The Molly Bish legacy, 20 years later

BOSTON — I never met Molly Bish, but in the twenty years since she disappeared, I feel like I’ve met her spirit.

And I bet a lot of people reading this feel exactly the same way.

To bring everyone up to speed, it was on the morning of June 27, 2000, that Molly Bish, a 16 year old lifeguard, disappeared from the beach at Comins Pond in the tiny Central Massachusetts town of Warren.

As hours turned to days, the Bish investigation captured headlines across New England.

Molly could have been anyone’s daughter.

She was a three sport, Honor Roll student. She had boyfriends. She liked to hang with her friends.

And on June 27, 2000 Molly vanished. In broad daylight. On a town beach close to home.

Molly’s remains were found three years later in Palmer. Her killer has never been arrested.

“For us, 20 years is the same as 20 days,” said Heather Bish, Molly’s sister. “We miss Molly as much as we did the day she was taken from us.”

Heather Bish no longer lives in Warren.

But she is devoting her life to police reforms that could prevent another family from enduring her ordeal.

Heather is pushing for legislation that would provide every Massachusetts police department with training to handle cases of missing children.

It might seem like a simple thing.

But consider what happened to the Bish family.

“When Molly disappeared, she was judged as a sixteen year old who took off with her friends,” said Heather. “There was a lot of bias in how the police handled that. They didn’t call my mom for three hours. Seventy six percent of children who are abducted by a stranger are killed within the first three hours. So, by the time we went looking for Molly, statistically she might already have been dead.”

Heather hopes to add language to a crime bill the Massachusetts legislature is considering, that would ensure all police departments, no matter how small or rural, are properly trained to handle a case of a missing child, and not to make assumptions about what might have happened.

“If we have tools, and we know how to use them, we have a higher success rate of protecting our children,” said Heather.

On Saturday, the Bish family will spend the day at the family home in Warren. When the sun sets, Heather will drive her parents from the house to Comins Pond, the same route Molly took that last morning.

It will be a moment to reflect and honor a young woman taken from all of us. A young woman whose spirit lives on in her family, a spirit that continues to touch people everywhere, twenty years later.  

If you have any information about the disappearance of Molly Bish, call Mass State Police at 508-453-7575.