A deceased sex offender with a lengthy criminal record has been named a person of interest in the abduction and murder of Molly Bish, authorities said Thursday.
Francis “Frank” P. Sumner Sr., who died in 2016, is being investigated in the 2000 murder of the 16-year-old after investigators recently received new information, Worcester District Attorney Joseph Early Jr. said.
“We got information from a tip, and the more we investigated the tip, it corroborated the information we had,” he said.
Sumner, 71, was active in the Central Massachusetts area from 1960 through 2016 He was known to operate auto repair shops in the Spencer, Leicester and Worcester areas and lived in Spencer prior to his death, the DA said.
He had a more than 20-page criminal record, including an early-1980s aggravated rape and kidnapping, for which he was sentenced to 15 to 18 years, said Lindsay Corcoran, a spokeswoman for Early.
The victim’s sister, Heather Bish, said that State Police visited her and her mother on Wednesday to let them know they had a person of interest.
“We haven’t had much time to process this,” she said. “We’re feeling very grateful that the State Police are committed to solving this case….I believe they will continue to do that now. Every other time, I’ve been the one bringing people forward, with the help of various private investigators.”
Bish said she was both hopeful and “scared about who (Sumner) was and what he might have done to Molly.”
Investigators are seeking more tips from the public, specifically information relative to Sumner’s employment practices or personnel, his associates, vehicles, travel and any known habits.
“We still get tips regularly on the Bish case, and we investigate them,” Corcoran said. The State Police “run down all kinds of things. The work doesn’t end on these cases.”
This announcement comes just weeks before the 21st anniversary of Molly’s disappearance from Comins Pond in Warren on June 27, 2000. Molly was a resident of Warren and was working as a lifeguard at the pond. Her disappearance set off a massive search.
A hunter found her remains nearly three years later in the woods of Whiskey Hill in nearby Palmer.
State Police detectives assigned to the Worcester County District Attorney’s Office urge anyone with information about Sumner or any new information about the Molly Bish case to call the anonymous tip line at (508) 453-7575.