Justice for Molly: Is Killer Already in Jail?

Police have interviewed accused murderer in case of slain lifeguard Molly Bish.

ByABC News
February 3, 2009, 4:48 PM

Feb. 4, 2009— -- The family of a 16-year-old lifeguard who was abducted and killed in 2000 believes an accused murderer sitting in a Florida jail may be the man relatives have been seeking for nearly nine years in connection with the girl's mysterious death.

Molly Bish's disappearance sparked the largest and most expensive manhunt in Massachusetts history, according to state prosecutors, and terrified parents nationwide. To this day, investigators told ABCNews.com, tips about the murder come in almost daily.

The latest tip led Massachusetts investigators to Florida to interview Rodney Stanger, 60, in connection with the Bish murder, according to Tim Connolly, a spokesman for the Worcester, Mass., County District Attorney's Office.

Bish was an active athlete who disappeared from her lifeguard post at Comins Pond in Warren, Mass., the morning of June 26, 2000. Her remains were found nearby three years later.

Both the Bish family and Stanger's former wife have said Stanger bears a striking resemblance to the composite sketches of a possible suspect drawn up after Bish's disappearance.

"It's hard to avoid looking at him as a viable person of interest," said Tom Shamshak, a private investigator who has worked with the Bish family for years.

Stanger, who was accused last year of butchering his live-in girlfriend in their Summerfield, Fla., home, has not made any statements regarding the Bish case, according to the Marion County, Fla., Sheriff's Office. Stanger has pleaded not guilty to murder charges.

In addition to the sketch evidence, the sister of the woman whom Stanger is accused of murdering told ABCNews.com she believes her sister was trying to tell her about Stanger's involvement in Bish's murder before she was killed.

Shamshak, who began looking into Stanger after a tip came in, said the connections are startling.

The composite sketch was created based on a description of a man Bish's mother, Magi Bish, reported seeing in a white Chrysler, smoking a cigarette, when she dropped her daughter off for work that morning. She has told reporters since then that she waited around until he left, uncomfortable with leaving her daughter there in his presence.

Shamshak said that while Stanger never owned such a car, his brother, who hasn't been seen since 2006, owned a 1985 white Chrysler matching Magi Bish's description.

Shamshak said Stanger's family told him he was also known to fish at Comins Pond and to hunt in the wooded area near where Bish's remains were found.

Her disappearance launched a massive statewide search that ended three years later when her skeleton and tattered bathing suit were found just a few miles away from the pond.

Though the discovery of the body brought some closure, Bish's family wants to find the killer. Her sister, Heather Bish, was 23 years old at the time of the murder and said the loss of the youngest Bish sibling left a gaping hole in the family.

"It's very difficult," Heather Bish said. "Not knowing, I think, is almost worse."