Testimony for Familial DNA Legislation by Heather Bish
My name is Dr. Heather Bish- Martin, and I am a teacher, who has been thrust into the world of criminal justice and law enforcement.
My sister Molly Anne Bish was abducted from a local swimming pond. She was on her 8th day of work as a life guard serving our community.
We lived in a world where we knew all of our neighbors and we never even locked our doors. We thought we were safe. We thought abductions did not happen to us; in small towns in close communities where your friends grow up like your family because you have known them since you were five. We weren’t prepared for all the questions. We weren’t prepared to question our neighbors, our community members, our police officials. We weren’t prepared to live a life without Molly.
One thousand and seventy-five days later Molly was found. Molly came home bone by bone.
Twenty-six of her bones were recovered three years later on a hillside not five miles from that pond, and less than 2 ½ miles from our family home.
Families experience their losses differently at various times, and resiliency is a constant endeavor. Complicating the loss, is dealing with an investigation. This can often re-traumatize family members and shatter family unity.
Our first experience with law enforcement was with the local police force after my mother received a phone call stating that Molly was not at the pond. We both quickly got into our vehicles and drove to our small local swimming pond. When we didn’t find her there, we went straight to the police station. There, the police officer on duty told us, “she probably just took off with her friends.” I asked him “why would she do that without her shoes on?”. Feeling frantic, I asked him if he had checked with any of her friends in the three hours she had been missing. He had not.
It became clear later that evening that Molly had not “taken off with her friends” nor was she at the bottom of that pond. Molly was missing. Law enforcement took my parents from the pond that day and brought them to the police station. My brother John and I had no idea where our parents were or what was going on, or what to do next. Even though we were considered young adults, we felt like children. Scared and alone. In fact, now we know that trauma re-wired our brains that fateful day and we would never be the same.
My father was instrumental in assisting the Worcester District Attorney’s Office with starting an unresolved case unit. Our commitment and resolve has not been to just solve Molly’s murder, but to protect all children and families from abduction.
Recently I began to notice headlines in the news about unresolved cases from across the country using special DNA tests to match to perpetrators. Genetic and Familial DNA analysis offers additional resources for law enforcement.
Then one day late last winter I met with my detectives, and they mentioned that they would like to have a new tool to use to help solve cases. Familial DNA searching. I am just a teacher and had no idea what that meant to put into practice. But I am also doggedly determined to find the person responsible for harming my sister, and I believe the only way that I can do that is to help law enforcement gain tools to solve crimes faster and with greater accuracy.
Molly’s case rests now in the unresolved case unit. The state police tell me that it is still an active case because they receive information often. However, there is only one detective assigned to it and it is not his sole responsibility. There are 80 boxes of files in Molly’s case, and not every file has been uploaded to the Aces system that law enforcement uses to cross analyze. What does it mean that they are working on it every day? It is data entry? Or are they following leads?
We live with these crimes every day. Not one day goes by that I don’t miss my sister or feel fear about what happened to her. Working towards a resolution is an avenue to give victims a chance to regain the power they lost, when someone took a life. Although I am here today, offering words of support for victims, a part of me died that day with Molly. A part of me, will never recover from what happened on June 27th, 2000.
Because of the crime that has impacted my family; we have a special responsibility to victims of crimes, to my community, and especially to all families of missing and murdered children. I cannot go silent. I ask that we come together, recognizing each other’s position – law enforcement and victim’s family – to take a new direction, a path that leads to collaboration, communication, and mutual respect and understanding.
It has been 7,169 days since I last saw my sister. But I still have hope. I stand before you with hope. And, I would like to conclude today’s message with the words my father often shared when he spoke to a variety of groups, “Hope requires you act with perseverance even against overwhelming odds.” I still believe this to be true.