The cold case of Theresa M. Corley (June 1, 1959 – Dec 4, 1978) needs another review. With new technology such as the M-Vac which has proven crucial in solving cold cases, we should check several items for touch DNA.
Theresa (19) was enrolled at Holliston Junior College (this school closed in 1989) and had a job in a local factory. She played sports and wanted to become a pediatrician. The day that she went missing was her younger brother’s birthday. She was one of nine children in her family.
Dec 4, 1978
Theresa left the local bar “Train Stop” in Franklin, Massachusetts, late in the evening. She had been celebrating a friend’s birthday and had consumed a few drinks. Some news articles state that she left the bar around 1130pm.
With friends, she went to the Presidential Arms Apartments on West Central Street (Route 140) in Franklin. She left that apartment in the early morning hours of Dec 5, 1978 after an argument. To get home, she walked along West Central Street (Route 140) in Bellingham, Massachusetts.
Dec 5, 1978
While on her way home, Theresa was picked up by three men who took her to a nearby apartment complex. There, they allegedly sexually assaulted her. Of these three men only one is still alive today. Most likely in her haste to get out of the situation, she put her left shoe on and on the other foot a left shoe that belonged to one of those three men.
If properly preserved that shoe (especially heel and toe ends) should be examined with the M-Vac for touch DNA. During a later search, two right shoes were found inside their apartment. These men were questioned but nobody was ever charged with any crime in Theresa’s case.
Once outside, Theresa started hitchhiking supposedly to get back home. A Garelick Farms driver picked her up around 430am. He took her as far as the dairy farm where a second Garelick Farms driver agreed to give her a lift to Bellingham. That second driver dropped Theresa off at the police department not far from her North Main Street home. She had told him about the assault.
Theresa however never went inside the police department. Several people spotted her in that same area around 530am walking down the road in the direction of her home. She never arrived. Those are the last live reports. A few days later her remains were found near the northbound lane of Interstate 495.
Dec 8, 1978
Around 430am, a man who called himself John Burlington called police. He told them that he had seen a body in a ditch along I-495. Burlington told police that he was a business person from Connecticut. He said that he had stopped (where exactly?) to use the bathroom (this implies a structure such as a gas station, a restaurant, or a rest stop). The authorities later discovered that a Connecticut business person by the name of John Burlington did not exist.
The identity of the caller remains unclear but that is not the only mystery. This man apparently sees a dead body along a highway in Massachusetts. He reports it not by calling 911 but by contacting local police. Why? Was he familiar with the area? Usually those travelling through other states would call 911 knowing that the information would be given to the proper local authorities. In case you were wondering, the first 911 call was completed in 1968.
The third mystery is that shortly after “Burlington” called police and before a true report of a dead body came in, a young man walked into the police station. He asked “if Theresa had been found along the highway.” That man has since passed away but authorities believe he knew more than he ever said. I wish we had his DNA.
The true reporting of a dead body came on Dec. 8, 1978 from a driver on I-495 who reported a body in the woods. When police arrived, the motorist was gone but they did indeed find Theresa’s remains.
Autopsy and cause of death
Theresa was found nude, face up, with her jeans and jacket next to her body, near the exit 19 off-ramp. The autopsy report listed as cause of death asphyxiation by strangulation with ligature. It appears that physical evidence was taken from her body. If true it must be tested for DNA.
Strangulation with ligature (also known as “garroting”) means that the deceased has been strangled with some sort of cord. This can be a rope, wash line, a shoe lace, some kind of string, an electrical wire, anything ropy. Strangulation with ligature is either with partially or fully constricting the neck.
I have not been able to find online whether any rope or strings were found near her body. If so, test it for touch DNA especially at the ends. If properly preserved, Theresa’s clothes must be examined for touch DNA as well especially around the zippers and buttons. Her blouse/top, underwear, and her shoes were listed as not found.
Her body apparently did not show trauma of dragging marks. According to newspapers this was “leading investigators to believe that at least two people probably disposed of the body.” I disagree. A grown man could have carried her especially if she was unconscious or already dead. It is crucial to search the preserved clothes with the M-Vac to see if there are any signs that she might have been killed elsewhere and then was transported/carried to the scene where she was found. Pollen, dust, dirt, gravel, sand, etc. can give police an indication where she had been.
Franklin Police, Bellingham Police, and the Massachusetts State Police continue to investigate. They are asking for the public’s help. If you have any information about this case please call
- the Bellingham Police Department’s tip line at (508) 657-2863 or
- the Franklin Police Department’s tip line at (508) 440-2780 or
- email them at [email protected] or contact
- the Norfolk County District Attorney’s Office tip line at (617) 593-8840
Thank you for remembering Theresa M. Corley with us.