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New Life for a Cold Case

For years, the case of teenager Terry Burhoe's brutal 1981 stabbing in Charlestown lay as cold as the victim. Now, with new DNA forensics and the breakdown of the community's code of silence, a suspect is finally going to trial.

ON A LANGUID SUMMER NIGHT IN CHARLESTOWN, an 18-year-old troublemaker named Patrick John Durham set his stare on blue-eyed Mary Theresa Burhoe. The two teens - Terry Burhoe was only 14 and in eighth grade - were hanging out in a courtyard of a neighborhood housing project. It was another weekend night, which meant another party. Drinking, smoking pot, music blaring, and young Townies idling in and around parked cars. Burhoe was known to love music and, as a preteen, had discoed in her living room. By this night, July 10, 1981, disco was out. In were rockers like Pat Benatar, whose Precious Time was fast becoming one of the year's top-selling albums.

The weather was hot, the latest in a string of rainless, 90-degree days. Guys like P. J. Durham tried staying cool by wearing loose T-shirts and gym shorts and sneakers. Burhoe came to the courtyard wearing Sassoon blue jeans, a short-sleeved shirt with purple and white stripes, and her Dr. Scholl's sandals. Her brown hair, cut in a shag, framed her pretty face. At theaters in nearby Somerville, Harrison Ford was captivating audiences in Raiders of the Lost Ark, and Roger Moore was coolly posing as James Bond in For Your Eyes Only. But celluloid escape was beyond the tight confines of Charlestown and, on this night, beyond the reach of these homebound Townies.

The only action for Durham and Terry Burhoe and their friends was on the gritty streets and in the tiny outdoor courtyards of the Bunker Hill housing development, a sprawling, low-slung project made up of squat brick buildings. Burhoe came from another project across town, and in the months leading up to July 10 she had taken to climbing out of the top-floor bedroom window of her apartment - the rebellious uncoiling that comes to a girl who is trying her hardest to act older than she is. P. J. Durham, meanwhile, was already on a felonious career track. He had burglarized a suburban home and then robbed a local doughnut shop, using a knife he liked, called a "007" switchblade. The shop owner had chased Durham, and the young man faced armed robbery charges.

In the heat of a summer night, and as the time in the courtyard spread into the early morning hours of Saturday, July 11, Durham decided to hit on Terry Burhoe. The encounter proved volatile, as Burhoe resisted Durham's advances, according to later police accounts. In the back seat of a car, he allegedly put a knife to the girl's throat and threatened to kill her because she had refused sex with him. Soon after, though, according to at least one witness, the couple left the scene together, "like friends."

But family and friends never saw Terry Burhoe alive again. Late that Saturday afternoon, her bloodied corpse was discovered dumped in high weeds in a far corner of a Charlestown playground. The site bordered the dull, motionless waters of the Little Mystic Channel, an area called "the Oily." Even by the standards of a tough neighborhood as jaded and thick-skinned about murder as Charlestown, the killing of young Burhoe was coldblooded and ugly. The girl had been mutilated with a knife.

Patrick John Durham, always a prime suspect, was never charged with the murder, and over the years the case turned cold, haunting police, prosecutors, and Townies. Until now. Durham, who insists he did not kill Terry Burhoe, will go to trial in the coming months in Suffolk Superior Court for first-degree murder - a case built on new science and new talk from previously reluctant witnesses whose recent cooperation is further proof that the notorious code of silence that has dogged Charlestown for decades continues to erode.

ON ANOTHER SUMMER DAY, IN 1998, DONALD R. HAYES JR. wiped clean a table with a black-slate top and then covered the surface with a strip of white examination paper. Wearing a white lab coat, Hayes pulled on a pair of latex gloves and opened the two boxes that homicide detectives had brought to him from storage.

The director of the Boston Police Crime Laboratory, Hayes is an athletic-looking man of medium height, with a square jaw and a red goatee with traces of gray. He has trained extensively in forensic science - serology, for example, and bloodstain pattern interpretation, and, perhaps most important in the modern era of criminal justice, DNA.

The crime lab is in a restricted area on the second floor of Boston police headquarters on Tremont Street. Hayes, who began working at the lab in 1987, was named director in 1997. The forensics unit is a clean, well-lighted cluster of offices and labs featuring state-of-the-art equipment. For this task, Hayes had chosen one of the larger labs. It was August 19, 1998, and the headline crime story in Massachusetts was a public hearing in federal court probing the FBI's corrupt ties to marquee gangsters Whitey Bulger and Steven Flemmi. Hayes opened the boxes, one marked "clothing of victim" and the other "Patrick Durham items." Quietly underway was an analysis of a cold case - the unsolved murder of Terry Burhoe.

Durham had been picked up by police within hours of the midafternoon discovery of Burhoe's corpse in 1981 in the Oily under the Tobin Bridge. Initial reports from police at the scene were that the victim must have been killed by a shotgun blast - her chest was so bloodied and perforated. But the medical examiner quickly realized the error; the cause of death was actually "multiple stab wounds of heart and lungs." One homicide detective said later that the medical examiner had told him "there were between 50 and 100 stab wounds in the chest area, at least 20 to the heart, 20 to the left lung, and four or five in the back and right side of the neck. There was also a defensive stab wound on the left hand."

Durham was taken after dark by police to the station in Government Center in downtown Boston. Police already knew about the all-night party scene in the courtyard and how a spurned and angry Durham had allegedly put a knife to Burhoe's throat. The red-haired Durham is a big, hefty man, standing about 6 feet 2 inches tall and weighing, at times, as much as 260 pounds. During questioning, police said Durham admitted he had been with Burhoe in the courtyard and had even threatened her but insisted he had done her no harm. Detectives saw that two of the fingers on his right hand - his third finger and his pinky - were wrapped in a homemade dressing consisting of bandages and white tape. The bandages covered deep lacerations across the knuckle of each finger. Police summoned an ambulance. "Patient complained of pain but could move fingers and had feeling," a medical technician wrote. "Removed dressing patient had on, replaced with new dressing." Durham explained that he had cut his hand in a fight Friday night at a movie theater in Somerville. The officers were skeptical. They took possession of the bandages that the medical technician had removed from Durham's right hand. They later checked with theaters and Somerville police, who reported: "No knowledge of any fights."

Detectives believed Durham had killed Burhoe. They theorized that after Durham and Burhoe left the courtyard, Durham resumed his sexual advances. Finding bite marks on Durham's upper thigh and wrist, they believed Burhoe resisted and fought back and that Durham stabbed her to death with his knife. They believed Durham and others with him then dumped Burhoe's body in the Oily. But detectives never found a murder weapon. Eventually, two vials of Durham's blood were drawn for testing, but, at the time, the best the serology analysis could show was the presence of another blood type besides her own on Burhoe's clothes. Hair and clothing samples were studied, also to no avail. Detectives questioned many Townies but got little or no cooperation. They had no witnesses and not enough incriminating physical evidence.

Using one woman's account of events in the courtyard, police did charge Durham with threatening to kill Burhoe when he allegedly pulled a knife on her in the back seat of a car. Durham was arraigned on that assault charge and publicly identified as a suspect in the murder. But weeks passed, and the assault case began kicking around the system. In the armed robbery of the doughnut shop, Durham was convicted by a jury and sent off to serve a nine-to-12-year sentence. The assault case, meanwhile, bounced around some more, and in 1985 it fizzled altogether. Ruling on a defense motion, a judge dismissed the case after finding that the Commonwealth was "not ready for trial."

Through it all, the murder of Terry Burhoe remained uncharged. It joined a lineup of unsolved murders in Charlestown, a list that only grew longer during the 1980s. Time and again, police and prosecutors were stymied by an intractable code of silence rooted in the largely blue-collar neighborhood's insularity and historic mistrust of outsiders. No one ever saw anything _ even when a murder happened in open view. The culture of the place was such that no one wanted to rat out another Townie, even when it came to murder. In a study of police homicide data a decade ago, the Globe found that 75 percent of the 49 Charlestown murders between 1975 and 1992 remained unsolved, an extraordinarily high percentage.

"It was a horrible thing," says attorney John A. Kiernan about the neighborhood's code. Kiernan should know. From 1980 to 1988, he was the chief homicide prosecutor in Suffolk County. "The code of silence was a huge obstacle in any prosecution over there," he says. Including Burhoe's murder, a killing still fresh in Kiernan's mind two decades later: "The brutality of it. The way her chest was opened up. She was just a kid."

Says Kiernan about Durham: "He was always in the sights. We wanted that guy." But they didn't get him. No eyewitnesses, says Kiernan, and not enough incriminating forensic evidence.

Then, in the late summer of 1998, Boston police crime lab director Don Hayes changed all that. The new look into the old murder was the result of a series of seemingly small and mundane workplace moments. Paul J. Farrahar, the police commander in charge of the homicide squad - and still relatively new to the post - was meeting regularly with the detectives who worked exclusively on unsolved, or "cold," cases. They would talk about the new police crime lab and, recalls Farrahar, "the new technology available to us for the cold cases."

It was a summer during which Farrahar also found himself in Charlestown talking with families of murder victims. "I mentioned to the guys about being there and the feelings these people had, their pain. So a lot of things came together at the same time," says Farrahar. "Charlestown came up in the context of one of these discussions about our new technology. Then Terry Burhoe's name came up, and we discussed taking a crack at it with DNA."

Opening the two boxes of old evidence, Hayes stepped back into time. In one box, the criminalist found Terry Burhoe's Dr. Scholl's sandals, a cigarette lighter, and her clothing, including her bloodstained Sassoon jeans. In the other box, Hayes found Durham's gym shorts, white Converse sneakers, and one of the two tubes of blood drawn from the suspect in 1981. The blood had degraded, meaning it was useless to test. The second tube was missing, unaccounted for. But Hayes did come across the homemade dressing of "adhesive band aids and white tape" the detectives had kept after Durham's hand was treated the night of the murder.

"The band aids appear stained with reddish-brown stain," Hayes wrote in his report. "Preliminary tests on the stains were positive, indicating the presence of blood." Conducting further tests, a crime lab colleague, Joseph Varlaro, extracted Durham's

DNA from the bandage. Then came the eureka moment: Putting bloodstains from the back of Burhoe's jeans to the test, Varlaro found Durham's DNA there. Investigators suddenly had the breakthrough they'd been looking for, a DNA match.

"I was crying," says Mary Vardenski, Terry Burhoe's mother, describing her reaction when the chief homicide prosecutor for Suffolk County, David C. Meier, showed up at her home in Charlestown in 2000 to explain that Durham was going to be charged with first-degree murder. Meier told Vardenski and her husband, Richard Vardenski, about the lab's discovery of Durham's DNA on Terry's jeans and how homicide detectives had supplemented the science with helpful new testimony from Charlestown witnesses.

"Everybody in this town always knew who killed my child," says Mary Vardenski today. "Everybody - they all knew, and they all kept their mouth shut."

Meier came to tell her that witnesses were now talking, and heading up that piece of the case was an investigator who was a homegrown Townie, Sergeant Detective Dan Coleman of the cold case squad. Coleman, says Meier, is "incredibly thorough; he's reserved but has a special way with people," a trait that no doubt came in handy working with Townies from the old neighborhood. Beginning in the spring of 1999 and continuing into early 2000, a Suffolk County grand jury heard evidence in the case revived by Coleman's squad and Suffolk prosecutors.

The news in February 2000 that Durham had been charged in the murder put the long-ago case back on television and in the city's daily newspapers.

But in much of today's Charlestown, the questions were "Terry who?" and "Code of what?" For many, the case has a faraway feel, both in time and place. "Charlestown isn't Charlestown anymore," says lifelong resident Michael D. Powers, an attorney. The neighborhood continues to shed its working-class identity. Property values have soared in the past decade. Nearly a third of Charlestown's 15,200 residents may still live in the three housing projects, but the rest of the neighborhood is increasingly middle and upper class.

Says Powers about the new Charlestown: "It's becoming Beacon Hill." Indeed, last year's median sales price of $319,500 for a condominium in Charlestown was second only to Beacon Hill/Back Bay's median price of $357,000. (Overall, the median price for a condominium in Boston's 15 neighborhoods was $219,000.) Townies like Powers instantly recall Burhoe's murder - a "real shocker," he says, shaking his head - but for most of today's Charlestown, "the Terry Burhoe case could be out of Texas."

Not so Mary Vardenski. "I've been grieving for 20 years," she says, seated at the kitchen table in her apartment in the Mishawum Housing Development in Charlestown. "You can't explain or understand unless it happens to you." She's been in counseling and says that for years she's taken medication for depression. "I'm on so much medication it isn't funny. I don't go out much, except maybe to ride to New Hampshire to buy cigarettes. People think I should just get rid of this, get on with life. I tell them, `Stab your child a hundred times, and you get on with your life.' "

Talking about Terry brings her to tears. Mary Vardenski was 16 and unwed when Terry was born on January 7, 1967. Nine months later, she married Richard Vardenski. ("I told him I had a child when he asked me out, but he didn't mind. We'd take her with us on dates. He's always been Terry's father.") The couple have been together 34 years and have two sons and a daughter. Both sons have had their share of trouble; one is currently in prison. Mary Vardenski says Terry "loved music, like me." Together in the late 1970s, the mother and daughter would disco at home to singers like Donna Summer.

Growing up, Terry liked to take her younger brothers swimming at the public pool on Bunker Hill Street and always looked forward to visiting her stepfather's relatives in Allston. "She loved life," says Mary Vardenski about a firstborn she says loved to help make breakfast - pancakes or waffles - and to watch over the little kids in the neighborhood. "She didn't need much sleep," says Mary Vardenski. "She was always up early." Then came the spring of 1981, when Terry, 14, began running wild and running away. "She became combative," her mother recalls. "She looked much older than she was. I tried to keep her home."

Terry got into trouble, the kind that drew a social worker to intervene in the family's affairs. By July, after watching a program about "tough love," Vardenski says she decided to try a different tack. "I heard how if someone you love is going down the wrong path, you wake them up and throw them out of the house, and I did that." However unfairly, she says, "I feel so guilty that I threw Terry out. I wonder if maybe I hadn't done that she'd be alive today."

Terry Burhoe's corpse was discovered by firefighters responding to a report of a grass fire. Her killers, police later determined, were trying to burn the body, a pathetic, misguided idea, because it was so wet with blood. Taken at the scene, a police photograph shows Burhoe face up. Her hair falls to each side of her face, and her mouth is partially open. One arm is flung out above her head in the grass. The left leg bends at the knee so that the right leg, which is straight, rests over her left foot.

From this spot under the shadows of the Tobin Bridge, the view cuts across the barren playground, across the low-slung roof line of the Bunker Hill housing project and then, beyond that, to the soaring 221-foot granite tower that is the Bunker Hill Monument. This is where it ended for Terry Burhoe. Bloodstains are visible on the right knee of her blue jeans. Blood spots her chin and her arms. Blood covers and darkens her chest.

Mary Vardenski was unable to go through with the identification at the morgue. "I couldn't go down the stairs," she says. "I was starting to pass out. The coroner, I guess, was getting aggravated, because he had the body out, and a couple of friends, they were holding me up to try to get me down the stairs. But I couldn't do it. My husband had to do it."

In her kitchen, it's as if the murder occurred yesterday. "I'm obsessive about my Terry," says Vardenski. She wears a pendant engraved with Terry's name and the date of her murder. She has two tattoos dedicated to her daughter. The one on her right forearm has Terry's name written in a fancy blue script next to a bleeding white rose. Last year she added a tattoo of two blue teardrops on her cheek - blue for Terry's eyes - and she also bought a cat she named Terry. "Now I can say her name every day," says Vardenski. Hanging in the kitchen is a pastel portrait of Terry at age 10, smiling and freckle-faced. Framed on another wall is a photograph showing the teenage Terry and her stepfather. Terry has her shag haircut and is wearing slacks and a V-neck sweater. The picture was taken at Easter, a few months before she was killed.

Then there's "Tears for Terry," a framed poem Mary Vardenski wrote, which reads in part:

Terry was a beautiful child.

Her smile.

Her eyes so blue that even her eyelids were blue.

Because of the code of silence her killers still walk the streets of Charlestown.

Every day of my life is the same.

I sit at my table and look at her picture.

I try to imagine how she would look today.

No longer a child but a woman.

My heart is broken.

When Patrick John Durham was arraigned on February 16, 2000, on the charge of first-degree murder of Terry Burhoe, Mary Vardenski made sure to attend. It wasn't easy. Richard, her husband, was home on crutches following hip replacement surgery. Other family members from the area did not appear, which embitters Mary Vardenski to this day. ("Boston homicide is my family now," she says. "They're the ones who came to court.")

She'd never seen Durham before and says she was at once terrified and angry as soon as she saw him standing in Charlestown District Court. She cried during and after the arraignment, and today gets upset talking about it once again: "He laughed in my face when they read the charges."

For Mary Vardenski's Charlestown, the case is both unfinished business and a deep, open wound.

Then and now, Patrick John Durham asserts he did not kill Terry Burhoe. Now is behind the walls of the state's maximum-security prison in Walpole, where he awaits a murder trial expected to begin in late winter or early spring. Durham is 39 years old and has spent a good chunk of his adult life incarcerated. When he was indicted in the Burhoe murder in early 2000, he was in prison finishing off a sentence from a 1996 conviction for dealing heroin. Durham did not respond to a letter seeking an interview.

In the upcoming trial, Durham is fortunate to have been appointed one of the city's highly regarded criminal defense attorneys. Jamie Sultan is probably best known for his tireless appellate work on behalf of the Amirault family of Malden in a child molestation scandal from the 1980s known as the Fells Acres Day Care case. It was Sultan who led a challenge that, while taking years and drawing national attention, finally persuaded an appeals court to rule that the prosecution's methods of interviewing child witnesses were flawed.

Sultan, seated behind his desk in his North End law offices, would not comment specifically about a pending matter, but he did answer questions about why he is drawn to a case like Durham's. "It's a very intriguing case," he says. "You have a now-20-year-old murder which was unsolved for 18 of those years until, lo and behold, the government has decided it is solved. I start with an innate skepticism of these sorts of miracles."

The miracle Sultan is referring to is the DNA match made by Don Hayes and his colleagues at the Boston police crime lab. Beware DNA as a "magic bullet," Sultan says. " DNA has become the nuclear weapon of the criminal justice system. Very powerful and very dangerous." Without a doubt, he says, DNA has proven stunningly valuable in freeing the wrongly convicted and in winning convictions in crimes that had long gone unsolved. Even so, he says, an "aura of infallibility" about DNA does not mean the science should go unchallenged, "because what if things are screwed up along the way?"

Sultan adds: "The DNA evidence - if collected properly, preserved properly, and then tested properly - can be incredibly compelling. But if the testing is, for any number of reasons, not reliable, well, then it's garbage in, garbage out."

Courtroom strategy is not something Sultan wanted to discuss, but strong hints of how he plans to defend Durham are contained in the challenges he's already made in pretrial motions and in other court papers. For example, he's trying to prevent prosecutors from using the statement that Durham supposedly made to police in which he admitted he had threatened Burhoe with a knife in the courtyard. Sultan says Durham was not given his Miranda warnings and argues that any "custodial statements" should be suppressed. "I did not make any voluntary statements to any member of the Boston Police Department following my arrest," says P. J. Durham in an accompanying sworn affidavit.

Sultan will also likely attack the credibility of any new witnesses police have rounded up recently. This is the part of the case where the neighborhood's code of silence comes alive. In full force, the code operates to freeze witnesses' tongues so that when first questioned, they either deny any knowledge of a crime or share only part of the story. Deciding some time later to cooperate, the witnesses carry the baggage of their initial comments - what lawyers call prior inconsistent statements. In this way, the code acts as an electrical charge to the witness credibility issues that surface in any trial.

Take an expected witness against Durham named John Cummings. When questioned in 1981, Cummings provided police with little information about Durham and Terry Burhoe at the courtyard party. Today, Cummings is apparently ready to testify that Durham threatened Burhoe. Sultan will likely argue that witnesses whose stories change over time cannot be trusted, and a jury would be left to sort out if Sultan is right or a code of silence or some other reason justifies the discrepancies.

The crux of the case, however, is the DNA match - the discovery of Durham's DNA on Burhoe's jeans - and here Sultan's defense is taking shape on two fronts. The first round will involve the cuts on Durham's fingers. The government claims that Durham's blood ended up on Burhoe from cuts he sustained while he was stabbing her to death. But Sultan claims Durham cut his hand the day before the murder, which means some of his blood could have gotten on Burhoe's jeans in the courtyard, when no one disputes that the two were in contact.

For a while, Durham's mother was lined up to serve as his alibi for the defense's benign explanation for the DNA discovery. "On the night before the day Terry Burhoe's body was found in Charlestown, my son Patrick came to our home at 121 Walford Way," begins Ruth Durham in a sworn affidavit. "I remember the time that Patrick came in, because I was watching the news before Johnny Carson's program came on television. Patrick's right hand was bleeding when he came in. . . . I washed Patrick's hand and bandaged it." Ruth Durham died of cancer in mid-2000, before she could sit and give a videotaped statement that Sultan would have tried to use at trial. Even without his mother, Durham is expected to contest the timing of the cuts.

Then comes the front line of Durham's defense, a quasi-O. J. Simpson strategy to persuade jurors to mistrust the reliability of the government's DNA findings. Most everyone remembers how Simpson won an acquittal despite substantial DNA evidence linking the former football star to the murder of Nicole Brown Simpson DNA evidence on Simpson's socks and in his Bronco. Simpson's defense team successfully launched a multi-pronged assault on the incriminating scientific findings - attacking police handling and storage of evidence, the competency of the DNA testing, and, lastly, suggesting that Los Angeles police had actually planted evidence to frame Simpson.

In Durham's court papers, Sultan has already challenged the Boston Police Department's "haphazard and deficient procedures to safeguard important evidence." The lawyer has homed in on the two vials of blood drawn from Durham during the initial investigation. "One of the vials has become devoid of evidentiary value due to the ineptitude of the Boston Police Crime Laboratory," writes Sultan. "The other vial is totally unaccounted for."

Sultan is showing his hand: He will likely be trying to create doubt in the jurors' minds by looking back in time. Today's lab might well have detected his client's DNA on Burhoe's jeans, but so what? The heralded DNA match cannot be taken seriously, he could argue, given past police mistakes in handling the evidence. The test results are tainted if the integrity of the materials was compromised. ("Garbage in, garbage out," as Sultan says about testing generally.) The fact that one vial of Durham's blood is unaccounted for sets the stage for a defense argument that Boston police may even have tampered with and contaminated Burhoe's jeans, a possibility that echoes Simpson's claim of a frame-up.

In the end, just as Simpson did, Durham claims that Burhoe's killer is still out there.

The Durham trial promises to be a high-caliber face-off between Sultan and the prosecutor in the case. David Meier, whose courtroom reputation equals Sultan's, has been trying homicide cases since 1988. Most unit chiefs are administrators, but Meier continued to carry his own caseload of murder prosecutions even after taking over as chief of the homicide unit in 1996 for Suffolk County District Attorney Ralph C. Martin II.

Regarding courtroom challenges to both the police and the crime lab, Meier has said, "I'm confident that the manner in which the DNA evidence was preserved will allow prosecutors to hold Mr. Durham accountable for the crime."

Farrahar, commander of the homicide unit, is just as confident: "The original investigation made this case; an excellent investigation in gathering the evidence and storing it properly, so that years down the line we could take advantage of new technology they could never have imagined would ever be available."

Beyond socioeconomics, Charlestown is different today in other ways. Nearly five years have passed since a Townie was murdered. Previously, Charlestown murders were a regular event. Going back to the late 1960s, there were always a couple a year, and some years saw a run of four or five.

Many longtime Town ies say the code of silence has lost much of its age-old grip on the neighborhood, citing myriad reasons for its decline. In 1991, fed-up family members of murder victims, with a local parish priest, organized a group to draw attention to the unsolved murders. The Charlestown After Murder Program celebrated its 10th year last fall.

By the mid-1990s, federal prosecutors were able to successfully prosecute eight Townie killers and drug dealers in what became known in the media as the code of silence racketeering case. The convictions culminated a substantial federal commitment to attack the Charlestown culture of violence. The price tag to protect and relocate more than a dozen witnesses exceeded $1 million. In other Charlestown murders in the last decade, Boston police have made arrests in nearly every one, often with witness cooperation - a sharp departure from the past.

"People aren't comfortable saying nothing anymore," says Lois Molinari of Charlestown, "and killers can't count on people staying behind the curtains."

"It gives you hope," says Pam Enos about the breakthrough in Burhoe's case. "Just the fact that you're in a courtroom and a person has been charged." Enos is a cofounder of the murder victims' group. Her teenage son was killed in 1991, a crime that remains unsolved. "Things do change," she says. "In Mary Theresa's case, it's technology. The DNA. And there are people, witnesses, who were younger when this happened and who are now adults. Maybe some of them are even parents now. Or maybe some are in trouble and need to make a deal. But either way, they are ready to talk, and things change."

In the Vardenski apartment, Mary Vardenski's immediate concern is the upcoming trial and whether she can handle attending the proceedings daily. "I'm afraid he's going to get out," she frets at one point about Durham. Her eldest son, Richard, is unwavering in his plan to attend. "I'll torture him every day," he says, "by laughing at him."

"I just want to see justice done," says Mary Vardenski's husband, Richard.

For Mary Vardenski, however, justice may not be enough. Even a murder conviction, she says, would not bring about healing and closure. "Never," she says, shaking her head. "It won't help." Vardenski just wants her daughter back: "I will cry for her until the day I die."

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