Just before walking up to the school bus on that fall day, in a Polish farming community on Long Island, Sandy Blampied kissed her mother goodbye. “See you later, okay?” the 11-year-old said.
It was October 1966, and it would be Blampied’s last memory of her mother, Louise Pietrewicz.
Pietrewicz, a 38-year-old woman in a tortured marriage, withdrew $1,273.80 from her personal bank account and closed it, the Suffolk Times reported. The next day, a court document later stated, she “disappeared in the company of a man friend.”
The last time any of her relatives saw her, Pietrewicz was driving away from their family farm in Sagaponack, N.Y., alongside her then-boyfriend, William P. Boken, a married police officer for the Long Island town of Southold.
“She would never have just left me,” Blampied told the Suffolk Times. “If she was alive somewhere she would have called and told me so we could be together.”
Pietrewicz never called. For more than 50 years, she remained missing. No arrests were made, no body was found. Locals in town would occasionally murmur about the woman who vanished, but her disappearance was left unsolved, forgotten.
That began to change in October of last year, when the Suffolk Times released an in-depth investigation of Pietrewicz’s disappearance. The newspaper published a 10,000-word report and three-part documentary that spurred renewed interest in the cold case.
Detectives reopened the missing-person investigation, and two weeks ago they found skeletal remains they believed to be Pietrewicz’s in the basement of a Southold house previously owned by Boken, the Suffolk County Police Department said in a news release. Boken died in 1982, years after the house was sold.
On Wednesday, a medical examiner identified the bones as those of Pietrewicz, Suffolk police told local news outlets. DNA swabs taken from Blampied and Pietrewicz’s last surviving sibling matched DNA from the remains, relatives told the Suffolk Times.
Boken’s former wife tipped police off to the basement, where she said a body was buried shortly after Pietrewicz’s disappearance, the Suffolk Times reported.
“Sometimes later in life witnesses do come forward to give us information that maybe at one point they felt compelled not to release, felt threatened … or just out of their conscience come forward,” Gerard Gigante, Suffolk City chief of detectives, said in a news conference, without naming a specific witness.
Several years ago, detectives searched the former Boken house, which has a dirt basement covered in five inches of concrete. But they found no sign of remains, Gigante said. Additional information emerged recently that led detectives to search a different area of the basement, he said.
Detectives used ground-penetrating sonar to identify the location of the bones, and dug about four feet underground, Gigante said. Sensing that they were close, authorities dug deeper. At about seven feet underground, they noticed a jawbone. Then, they found the remains — a full skeleton.
“I just broke down,” Blampied told the Suffolk Times after learning the news that her mother’s remains had been identified. “I just broke down and cried. It is so hard to believe what has happened. I still can’t believe it. This was my mother.”
The missing-person investigation is now a homicide investigation, police said. Although it’s unclear whether a medical examiner will be able to determine a cause of death, Blampied says she’s convinced that Boken killed her mother.
“I think he killed her on the last day I saw her,” Blampied told the Times Herald-Record. “I gave her a hug and a kiss before I left for school, and I bet that was the day he killed her.”
At the time of her disappearance, some suspected that her estranged husband, Albin Pietrewicz, may have been responsible. Growing up, Blampied saw her father beat her mother and throw her against a wall, she recalled to the Suffolk Times. Shortly before she vanished, Louise Pietrewicz had left her husband and gone to her parents’ farm in Sagaponack.
Then there was Boken, who resigned from the Southold Police Department just days after Pietrewicz went missing.
In 1967, state police investigators interviewed Albin Pietrewicz and Boken, with whom Louise Pietrewicz had begun an affair. One investigator even believed he had probable cause to arrest Boken. But then, Boken was charged with a different, unrelated crime: assaulting his wife, Suffolk police recalled at last month’s news conference.
Instead of passing Boken over to the detective for further questioning, officials sent him to the town of a local judge, who quickly committed him to a psychiatric hospital, the Suffolk Times reported.
Gigante, of the Suffolk police, said Boken “essentially disappeared” afterward. During those times, with no ATMs, no cellphones and no video equipment, “it was easy to go under the radar and kind of disappear,” Gigante said at the news conference. Authorities thought he had been “wandering around the New York City area.”
But the Suffolk Times depicted the turn of events in a different light, describing local officials of the time as “men who behaved like entitled members of a small-town good old boys’ club, holding down elected and patronage jobs and controlling access to dozens of others.”
“Other than two skilled New York State Police investigators … no town official at that time seems to have pushed — or cared — to find out what happened to this missing woman. Nor did they show any concern for the young girl left behind, who had lost her mother under unexplained and suspicious circumstances,” the Suffolk Times reporters, Steve Wick and Grant Parpan, wrote.
For Pietrewicz’s surviving relatives, the discovery of her remains — so close to home — brings a long-awaited answer, but also resentment.
“It’s surreal,” Blampied told Newsday. “I have a lot of emotions. I’m happy. I’m sad. I’m angry. I want to smack somebody.”
She said she plans to have her mother cremated and hopes to bring her ashes to her home in Upstate New York.
“It’s bittersweet,” she said. “But I’ll have her with me. Now and for the rest of my life.”
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