Southbridge teen killed by motorist on Route 197

📸 Dudley Police Department photo of the area in which the unsolved vehicular homicide of July 1989 occurred.

DUDLEY — Local law enforcement is soliciting the general public’s help in a 30-year-old cold case centered around a 19-year-old male from Southbridge who had been killed by a motorist.

The Dudley Police Department issued an appeal to the public on Friday morning, noting that the 30th anniversary of the unsolved vehicular homicide passed in July 2019.

“The department was contacted by a friend of the victim and our officers, led by Sergeant Dean Poplawski, have been reviewing the facts of the case, hoping to bring closure to a family who has been dealing with the pain of this incident for a very long time,” read the appeal on the police department’s Facebook page. “Unfortunately, with the passing of time, all the officers directly involved in the investigation have either retired or passed away. Many hours have been spent searching for information and reviewing documentation from a variety of sources. At this point, The Dudley Police would like to once again ask for the public’s help.”

Police released the following information about the case: During the early morning hours of Saturday, July 8, 1989, Robert Walker, who was at that time a Bail Commissioner for Dudley District Court, was driving east on Route 197 — known in the area as Tufts Hill, along West Main Street in Dudley. At approximately 3:30 a.m., Walker reported a pedestrian lying in the road in the westbound lane, approximately one-quarter-to-one-half-mile west of Dudley District Court. It appeared this person had been struck by a vehicle. The victim was deceased and later identified as a 19-year-old white male from Southbridge. He had been observed walking westbound in that area around 3 a.m., possibly heading back to home to Southbridge. Reconstruction of the accident revealed there were no visible tire marks on the roadway and little forensic evidence was available. It does appear this person was struck by a westbound vehicle.

“There has been much speculation over the years as to possible vehicles types involved and potential suspects. Nothing definitive has been determined at this point and the department is keeping all options on the table. Much of the information, known to investigators, will be withheld in order to limit tainting of the case,” police said in their public appeal. “By providing some basic facts on this incident, Dudley Police hope to gather evidence or information which can bring this matter to a close. The suspect driver may have been from the local area, northern Connecticut, or beyond. There was a possibility the vehicle involved required repairs. Perhaps the driver or passengers may have information they have been carrying with them for over thirty years and they may wish to relinquish it. If the driver has passed, it is quite possible a family member or friend has information they would be able to share. Due to the statute of limitations, the possibility exists of no criminal charges being filed. Certainly, there are several factors which must be considered before any final determination can be made, however; this may be helpful in the event someone remains hesitant to provide information.”

While the death occurred 30 years ago, police hope social media platforms may help spread the word and lead to a break in the case.

“The Dudley Police Department knows someone out there has information about this tragedy. In the age of social media, information travels faster and further than ever before. Hopefully another review will bring about some new facts,” police said. “Any information police can obtain could not only solve this case; it would bring some closure to a family who has been forced to bear this burden for well over 30 years.”

Police omitted the name of the victim in their appeal for help, citing the family’s desire for privacy. Due to the nature of the request for public information, coupled with the victim’s identity likely not being a factor in solving the case, The Citizen Chronicle has chosen to abide by the request not to publish the name of the victim or his family.

Through the Dudley Police Department, the victim’s father released a statement expressing his hope someone will be able to come forward with new information or details that may help bring closure to the case.

“I’m hopeful there’s still someone out there who has information about what happened that night and will be brave enough to share it, so our family and friends can finally have peace and closure,” the father said.

All inquiries or questions can be directed to Sergeant Dean Poplawski or Chief Steven Wojnar at the Dudley Police Department by calling 508-943-4411, option 0, or by calling 508-949-8023. Callers can remain anonymous.

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