Molly Bish’s father may have been a probation officer at East Brookfield District Court around the time a man named as a new person of interest in the girl’s abduction and murder was on probation at the same court, authorities said.
John Bish was chief probation officer when Francis “Frank” P. Sumner was on probation after he served time for kidnapping and aggravated rape, Worcester District Attorney Joseph Early Jr. told the Herald.
“The victim was 16 at the time of the rape,” the same age Molly was when she vanished from Comins Pond in Warren in June of 2000, Early said. “She was someone he invited into the house to clean the apartment.”
Sumner was sentenced to 15 to 18 years for that kidnapping and rape in the early 1980s, said Lindsay Corcoran, a spokeswoman for Early.
Sumner was sentenced to probation in 2009 in East Brookfield District Court for a violation of a stay-away order, said Coria Holland, a spokeswoman for the commissioner of probation. He may have crossed paths with John Bish. But Bish was not his probation officer, she said.
On Thursday, the DA announced that Sumner, who died in 2016, was a person of interest in Molly’s abduction and murder, based on a tip police investigated.
Sumner, 71, lived and worked in Central Massachusetts from 1960 through 2016. He had three auto-repair shops in Spencer, Leicester and Worcester and lived in Spencer prior to his death, the DA said.
He also had a more-than-20-page criminal record, Early said.
“This was one of the people on the State Police radar at the time (Molly) was abducted,” he said, “but the crime scene was compromised because this was originally treated as a drowning.”
Word that Sumner was a person of interest came just weeks before the 21st anniversary of Molly’s disappearance.
Molly’s mother, Magi Bish, dropped her off at the pond at around 9:45 a.m. on June 27, 2000, her eighth day as a lifeguard. But when swimmers showed up less than a half-hour later, only her shoes, a water bottle, a medical kit and a police radio were on the lifeguard chair.
Her disappearance set off a massive search. But it wasn’t until nearly three years later that her remains were found by a hunter in the woods of Whiskey Hill in Palmer, less than three miles away.
After announcing that Sumner was a person of interest, “we got several tips right away,” Early said. Those tips and others received on Friday are being investigated.
Early continued to appeal for more tips from the public, specifically information relative to Sumner’s employment practices or personnel, his associates, vehicles, travel and any known habits. Anyone with information about him or the Molly Bish case should call the anonymous tip line at 508-453-7575.