The Monster Behind The Mask
By John Murray
For the past year friends and family of John Regan stood by his side after he was arrested for allegedly raping Donna Palomba, the wife of one of his best friends. The charge was so outrageously off the wall, and despicable, that many people in the community refused to believe he had committed the crime.
Regan’s DNA was found on Donna Palomba, but maybe, some justified, they had consensual sex together. There was no way John Regan could have slithered so low as to sexually assault his buddy’s wife, the reasoning went, that was too far off the charts.
That the arrest came 11 years after the attack made the charge even more surreal to Regan’s family and friends. The statue of limitations for sexual assault ran out after five years, but Regan was still charged with kidnapping. His loyal supporters believed an upcoming trial would vindicate him.
Denial is a powerful force, but the farce is over. John Regan not only attacked and raped Donna Palomba, police now believe he may have been a serial rapist, and police have even darker suspicions that he may have murdered some of his victims.
A terrifying incident on Halloween night destroyed John Regan’s mask of innocence, and revealed the monster that lurked beneath.
As darkness descended upon Halloween, a month before his kidnapping trial in Waterbury was to begin, Regan was arrested in Saratoga Springs, N.Y. and charged with trying to abduct a 17 year old high school girl from the school parking lot.
Waterbury Police Chief, Neil O’Leary, who broke the case last year by connecting dots separated by an 11 year span, talked to the Observer the day after the latest arrest. He said Regan had removed the back seat of his van in Saratoga Springs, laid down a blue tarp, and had pre-knotted ropes waiting to secure his victim.
In addition, sources have confirmed that the ropes were tied in a noose and Regan had a shovel in the van with him. It is not unreasonable to conclude that John Regan was intent on raping, killing and burying his young 17 year old victim
O’Leary, who immediately dispatched three Waterbury detectives to Saratoga Springs, said Regan had been in New York for two weeks working at a relative’s construction project. O’Leary said Regan had probably stalked the girl because of the way he had positioned his van for the attack. The sliding door was positioned right next to the driver’s door. When the student, a cross country star on one of the premiere teams in the country, went to open her door after practice, Regan opened the sliding door of his van, grabbed her by the waist, covered her mouth, and attempted to drag her into the van.
“She bit, screamed, yelled and kicked him,” O’Leary said. “He yelled at her to stop. Thank God she got away.”
Regan was confronted by two teachers and is accused of jumping back in his van and fleeing the scene. A coach and parent pursued the van in their cars. They called the police on cell phones and the van was stopped minutes later, and Regan was arrested.
“It is horrific what happened to that child,” O’Leary said. “Thankfully she was not physically hurt. But the fact that this happened strengthens the case back here in Waterbury.”
O’Leary said that the Waterbury police had received a tip about Regan several weeks ago which sparked a new police investigation. A photo technician at a local lab was processing film and he noticed all the images were of women who were unaware that they were being photographed. He saw that the film was sent in by John Regan, and recognized that Regan had been charged with kidnapping and assaulting women in greater Waterbury. Security personnel for the store contacted the Waterbury police department.
The women had been photographed as they jogged and worked out along a several mile stretch of a bicycle path through the woods in Cheshire. In most of the images the women were wearing shorts and tight fitting athletic attire.
Other images on the rolls of film were of a former co-worker that Regan was accused of assaulting last summer. Police have said that the woman was unaware that Regan had been stalking her.
After Regan was arrested in New York, the Waterbury Police Department got a warrant to search his house on Euclid Avenue, and removed additional photographic images. Waterbury police have charged Regan with stalking, and in the near future he will be arraigned back in Connecticut.
But two days after Regan was captured in Saratoga Springs, he attempted to hang himself with a bed sheet. He was cut down within minutes, surviving an attempt to avoid the consequences of his actions, like facing his wife, children, and the friends and family who had supported him this past year.
Regan has been denied bail and is being held in a psychiatric hospital in New York state.
“This guy is a dangerous man. Period.” O’Leary said. “He was stalking school kids. I hope the New York courts continue to hold him on no bail. It is a detriment to society to let him out. He is sick and dangerous.”
On another note, O’Leary said this latest incident should bury any doubt anyone was harboring about Regan’s innocence in the sexual assault case 12 years ago. “I always believed Donna Palomba was sexually assaulted,” O’Leary said. “We have a perfect DNA match that says it was John Regan who did it. This should end the rumors forever.”