Genetic testing helps investigators identify 1989 homicide victim in western Massachusetts

WARWICK, Mass. — Authorities are praising advances in DNA testing for helping to identify the dismembered victim of an unsolved homicide in western Massachusetts in 1989.

Constance Holminski Bassignani, 65, was identified by authorities as the victim in the decades-old case on Thursday.

Bassignani’s dismembered remains were found off the road on Route 78 in Warwick on June 24, 1989, authorities said. At the time of her death, she had been living in Woonsocket, Rhode Island, and had previously lived in Franklin, Massachusetts.

Born in Hawaii in 1924, she was last seen alive on Memorial Day weekend in 1989. Her family and friends did not hear from her after that holiday weekend.

A short time later, her husband, William Bassignani, told family and friends at the time that she had moved back to Hawaii, authorities said. Investigators found no evidence that Constance Bassignani ever moved back to Hawaii.

William Bassignani, who died in 1993, is considered a person of interest in the unsolved homicide case that rattled the small town of Warwick in the late 1980s. The town, in Franklin County, listed a population of just 780 at the 2020 census.

Othram, a private forensic laboratory based in Houston, Texas, performed the genetic testing that led to the identification of Constance Bassignani’s remains, authorities said.

In 2023, the same company helped to identify the remains of Patricia Ann Tucker, whose body had been discovered in November 1978 under leaves on a logging road off Amherst Road in Granby.

“Once again, we are heartened to be able to identify and name the victim of a long unsolved homicide,” Northwestern District Attorney David Sullivan told reporters on Thursday. “The Massachusetts State Police and Northwestern District Attorney’s staff worked hard for this breakthrough. We hope it brings remaining family members one step closer to a sense of closure.”

Since a suspect has not been identified, the case remains under investigation, officials said.

First Assistant District Attorney Steven Gagne told reporters that authorities held the press conference on Thursday “to bring renewed attention to this case, and to hopefully trigger some additional leads in this ongoing investigation.”

“Now that we know Constance’s identity, who she was married to at the time she disappeared, and where she lived, we are hopeful there may be someone out there who knows something, no matter how seemingly small or insignificant, that could help push this investigation forward,” Gagne said.

In both the Granby and Warwick homicide investigations, Othram used the victims’ DNA profile. Through forensic genetic genealogy, the company was able to identify and connect likely relatives to each of the women.

Investigators are asking anyone who may have any information about the case to call the State Police Detective Unit at the Northwestern District Attorney’s office at 413-512-5361.

The public can also submit information through the Northwestern District Attorney’s website.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates as more information becomes available.

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