Smolinski Family Relieved That FBI is Involved, Lost Faith In WTBY PD
In January 2005, four months after Billy Smolinski disappeared, his family contacted FBI offices in New Haven. Deeply dissatisfied at the efforts of the Waterbury Police Department, Jan and Bill Smolinski reached out for federal assistance in trying to unravel the mystery of what happened to their 31 year old son.
The family knew Billy had been involved in a love triangle, and that his male rival was an elected official in Woodbridge. The family also knew that Billy had left a threatening phone message on the politician’s answering machine on the day he disappeared.
Inexplicable and mysterious circumstances swirled around the case, yet the Smolinskis couldn’t get Waterbury detectives to take Billy’s disappearance seriously. A Waterbury police officer told the Observer in March 2006 that Billy was probably having a beer somewhere in Europe. Comments like that infuriated the Smolinski family. They are convinced Billy is dead, yet the Waterbury police continued to state they suspected no foul play in Billy’s disappearance.
Jan Smolinski’s first attempt to get the FBI involved went nowhere, but she is determined to find out what happened to her son, and she called back a second and third time.
“The fourth time I called the woman was very nice to me, but she sternly told me that the FBI was dealing with Homeland Security, and didn’t get involved in missing person cases,” Jan Smolinski said. “I was told to deal with my local police department.”
But when she discovered that the Waterbury Police Department had lost three DNA samples in the case, Jan Smolinski called FBI Headquarters in Virginia. She received assurances that if state officials didn’t provide help in getting DNA samples into regional and national data banks, that the FBI would help.
Attempts to get help from state officials was rebuffed with the all too familiar, and frustrating, “you have to deal with your local police.”
Finally, back in July, the Smolinskis went down to FBI offices in New Haven to give DNA samples. While they were there they left behind long feature articles that had been published in the Waterbury Observer detailing the bizarre circumstances surrounding Billy’s disappearance, and the sluggish investigation by Waterbury detectives. The police work in the case was so sloppy that it was either a bungled investigation, or perhaps there was a connection between Woodbridge and Waterbury.
At the end of the visit the Smolinskis were informed that the articles would be passed along to an agent. The family said they were told that they wouldn’t know if an agent was actively investigating the case or not. They said they were told the FBI likes to work quietly.
Weeks later, on July 28th, Andy Thibault (see story above) requested information regarding the case from the Waterbury Police Department. His request was denied. But Thibault, an experienced investigative journalist, and a former Freedom of Information (FOI) commissioner, was keen enough to petition for a hearing in Hartford that jammed a spotlight on the efforts of the Waterbury police. The department was forced to release information about the love triangle, or prove that they were conducting an active investigation.
That same day, the Waterbury police sent a letter to the FBI requesting help in the case.
In the FOI hearing the police produced a copy of the letter to the FBI as proof that they were still investigating the case. The FOI was unconvinced, and has asked the police to produce a file containing information about the love triangle.
It was at the hearing that it first became public knowledge that the Waterbury PD was asking the FBI for help. But some are already questioning the motives of the Waterbury PD. There appears to be solid indicators that the FBI was already investigating the case before Waterbury PD sent the letter.
The Smolinskis had met with the FBI weeks before the letter was sent.
“The Waterbury police are taking a bow for calling in the FBI,” Jan Smolinski said, “but if they had investigated this case like they should have from the very beginning we might already have our answers.”
After the FOI hearing the news that the FBI was being called onto the case spread across the state. The Hartford Courant did a story, the Republican-American, Channel 8 news, Channel 3 and Channel 61 all did pieces. The USA Today ran a small piece that circulated around the country, and across the world. CBS News called the Smolinskis.
“All of a sudden there is a media frenzy,” Jan Smolinski said. “And it’s because the FBI is involved. We’ve been crying for help for two years and almost everybody has pushed us aside. Having the FBI take a look at Billy’s case is a breath of fresh air. Maybe they are the answer to the chaos we’ve been dealing with.”