By John Murray
Ten years after his 31-year-old son vanished from Waterbury, Bill Smolinski Sr. uncorked a raw emotional speech last night during a Missing Persons Vigil held on the Naugatuck Green. When Billy Smolinski disappeared on August 24th, 2004, his family had trouble getting the Waterbury PD to take the report of a missing adult male seriously. Frustrated, the family had little choice but to search for Billy themselves. The results have been nightmarish.
Janice Smolinski was arrested in 2005 (the charges were quickly dismissed), and she and her daughter Paula were sued in a bizarre lawsuit filed by Billy's former girlfriend, Madeline Gleason. Despite numerous punches in the face by law enforcement and the justice system, the Smolinski family has continued to press forward to seek answers. They are driven by faith, hope and love, but after a decade of frustration, anger has taken hold. They have broken ties with police, and find themselves increasingly isolated in their search for Billy. Tips continue to come into a hotline, but without a working (and trusting) relationship with police, the Smolinskis pursue the leads by themselves.
The lawsuit (which they lost) is headed to the Connecticut Supreme Court on appeal, and their story was recently featured in an eight-page spread in Newsweek Magazine.
Jan and Bill Smolinski are hard working decent people who have been wronged by a broken system that they have sought to fix. State and federal legislation has been crafted as a direct result of the Smolinksi case, and the Waterbury PD has changed it's policy in handling reports of missing adults.
Will Jan and Bill ever find the remains of their missing/murdered son? The odds lessen with every passing day. Ironically, the best chance the Smolinskis have of finding Billy is to re-engage local and state police in open and blunt dialogue, and hold the police accountable through the harsh spotlight of local, state and national media outlets.
At this point, it's the only way to safely move forward.