Cold case investigation continues

By Melanie Savage - Staff Writer
Windham - posted Mon., Aug. 1, 2011
Dawn Peterson, around the time of her murder in 1976. Contributed photo. - Contributed Photo

Joseph Gallant has said he does not intend to give up on the case of Dawn Peterson. Gallant, the founder of P.R.O.O.F. Paranormal, was contacted by Gloria Peterson in June of 2010. The oldest of the seven Peterson children, Gloria was 23 on March 26, 1976. That afternoon, her little sister, Dawn – a 13-year-old with a shy smile and long, brown hair – was seen heading into a wooded area with her 15-year-old friend, Andrew John Carr. When Dawn didn’t come home, a neighborhood search was launched. Her body was found in the foundation of an abandoned building not far from her home. The cause of her death was determined to be from blunt force, and the medical examiner later determined that she had not been sexually assaulted.

Carr quickly became the prime suspect. But after two years of agonizing waiting, the Peterson family watched Carr walk away a free man. According to Gallant, Carr’s acquittal came as the result of a botched investigation by the Connecticut State Police. “They interviewed him without his parents, and without reading him his rights,” said Gallant in a 2010 interview for a ReminderNews article. “After that article, we had a rush of calls,” said Gallant. Many of those calls confirmed a suspicion that another individual may have been involved in the murder. “We had a large number of people give us the same name,” said Gallant.

With this new information, Gallant contacted the Connecticut State Police. The police indicated that they’d re-interview the new witnesses.

Det. Priscilla Vining of the Eastern District Major Crime Unit of the Connecticut State Police said she did re-examine the case based upon the information that Gallant gave her. “Joe did come to me last fall,” she said. “I did a lot of legwork looking into the claims that he made.” Her conclusion was, “there is no evidence to suggest that a second person was involved in the Peterson murder. He was trying to say that another person was there,” said Vining. “There is just no evidence of that.”

Vining admits that the original investigation was botched by the police, pointing out that the reason there is a regional major crime unit in place today that only handles homicides is because of that case. “Evidence that was seized, including bloody clothes from John Carr, was thrown out due to procedure,” she said. “Carr was a juvenile at the time, and the laws concerning rights of juveniles are still very confusing. Juveniles have a lot more rights that an adult, and certain procedures were not followed in that case,” said Vining.

Gloria Peterson still lives in her childhood home in North Windham. It’s the same house that Dawn lived in before the murder. In the small living room, Dawn’s guitar is still prominently displayed. “She loved to play music,” said Gloria. “She loved to play and she loved to write poetry.” Gloria will never forget the day that Dawn was killed. “They made my brother go by himself to identify the body,” she said. He was 19 years old. “I promised my parents before they died,” said Gloria. “I promised them that I would never stop fighting for Dawn.”

Today, according to Gallant, Carr is a corporate attorney with his own office in Times Square. He lives in New Jersey, has a wife and two children, and vacations on Martha’s Vineyard, Gallant said. “Here is Carr, living the American Dream,” said Gallant. “Dawn didn’t have a chance to live her life. That was all taken away from her.”

Gallant said that he was threatened by the state police and recently assaulted by two masked men because he continues to investigate the case. According to Vining, however, his investigation has bordered on harassment.

“People were calling and complaining about him.  “He was putting their name out on fliers in their neighborhood, trying to track down another person,” she said. “He was harassing people that had nothing to do with this case, leaving fliers on people’s cars.”

“I called him and said, ‘You can’t do that,’” Vining said, adding that she warned Gallant that if the people were to file a complaint about him, he could be arrested.

“Carr has been tried and acquitted,” said Vining. “He can’t be tried again. I wish there was something I could do to help the Peterson family, I really do. But there’s just not.”

Gallant, with a master’s degree in criminology, was originally contacted by Gloria to help put her little sister to rest.

“When someone passes away, it’s usually their time to go,” said Gallant. “When someone dies in a horrific manner, such as an accident or a murder, they either can’t or won’t move on.” Evidence that Dawn hadn’t moved on, said Gallant, were sightings that had been reported in the area of the murder. P.R.O.O.F. had also photographed an apparition at the site. According to Gallant, a Pass Over ceremony is designed to gently assist a spirit in crossing over to the other side. “We held a two-day Pass Over ceremony for Dawn, beginning on the anniversary of her death,” said Gallant.

“I just want to find out the truth about what happened that day to Dawn Peterson,” said Gallant. Toward that end, he said he intends to hire a private investigator. He also plans to hire an attorney. He has thought about advertising the case on a local billboard. Also in the works is a fundraiser to erect a memorial in memory of Dawn. “The site where she was murdered used to be a hangout spot for kids,” he said. “It was a place where they could go to escape. Now people avoid it.” A memorial, said Gallant, would turn the area into a place of remembrance for Dawn.

“I really want people to know that if there was something the state police could do to fix this, we would,” said Vining. She is asking anyone with new information in the case to call the Eastern District Major Crime Unit at 860-566-8037.

Managing Editor Joan Hunt contributed to this story.

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