Vigil Of Hope Seven Years After Billy Smolinski Vanished From His Life

Janice Smolinski's relentless optimism has transformed a murder investigation into a vehicle of change. In addition to fighting for the truth of what happened to her son seven years ago, Smolinski has triggered local, state and federal reform in the way law enforcement officers respond to the report of a missing adult. The Smolinski family is asking for a federal grand jury to probe into the case. Photographs By John Murray

Bill Smolinski spoke from the heart as he recalled the birth of his son in 1973, the young family's drive home from the hospital, and being an excited father and buying a pony for three-month-old Billy. There were several stories shared, most filling the room with laughter. Bill recalled the time against his wife's wishes that he taught Billy how to ride a scooter. He showed him the brakes and accelerator and off  he went. "he went slow of course, but not for long," Bill recalled, "he gave it the gas, I couldn't catch him and he drove right smack into the barn. The scooter fell on top of him and he had one hell of a burn. And so did I after Jan got through with me."

Janice Smolinski shared more stories of life on the farm where Billy and his sister, Paula, right, grew up. Jan told the story of a goose clamped onto to the seat of Billy's pants and him yelling for help, and of the time he was learning to ride a horse and the saddle slid 180 degrees underneath the horse and a determined Billy held on until he was rescued. 

State Victim Advocate Michelle Cruz spoke to the crowd of 100 people crammed into Naugatuck Town Hall after a violent thunderstorm thwarted the plans to hold the vigil on the Naugatuck Green. Cruz has worked closely with Janice Smolinski to pass legislation in Connecticut to reform the way police handle adult missing person cases. Cruz said she is astounded at how positive and upbeat Janice Smolinski has been during the grim search for her son's remains. During the event the Smolinskis were presented with proclamations from Governor Dannel Malloy, and from the Connecticut State Legislature. On hand were Congressman Chris Murphy, State Senators Joan Hartley and Joe Crisco and State Rep. Rosa Rebimbas. The master of ceremony for the vigil was former Naugatuck mayor, Ron San Angelo.

Cathy Kogut of Resources In Search and Rescue brought her cadever dog Abby to the front of the room where the role of these specially trained dogs was explained.

Abby listened intently as her role in search and rescue was explained.

In addition to searching for the remains of her murdered son, and helping to change police procedure on the local, state and federal level, Janice Smolinski started The Quilt Of Hope, which show cases individual squares of missing persons around America.

Margarita Torres, middle, spoke at the gathering and told the story of her son, Aaron, who went missing in March 2010 when he walked away from the Connecticut Valley Hospital. The event ended with a candlelight vigil outside Naugatuck Town Hall. Anyone with information about the murder of Billy Smolinski can call a special tip line at 203-530-9135.