CASE SUMMARY

   Harvard grad student Joan Webster disappeared from Logan Airport on 11-28-1981 returning from Thanksgiving break. The case was heavily publicized and has been the subject in numerous books. The most recent is The Paradiso Files by Tim Burke, former prosecutor assigned to the case. No one has ever been charged with the crime and the case remains open in Essex County, MA.

   The case became very sensationalized and one difficult to follow. The recent publication promotes a theory and makes unchallenged representations regarding an open case. The prosecutor’s theory was rejected by a grand jury in 1983 and there was no real evidence that connected his suspect to Joan. The suspect was considered for 3 reasons; some of Joan’s belongings were found in the same general vicinity as a 1979 murder victim, an anonymous call implicating the suspect for both crimes, and a jailhouse informant’s statement. The suspect had been questioned in connection with the 1979 murder as well, but no arrest was made at the time, and the case went cold. The jailhouse informant’s statement was learned to be false when Joan’s remains were found buried in Hamilton, MA in 1990 and not dumped at sea as alleged.

   In researching the case it became evident that the primary obstacle getting answers was the Essex County DA’s office, custodian of the files. Learning the case was being newly investigated, the DA "reopened" the case and denies FOIA requests and witness input. Files have been recovered from other sources regarding the case and surrounding the prosecutor’s suspect. Documents refute his published allegations. The focus turned to examining the authorities involved in developing the "story," and who supports it.

   Two MSP officers were the lead in the case. One was an undercover cop that worked with informants. He was also the lead officer in the 1979 murder that had 2 suspects. Testimony revealed a relationship with the prime suspect, the boyfriend, characteristic of that with an informant. The officer’s superior leaked specific information regarding the ongoing FBI operations against the mafia and indicated he was involved in their efforts. The ADA they worked with in Joan’s case prepared warrants to bug Whitey Bulger, the FBI’s protected informant. All bugging efforts were compromised. His office in Suffolk County was exposed for corruption in homicide cases from 1980-1988. The FBI was involved in Joan’s case from the beginning under multiple case numbers and improperly impacted the case. There continues to be a protected FBI source.

   The informant’s statement was false regarding both cases on multiple points. The suspect's boat, the alleged crime scene, was gone at the time of Joan Webster's disappearance.  Incorrect information was given when items were found, and the source provided a statement containing priveged facts only known to authorities. Officials had evidence in files to exclude the suspect at the time of the statement, but continued to press the theory and gain a conviction for the 1979 murder. It raises concerns with 3 aspects of the statement; authorities maintained a "boat" theory despite documented evidence the boat was gone months before Joan disappeared. It provided an explanation why there was no body. Second, the MO being developed for the suspect was abandoned to give the manner of Joan’s death with correct detail. Finally, authorities reversed the order of events given in their informant's statement in the case they presented to the court and the press. Both officers and ADA were involved in obtaining the statement, and another individual has been named by the informant who sent people to see him.

   The condition of Joan’s remains were not known until 1990. The fatal injury she sustained is impossible as the prosecutor describes it. The condition of her remains and the disbursement of belongings suggest a premeditated crime. Documents that have been recovered refute the published tome in both cases, but the state is the obstruction to resolving the case. Public awareness and exposure is vital to learning the truth.

 

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