Molly Bish Murder Case Brings Mass. State Police to Fla.

The ongoing investigation into the disappearance and murder of a Warren, Mass., lifeguard over a decade ago has brought Massachusetts state police to Summerfield, Fla.

Massachusetts state police are working with detectives in the Marion County sheriff's office to search the trailer of convicted murderer Rodney Stanger, 64, for evidence that may link Stanger to Molly Bish's murder.

Molly Bish was 16 years old when she was abducted near a local pond, where she worked as a lifeguard in June 2000. Her remains were found three years later near her family's home.

Stanger, who is currently in jail for the 2008 murder of his girlfriend, Chrystal Morrison, had been a person of interest in Bish's case, said Detective Rhonda Stroup of Marion County. Stroup said she was contacted immediately by the Massachusetts state police following Stanger's arrest.

"We executed a search warrant for a safety deposit box, and a search warrant on his home yesterday," said Stroup, of the investigation with Massachusetts state police. "We've been working together all this time."

Stroup said Stanger's safety deposit box is located in a Bank of America branch in Dunnellon, Fla., nearly an hour away.

"Due to confidentiality, we cannot discuss a customer's account. We take this very seriously and are working with law enforcement to assist in their investigation," said Christina Beyer Toth, spokeswoman for Bank of America.

Tom Shamshak, who is the private investigator for the Bish family, said state police were prompted to go down to Florida after Bonnie Kiernan, Morrison's sister, went to retrieve her sister's belongings from the trailer where Morrison and Stanger lived in June and found items that seemed suspicious.

Kiernan told that when she went into the home Stanger and Morrison shared, she found a bag of about 15 hair ties, barrettes and clips in the bathroom drawer that looked as if they belonged to a child.

"I said, 'It doesn't look like her stuff. A 50-year-old woman isn't going to wear anything like that,'" Kiernan said.

Kiernan said it looked as if no one had entered the home since her sister had been murdered there.

While she was in the home, Kiernan said she also found Stanger's wallet in a cabinet above the refrigerator that was blocked off by a crockpot filled with two stacks of knives.

The wallet contained $581, Stanger's driver's license, birth certificate, the keys to a safety deposit box, and his Massachusetts Firearms Identification Card (FID) that had been renewed two months prior to Bish's disappearance, Kiernan said.

Stanger was living in Southbridge, Mass. at the time of Bish's abduction, and frequently hunted and fished near the pond where Bish worked, said Shamshak.

Shamshak said that Stanger moved abruptly to Florida following Bish's disappearance.

"The Massachusetts Firearms Identification Card was the article of information that was really quite revealing," said Shamshak.

Kiernan said the photograph of Stanger, whom she had never met, looked exactly like the rendering of a suspicious man Molly's mother, Magi Bish, had seen by the pond where her daughter worked. Ms. Bish commissioned a local artist to draw the composite in the wake of her daughter's disappearance.

"When I first saw the FID, I said, 'Oh my God, this guy could have sat there and posed for that sketch,'" Kiernan said.

Shamshak said investigators are also planning to re-interview Stanger in his prison cell on Thursday at the Union Correctional Institution in Raiford, Fla.

Coincidentally, Thursday would have been Bish's 29th birthday.

"I said to Magi Bish, 'I hope there is a present and some closure tomorrow,'" Shamshak said.

Molly's sister Heather said she hopes that the truth will come out as a result of investigators' efforts in Florida.

"[Police] initially said in the investigation that we were missing pieces of the puzzle, but I think we're in reach of those pieces," she said.

"If the person who did this could have a change of heart and tell us what happened, it would give us a certain amount of peace and closure, just as far as justice is concerned," said Heather Bish.

The search for Molly Bish was the most expensive search in Massachusetts state history, Heather Bish said.