• New England's Unsolved: New push for evidence on 40th anniversary of teen's murder

    By: Bob Ward

    Updated:

    FRANKLIN, Mass. - The last time I remember seeing Theresa Corley, I was working my minimum wage, part-time job at Star Market in Franklin, Massachusetts. 

    I was straightening a store shelf in one of the aisles. Theresa smiled and said hi to me as she passed by, probably on her way to the back room to punch-out of her shift at the end of her work day.

    New England's Unsolved Podcast: Theresa Corley

    In my mind, it was late summer 1978, but I could be wrong about that. 

    It’s a fleeting memory of a pretty girl, full of life, who shared a little greeting as she bounced down a supermarket aisle headed to whatever adventure awaited. 

    Theresa Corley would soon trade Star Market for another job to help pay for college. I never saw her alive again. 

    A few months later in December of 1978, near the end of a night shift, I remember another Star Market co-worker asking me if I heard the news. She almost couldn’t bring herself to say it.

    She whispered, “Remember that girl, Theresa Corley? She was murdered.”

    Theresa Corley was murdered exactly 40 years ago. 

    Theresa was strangled, her naked body was found on December 8, 1978, on the side of Route 495 in Bellingham, her hometown. 

    There has never been an arrest.

    But today there’s still a lot happening to help identify Theresa’s killer.

    Theresa Corley was 19 years old. She was buried in a Milford cemetery, in her prom dress. Recently, Theresa’s body was exhumed in the hopes of obtaining a DNA sample.

    And, while I am told the exhumation did not produce a sample, a second look at the jeans found near her body did produce something: a YSTR profile of an unidentified male.  Investigators believe there are other items, collected as evidence in 1978, that can now be tested, thanks to incredible advances in DNA technology.

    And, I am told, witnesses are being approached for new DNA samples. 

    Theresa Corley’s case has always been important to me. When we launched New England’s Unsolved in 1999, I included Theresa’s case because I wanted to know what happened to her. 

    It was the first serious news story on Theresa’s case in years.

    And what I discovered was horrifying.

    On the night of December 5, 1978, Theresa and her friends were partying, celebrating the birthday of Theresa’s boyfriend.

    They all wound up at the Train Stop Bar on Depot Street in Franklin.

    At the end of the night of a night of drinking, Theresa got into an argument, and stormed out of the Train Stop, dressed in only a light jacket and jeans. Theresa asked a friend for a ride, but the friend didn’t want to leave.

    So, Theresa started walking from the Train Stop to her home in Bellingham: five and a half miles away.  It would take almost two hours to walk that route. 

    But Theresa didn’t get very far. 

    New England's Unsolved: Teen found murdered on side of road

    Somewhere in downtown Franklin, three men, who were at the Train Stop, followed Theresa.

    They got her into their car and drove her to their Franklin apartment where Theresa was raped by one, if not all three men.

    They were never prosecuted.

    Early in the morning, Theresa got out of the apartment wearing one of her shoes, and another shoe belonging to one of the men. She was seen by drivers on Route 140, some say she was hitchhiking. 

    Theresa was struggling to get home.

    A Garelick Farms truck driver making his morning deliveries, spotted Theresa outside the company’s front gate. He picked her up. The driver later told police he could smell alcohol on Theresa’s breath.

    He said she was “mad as fire.”

    The driver told police, Theresa said she had been sexually assaulted.

    The truck driver dropped off Theresa outside the Bellingham Police department. From what we know, Theresa didn't go inside.

    Bellingham woman's body exhumed after almost 40 years

    Theresa Corley was last seen outside a nearby Dairy Queen, less than a mile from her North Main Street Home. She was still trying to make it back.

    But she never did.

    On December 8th, Theresa’s body was found.

    Theresa’s death shocked us all. 

    I was 17 years old.

    I attended Theresa’s open casket wake, where the sight of a mark on Theresa’s neck unnerved me.

    I also attended Theresa Corley’s funeral. I remember her friends, standing in the church hugging each other, sobbing. Some of them were with her the night she disappeared. 

    In May 2017, I stood with three of Theresa’s sisters in St. Mary’s Catholic Cemetery in Milford, watching Theresa’s casket rise from her grave. It was surreal.

    And now, here we are, December 2018, and the case of Theresa Corley is still unsolved, but moving forward.

    New investigators are bringing a fresh approach.

    This week a new billboard is being posted in Franklin. The billboard bears a picture from Theresa’s Bellingham High School senior class picture. In the picture, Theresa is as alive as I remember her that day in 1978 when as I last saw her. Only this time, the picture is used, not to commemorate her high school years, but to ask for help, to ask for justice, forty years later.

    That billboard will stand on Route 140 in Franklin near the Wrentham town line.

    It is almost exactly across the street from the Star Market where I once knew Theresa.

    Forty years is a long time to keep a secret.

    Now is the time for someone to finally reveal the brutal and deadly truth.

    Theresa’s family is offering a $25,000 Reward.

    Call the Norfolk County District Attorney’s Tip Line: 781.830.4990

    Unsolved: Can DNA unlock the mystery of who killed Theresa Corley?

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