Published: Sunday, August 15, 2010
Jan and William Smolinski of Cheshire believe their missing son, William “Billy” Smolinski Jr., was murdered. (Mara Lavitt/Register)
The parents of William “Billy” Smolinski Jr. are pushing for either state or federal prosecutors to launch a grand jury probe into their son’s disappearance nearly six years ago.
Police say they believe Smolinski, a Waterbury resident who disappeared Aug. 24, 2004, at the age of 31, was murdered.
“We are pushing for a grand jury,” said his father, William Smolinski Sr. of Cheshire. “If people aren’t talking, maybe this would help.”
Billy’s mother, Jan Smolinski, said they have approached prosecutors in both the U.S. attorney’s office in Connecticut and the office of the chief state’s attorney recently. They said they haven’t received a decision from either agency.
The Smolinskis said they believe some individuals who might know what happened to their son haven’t been forthcoming. With a grand jury, they hope people who haven’t been cooperative with investigators will have to tell what they know.
“With a grand jury, people have to come in to testify, and they’d be under oath,” Jan Smolinski said.
Mark Dupuis, a spokesman for the office of the chief state’s attorney, said he is prohibited by law from discussing anything to do with a grand jury application.
“We don’t comment on matters that may or may not be under investigation,” Dupuis said.
U.S. attorney’s office spokesman Thomas Carson declined to comment when asked about the Smolinski family’s request.
Shelton police Detective Ben Trabka said he believes Smolinski was murdered, and he thinks pursuing a grand jury probe is a good option.
“Grand juries are used when you have exhausted other means, and we are getting to that point now,” Trabka said. “People who we believe have knowledge are either not talking or are telling lies. With a grand jury, someone would either have to plead the Fifth or there are penalties attached if you do lie.”
By pleading the Fifth, individuals invoke their Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.
Trabka said he is not at liberty to say who he believes is lying or avoiding investigators.
“We haven’t forgotten this case, and we continue to follow up any and all leads that come in,” Trabka said.
State police, Waterbury, Seymour and Shelton police, the chief state’s attorney’s office, and a private investigator, Todd Lovejoy of Spyglass Investigations, are involved in the investigation.
“We are hoping that maybe someone will come forward and try to give us any kind of tip possible,” Jan Smolinski said. “We need to find Billy and bring him home, and we need justice to be done. If anyone has any kind of tip, please, we are asking you to come forward and just let us know.”
Police and Smolinski’s family have searched for Smolinski’s body at several locations, such as in Shelton and in Seymour. In July, the family brought cadaver dogs to search locations of interest in the Valley. According to Jan Smolinski, a dog found a sweatshirt in one of these areas, and authorities have it now, but she doesn’t know if it is significant.
The family plans to put up a new billboard in Waterbury, featuring Billy’s photo, information about him, and how there is a $60,000 reward for his recovery, in an effort to get more tips.
“We have a new identity now,” said Jan Smolinski. “This has changed our lives. We work at finding Billy 24/7. We want to find Billy, bring him home and get justice.”
When Billy finally is found, the family plans to cremate his remains, Jan Smolinski said. After she passes away, she wants his remains put with hers, “because I’m not losing sight of him,” she said.
William Smolinski Sr. added, “We are not going to give up, if it is the last thing we do, we are going to find him and bring him home to rest.”
When Billy disappeared, he was embroiled in a love triangle which resulted in a breakup with his girlfriend, Madeleine Gleason, police reports state.
Last seen Aug. 24, 2004
Gleason told Waterbury police Smolinski broke up with her because he thought she was cheating on him, and he left her place in the early morning of Aug. 24, 2004, “a little depressed” and that was the last time she saw him.
Police reports show Gleason had also been seeing a married man, who told police he received a phone message Aug. 24, 2004, in which the male caller addressed him by name and left a message stating, “You better watch your back.”
Smolinski’s sister, Paula Bell, identified the voice on the message as her brother’s, according to a police report.
Just prior to his disappearance, Smolinski had gone on vacation with Gleason to Florida, and upon his return, told others she cheated on him, and they were no longer seeing each other, police reports show.
Gleason told Waterbury police she had been having relationships with Smolinski and the married man, and that she told Smolinski about the other relationship during their Florida trip. She told investigators it was Smolinski’s idea to break up, but she agreed. She told police Smolinski wanted to get back together when he visited her Aug. 24, but she indicated she needed time to think.
“She said that he claimed he always messed relationships up and he talked about his relationships being a revolving door. He then left and that was the last time she talked to him,” a Waterbury police report on Gleason’s statement shows.
In 2006, a tipster gave information to Waterbury police about Gleason’s son, Shaun Karpiuk. The tipster said Karpiuk killed Smolinski because he had beaten up Gleason in her apartment. The tipster reported hearing that Karpiuk and a male accomplice then buried Smolinski.
Karpiuk died in 2005 at age 27 of a drug overdose. According to police, he had done construction, landscaping and grave digging work.
Gleason, however, has told investigators her children didn’t have any problems with Smolinski, police reports state.
Trabka last week said he thinks there is validity to the tip about Karpiuk.
Police have attempted to interview the man who allegedly helped bury Smolinski, but that individual has not cooperated with police, according to Trabka.
A Waterbury police report shows Smolinski talked to a neighbor about his break-up with Gleason, and asked the neighbor to watch his dog “because he was going to go up north for a couple of days.”
His truck was found parked outside his Waterbury home, with the wallet and keys left behind. According to his family, it wasn’t parked in its usual spot, and they thought someone involved in his disappearance may have parked it there. They put it in storage because of their suspicions.
In October 2008, police combed through Smolinski’s truck looking for forensic clues about his disappearance. They obtained items like DNA and palm prints from it. Trabka said there have been no matches made.
Gleason, a Woodbridge resident, has a 2006 lawsuit against Smolinski family members pending in Superior Court in New Haven, claiming defamation. The lawsuit claims the defendants have falsely accused Gleason of involvement.
Attorney John Williams of New Haven, who represents Gleason in her civil case, said he believes Billy committed suicide.
“I think it is very tragic when people are unable to accept that this man has committed suicide in some place where his body hasn’t been found,” Williams said. “Sometimes tragedies just happen and they are not the fault of anybody.”
According to Trabka, police don’t have any indication of suicide.
“With most people who commit suicide, their bodies are found and a note is left,” Trabka said. “Obviously you can never rule out anything, but (suicide) is not the prevailing theory. We have statements from people indicating it was a homicide and his body was buried.”
A vigil for Billy is being planned for Sunday, Aug. 22 on the Naugatuck Green, from 5 to 8 p.m. The event will also be for all missing persons and in recognition of Missing Persons Day, and the public is welcome to attend.
To give a tip in the Smolinski case, call Todd Lovejoy, the private investigator, at 203-509-5481, or police.
“We are doing everything we can — a lot of people are working on this case, law enforcement and the family, and it is going to be solved,” Lovejoy said.
For more information, visit the family’s website at www.justice4billy.com
, which also has information about sending tips.