Molly Bish, Rodney Stanger may have crossed paths

( -- At Comins Pond in Warren, 13 summers have now come and gone, yet the mystery of what happened to 16-year-old lifeguard Molly Bish remains.

On the morning of June 27, 2000, on the second day of her new lifeguard job, and within minutes of starting work, Molly Bish was abducted.

Molly's remains would not be found for another three years, deep in the woods in nearby Palmer, Mass.

Molly's killer has never been identified.

But Rodney Stanger, a former Southbridge man, now convicted in Florida of murdering his girlfriend Crystal Morrison, continues to be a focal point of the investigation. Some believe Stanger could be the mysterious man Molly's mother saw at Comins Pond the day before the abduction.

Now it appears the paths of Molly Bish and Rodney Stanger could have crossed weeks earlier, in Southbridge, where Molly took the classes for the certification she needed to become a lifeguard.

"Molly really enjoyed getting her lifeguard certification she was very proud of it," said Heather Bish, Molly's sister. "It was something my brother had done years before, so she wanted to be like her brother and follow in his footsteps."

The YMCA where Molly took her classes is located at 47 Everett St in Southbridge. At that same time, Rodney Stanger was living just a few blocks away at 232 Everett St.

Stanger's house and the YMCA are just three-tenths of a mile apart down the same street.

"If he's in this area, I mean he certainly could've been anywhere. He could've been sitting outside his car or sitting at the YMCA waiting for a young girl he took a liking to," Heather Bish said. "There's lots of possibilities, but the fact that he's in that general area general proximity really is significant."

And there is more.

Molly's father, John Bish, had a part-time job at Harrington Memorial Hospital in Southbridge, about a mile away from the Y. On Saturdays in early 2000, John would drop Molly off and pick her up at the Y.

But on the days Molly got was finished early, or if John worked late, Molly would leave the Y and walk the streets of Southbridge to meet her father.

The family's private investigator Tom Shamsak said these details were important to note.

"It's very significant because it's a possible explanation of where Rodney Stanger may have first encountered Molly Bish," he said. "There's a coffee shop right here that Molly was known to frequent.

By all accounts, Molly was not a shy teenager. It could be possible, Shamshak said, that Rodney Stanger knew Molly would be at Comins Pond, because she told him one day in Southbridge.

"This is not a heavily populated area. Its quite possible that the two of them met there. She may have been chatted up," Shamshak said. "He may have extracted information from her, namely that she was going to be employed at Comins Pond."

Heather Bish said she hopes now that someone might remember seeing her sister in Southbridge, maybe outside the Y, walking past Stanger's house, or walking to the hospital.

"Someone might have seen Molly walking or waiting for my dad to pick her up. Might have seen Stanger talking to her, following her or watching her," she said. "That information is so critical to us. It might not seem like a big deal to the person who might have seen it."

Rodney Stanger is in prison, but isn't talking. Shamshak met with Stanger in prison, and brought along Molly's picture.

"When I showed him Molly's picture, and I put it front of him, he looked down, he pushed it away. He could not look at her picture," Shamshak said.

Heather has tried too, sending Stanger letters, but he has not responded.

"You know ultimately I'd like to know what he knows about Molly's disappearance, if he knows anything and mostly, why," she said. "Why would he do this to our family and to Molly?"

For tips in the Molly Bish Case, call Mass State Police assigned to Worcester County DA Joseph Early's office at: (508) 453-7575