📷 Holly Piirainen disappeared from Sturbridge Aug. 5, 1993 and her remains were found Oct. 23, 1993. An event Sunday, Oct. 21, 2018 will gather tips and information go resolve her case.
By Sarah Champagne, Managing Editor
STURBRIDGE – If you can believe it, 25 years have passed since the disappearance of 10-year-old Holly Piirainen in Sturbridge and the subsequent discovery of her remains a few months later. The identity of Holly’s abductor has never been established, leaving Holly’s family and the community at large with too many unanswered questions.
In an attempt to gather new leads and revisit information available in the case, there will be a “tips” event Sunday, Oct. 21, at The Sturbridge Host Hotel and Conference Center. The event provides a chance for people to share anything that could be relevant to the case, even if it seems slight or if the information was also previously reported. The Hope For Holly Tip Campaign will be set up at the Host Hotel, 366 Main Street in Sturbridge, from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. The tips event will last until 6 p.m. and then there will be a vigil for Holly at the shore of Cedar Lake, which abuts the hotel property.
Long-time residents of the area will remember the news story and the shocking revelation that the 10-year-old girl’s remains had been found. Piirainen’s body was found just a few short months after her disappearance when everyone was still hoping for a safe return of the child, whose smiling face and side ponytail beamed from posters and images distributed to the public.
Those who are newer to the area may not be as familiar with the story of Holly’s disappearance. Holly was from Grafton, but she and her family were visiting her grandparents in Sturbridge in the summer of 1993.
During the visit, Holly and her brother walked down the street from her grandmother’s home to look at some puppies at a neighbor’s house. Holly’s brother returned to the home after looking at the puppies, but Holly did not. After Holly did not return home, family members found one of her white sneakers near the road but they never again saw their beloved daughter, granddaughter or sister.
In the years since the disappearance, investigators have reviewed various leads and persons of interest, but the case has not been resolved. Without a doubt, Holly’s family members remain deeply impacted by events of that day. In 25 years, Holly would have transformed from the 10-year-old girl with the cheery half-smile seen in photographs into a 35-year-old woman, possibly with a family of her own.
Holly disappeared from the area of Allen and Shore Roads in Sturbridge and her remains were found near Five Bridge Road in Brimfield.
The tips event at The Sturbridge Host and Conference Center Oct. 21 will feature respected cold case investigator Sarah Stein, Ph.D., who will be available to review information that anyone can bring forward. Stein works with The Center for Unresolved Crime (CRUC). She received her doctorate in Criminal Justice from the University of Southern Mississippi and her master’s in Forensic Science.
Stein reveals the stunning statistic that 90 percent of cold cases contain the name of the perpetrator somewhere in the original case file.
“The key to a cold case is really going back to the beginning,” Stein remarks.
To look at the whole case, including information that might already be available somewhere or dismissed as irrelevant, Stein encourages people to attend the tips event even if they have provided the same, seemingly insignificant, piece of information to investigators previously.
Organizers of the tips event are of hoping, of course, that new leads and information will emerge Sunday at The Host, but they welcome any information, whether it has been previously reported or unreported. The forum is a good place to report minor discrepancies, previously reported information that you might talk about again or anything that may seem insignificant at first thought.
This type of historical dig into the memory of the time period and the location of the crime can break loose a piece of the puzzle that someone might unknowingly have access to, despite his or her reluctance to share information that seems to have nothing to do with the case.
Stein also reports that in contrast to the plots of popular cold case and crime shows, very few cases are cracked by new DNA evidence. She reports that DNA plays a part in only about 25 to 27 percent of cases.
Law enforcement will not be on-site during the tips event, but all information that is provided to investigators will be turned over to law enforcement. In addition to the event, people with information can call Hampden County State Police Detectives at (413) 505-5993 to provide information. Tips can also be sent to Stein at HopeForHolly080593@gmail.com. The email address includes the date that Holly disappeared in its last four characters. You can also text a tip to “CRIME” or 274637. For both email and text tips, include the subject “Solve Holly Piirainen.”