solve the case at the beginning of his term, and said the D.A.’s office has continually communicated about the case with the Fusillo family. New District Attorney Michael Morrissey, in office since January 2011, has also taken a look at the case during the last few months.

But Traub, who was not yet part of the D.A.’s office at the time of the murder, said that there is little else the D.A.’s office can immediately do that would break open the investigation that has not already been tried. “There aren’t any investigatory tasks left undone at this point,” he said. But he noted the D.A.’s office is also continually hopeful that future advances in forensic science will permit evidence related to the case to be further examined using new methods someday.

The D.A.’s office is also hoping someone will step forward and identify the criminal on their own. Other cases under the jurisdiction of the D.A.’s office have in the past been solved due to tips from the public, and Traub said anybody who knows any details about who killed Martini is urged to contact authorities. “This office does receive tips on old cases, and we do follow through” Traub said.

Those who knew Martini continue to hope that the case will have closure soon. “She was a wonderful, beautiful person, inside and out,” Fusillo said. “We pray everyday that it comes to some resolution, that someone is held accountable for it.”

“At the end of the day, someone committed a murder, and got away with it,” Fusillo said.

Anyone who knows anything about what happened to Marcy Fusillo Martini can call the Massachusetts State Police assigned to the Norfolk D.A.’s office at 781-830-4800 Ext. 215 or the Walpole Police Department at 508-668-1095.

(As this case develops, this reporter will continue to follow it and inform our readers of any significant updates.)

Alice Obar contributed to this report.

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