The year that Marion's homicide rate jumped 100 percent

Nov 17, 2017

In 1988, the homicide rate in Marion jumped 100 percent – the body of a woman was found off the side of I-195. It was the first murder in the town in years.

The woman was killed by a serial killer, known only as the “New Bedford Highway Serial Killer.” The person responsible murdered 11 women. Whoever the killer was, he or she was never caught.

Thirty years later, Maureen Boyle is still haunted by the murders, but remains optimistic the case could still be solved.

“I’m very, very hopeful it will be solved,” she said. “Things change…you hear about murders getting solved 30 or 40 years later.”

Boyle covered the murders as a crime reporter at the Standard-Times. She wrote “Shallow Graves: The Hunt for the New Bedford Highway Serial Killer," about the crime.

Boyle spoke to a crowd at Marion's Music Hall about the case on November 16—and why she decided to write a book about it all these years later.

“People need to know what happened,” she said. “We can’t forget what happened, we can’t forget these women. They deserve justice. People should not get away with murder. I hope at the end of the day this book makes a difference.”

All eleven women were of a similar height and build. All had drug problems, or were involved in prostitution. Only 9 of the eleven victims were ever recovered. They were found off highways in Marion, Dartmouth, Freetown and Westport.

While revisiting the crimes and the ensuing investigation, Boyle said she was able to gain more insight into what had happened so many years ago.

“After thirty years, people are more honest about what happened,” she said. “Most investigators are retired and more comfortable speaking honestly about the investigation.”

Boyle said most of the police officers involved will now admit it wasn’t a perfect investigation.

“A lot went wrong,” she said. “But it was new territory for them.”

There were a lot of theories and a lot of suspects, and they were all investigated, Boyle said. However, only two serious suspects were ever revealed.

One was an attorney who had represented some of the victims, Ken Ponte. The other was Tony DeGrazia, who had been arrested and acquitted of two rape charges.

No evidence linking either of the men to the killings was ever found.

The case remains open. Authorities continue to investigate evidence and leads as they come.