The VSP’s oldest open case – The Murder?

Copyright by Brian Lindner

Pauline Gill Molony

Pauline Gill Molony

Every day dozens of Vermont State Police members drive past the current Chittenden Bank at the traffic lights near the Complex in Waterbury. Few know that the bank is located on the site where Pauline Molony met her untimely death over six decades ago and the case is still officially open.

The Waterbury Inn once stood at the corner of South Main and Park Row. Built without blueprints in 1865, shortly after the Civil War, the Inn continued to expand and improve until it became a “destination resort.” Easy highway and railroad access made it a popular vacation spot into the early 1950s. Tourists were drawn especially from New England, New York, and Canada. The Waterbury Inn was most popular with those of upper income levels.

On the morning of March 18, 1950, the partially clad body of the owner, Pauline Gill Molony (41) was found in a rear alley, face-up and spread-eagled in the fresh, wind-blown, snow. Waterbury doctors C. B. Orton and John Wright were summoned, but despite the urging of Eric Graves, the Health Officer, both were unwilling to sign a Death Certificate. Each doctor agreed that the cause of death was open to question since there was no obvious fatal mark on her body and no known prior medical condition. Other marks on her hands, knees and face appeared suspicious.

The Waterbury Inn

The Waterbury Inn – Waterbury Historical Society photo

Amazingly, it wasn’t until early evening when her husband – Edmond Molony, contacted Waterbury Police Chief Forrest N. Reber to notify him of the death. Reber in turn contacted the three-year-old Vermont State Police to ask for help. At the urging of an alcoholic doctor, Henry St. Antoine, who resided at the Inn, Mr. Molony requested an autopsy on his wife. Dr. Joseph W. Spelman, the Vermont State Medical Examiner, conducted an autopsy that evening inside the V.L. Perkins Funeral Home on South Main Street in Waterbury. It was discovered that Mrs. Molony had died of a hard blow low on the back of her head. Spelman ruled a cerebral hemorrhage as the cause of death.

The State Police then launched a full investigation under the direction of Lt. John G. Peters and Detective Almo G. Franzoni. Immediately, it became obvious that there was some limited evidence she could have fallen on the ice, hit her head on the corner of the building, and crawled a short distance until overcome by her injury and the cold. On the other hand, there was a rich lot of possible suspects and nobody could explain why she was found outdoors with so little clothing in March. Likewise, nobody could fully explain the blood splatter and other evidence at the scene. For example, one of her socks was found the next morning hundreds of feet away in Dr. Orton’s driveway.

Lt. Peters, Detective Franzoni and Lab Technician Hemenway used several advanced techniques during their investigation. At a time when it was not common, they incorporated, microscopic fiber analysis, microscopic hair analysis, blood typing, and blood spatter analysis. They spent hours carefully dusting several inches of new snow away to expose the surface as it has been at the hour of her presumed death.

The primary suspect was Edmond Molony (53), the husband who told a somewhat confusing story and admitted to having a fight hours before her death. He heaped suspicion on himself in a number of ways. One example was the immediate removal and washing of the limited clothing in which she had been found. He later had a hard time producing these items for the police. Additionally, he didn’t notify any law enforcement agency of his wife’s death for nearly 12 hours – neither did the doctors, the health officer or any of the many employees and guests at the Inn! At a time when VSP had no such capability, Molony was transported out of state for a polygraph with the results having been inconclusive. A read of the transcript does leave one with a vision of police officers hovering over Molony in a dark room lit by a single bare light bulb suspended over his head.

The other suspects were far lower down the list and included a recently fired and alcoholic physician from the Vermont State Hospital. The doctor was living at the Inn and not paying for his room and board. It would appear that the Molony’s were planning to evict him.

The Front Desk Clerk on duty that night and the last person to admit to seeing her alive was investigated. It was quickly determined that he had previously run a house of prostitution in Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom. His past clearly was not a clean slate.

Another suspect was a former patient at the Vermont State Hospital and handyman employed at the Inn in exchange for room and board. He was apparently ill treated by Mr. Molony and was unable to be a good witness for himself.

The last suspect was a refrigeration repairman who had worked on the freezer at the Inn. Mrs. Molony had been convinced that someone had been stealing meat from the freezer. There was initial speculation that she was checking the freezer and had surprised a thief in the act.

The case remains as an officially unsolved/untimely death. A key reason is the subsequent events that overtook the primary suspects.

a) The Desk Clerk died of a heart attack within eight months
b) The Doctor committed suicide in July of 1951.
c) Edmond Molony died of cancer in July of 1952.
d) The Handyman was incapable of providing meaningful testimony.

With the subsequent disappearance of the building itself (burned in a massive fire on November 3, 1953) and the loss of most related police files, this case is no longer solvable unless a new witness(s) comes forward. The last known witness died several years ago.

Mrs. Molony’s death certificate on file in Waterbury still shows that the case is “under investigation” and has never been amended

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