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44 years after Lawrence boy’s disappearance, state police seek public’s help

"He will not be forgotten by the Massachusetts State Police and Lawrence Police."

Lawrence Mayor Dan Rivera held a miniature billboard depicting Andy Puglisi at a 2016 press conference to commemorate the passage of 40 years since his abduction and renew the call for information.

A Lawrence boy whose unsolved disappearance transfixed the Bay State — and became the subject of an Emmy Award-winning documentary — was last seen 44 years ago last Friday, and state police are renewing their call for the public’s help in finding him. 

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On the afternoon of Aug. 21, 1976, 10-year-old Angelo Puglisi, nicknamed Andy by his family, was playing with his siblings and friends at the Higgins Memorial Pool, state police said in a statement. The city pool was a popular spot across the street from the Stadium Housing Project in south Lawrence, where Andy had lived with his family, state police added. 

As his siblings walked home that day, police said, they noticed Andy wasn’t with them. His family and neighbors rushed to search for him, canvassing the pool area, the municipal dump, the nearby woods that led to Interstate 495, and the streets of the housing development, according to the statement.

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State police said Andy’s family yelled his name over and over, but never heard anything back. 

Over the next week, Lawrence police officers, state troopers, United States military personnel, and volunteers joined in the search, state police said. 

Andy’s case was widely covered by the news media, while police discovered and ruled out leads. Later, investigators even turned to a Texas psychic, who “provided tantalizing tips and, according to at least one police officer, seemingly knew details about the crime scene that later proved to be accurate,” state police said. 

Despite every effort, Andy had vanished. 

The investigation into his disappearance continued for months until months became years, and years stretched into decades. 

State police said that in 1999, one of Andy’s childhood playmates who had been at the pool that summer day, Melanie Perkins, returned to Lawrence and directed the Emmy Award-winning documentary “Have You Seen Andy?” 

Perkins’s documentary uncovered many revelations about Andy’s case, including that there had been as many as five sex offenders in the vicinity of the pool on the day he disappeared, according to state police.

“What’s more, a couple of years after Andy’s disappearance, two boys in the woods came across a rectangular hole dug in the earth, only to return the next day and find that the hole had been filled in,” state police said in their statement. 

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Detectives on the case, according to state police, lingered on two men as possible suspects: one who had been charged with raping two boys he lured away from Higgins Memorial Pool in 1975, and another who had killed a young teenage girl in Boxford a few years earlier and claimed to have killed other children. 

Shortly before dying of cancer, the imprisoned killer of the Boxford teen claimed he once also killed an unknown boy in Lawrence, but state police said some of the details he gave didn’t match the facts of Andy’s disappearance.

The man convicted of raping two boys, Wayne Chapman, was also convicted of raping and sexually assaulting a total of six boys in the Lawrence area during the 1970s. 

Chapman, who has admitted to molesting dozens of children, was a strong suspect in Andy’s case, according to state police. 

Several factors suggested he may have abducted and killed Andy, yet state police said authorities have not been able to gather sufficient evidence to charge him. 

“The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children created an age-progressed image surmising what Andy might look like if, by some unlikely chance, he was not killed and was alive today,” state police added in a Facebook post sharing the photo. 

44 YEARS LATER, ANDY PUGLISI’S CASE REMAINS OPEN AND MSP IS ASKING FOR PUBLIC’S HELPThat summer all those years ago,…

Posted by Massachusetts State Police on Friday, August 21, 2020

Many responded to the post, expressing sadness over Andy’s loss. 

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Marty Fay — described on his Facebook page as a former Mass. state trooper — offered his condolences as well. 

 “My heart breaks every time I hear his name. As an MSP K9 Officer I did the original K9 search for Andy … I think of him often,” Fay wrote. “God bless Andy and his family.” 

Investigators, state police said, have still not been able to determine exactly what happened to Andy or find any evidence or remains connected to him.

“Andy’s case remains open,” state police said. “He will not be forgotten by the Massachusetts State Police and Lawrence Police.”

Anyone with information relevant to his disappearance is urged to contact state trooper Matt Murphy, a detective in the Essex County investigation unit who is assigned to the case. Murphy can be reached at 978-745-8908 or by e-mail at [email protected].

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