DAs hope to crack unsolved cases with deck of cards

  • The 2010 killing of Paul Kirschner in Shutesbury remains unsolved. NORTHWESTERN DA’s OFFICE




Staff Writer
Published: 2/10/2022 5:00:10 PM

NORTHAMPTON — On June 25, 2010, Michael R. “Mickey” Brougham, 54, of Belchertown, drove through his hometown in his truck, briefly talked to his nephew at a traffic detail and continued on his way. He has not been seen or heard from since.

Less than three months later, on Sept. 15, 2010, 11 days before his 71st birthday, Paul J. Kirschner was found stabbed to death inside his Shutesbury home. Kirschner’s homicide remains unsolved.

Theirs are two of four homicide or missing persons cases in the region covered by the Northwestern district attorney’s office that are being highlighted in a just-produced 52-card playing deck to be circulated in prisons statewide, as a means of possibly bringing new information to light and offering resolutions for families and law enforcement agencies.

Other prominent regional cases in the deck include those of Molly Bish, the lifeguard who disappeared from a Warren pond in 2000 and whose skeletal remains were found in Palmer three years later; Holly Piirainen, a 10-year-old girl who disappeared from her Sturbridge home in August 1993 and whose remains were found that October in Brimfield; and Jafet Robles, whose body, with a gunshot wound to the back, was found in 2017 by Department of Public Works employees in Szot Park in Chicopee.

The deck of cards is a joint project of district attorneys’ offices, the Massachusetts State Police and the Massachusetts Department of Correction. Each card features a photo of, and information about, a victim, as well as a phone number to call.

“Even if it is a long shot, this project provides a glimmer of hope that someone may come forward with information that could prove helpful to the case,” Northwestern First Assistant District Attorney Steven Gagne said in a statement.

Tips could come from those who are incarcerated, he said.

“It’s not uncommon that those serving time may know something,” Gagne said. “People talk.”

The project is led by State Police Lt. Ann Marie Robertson of the State Police Unresolved Case Unit and funded by the Department of Correction.

The local cases in the playing card deck were chosen by Gagne and State Police Capt. Jeffrey Cahill, head of the State Police Detective Unit assigned to the Northwestern district attorney’s office. They chose cases from the relatively recent past, so that someone with information might still remember details that could be helpful to an investigation.

In addition to the Kirschner and Brougham cases, the other cards in the Northwestern district attorney’s region are the killings of Jean Bones-Colon, a Holyoke resident who was shot outside Anthony’s Night Club in South Hadley, Sept. 28, 2012, and William Dziedzinski, who was found dead of multiple wounds at his Ware home on Feb. 2, 2018.

Cahill said similar initiatives in other states, which began in 2005 in Polk County, Florida, have been successful, leading to arrests for crimes that previously stymied investigators, with information coming from people who might have been too afraid to pass it along in earlier periods. In less than three months after the Polk County launch, the cards generated more than 60 tips. As a result, four cases were solved and the offenders were convicted.

The Brougham case is one where new leads are possible.

“He’s been missing for 11 years and we feel like people might have information as to what happened,” Cahill said. “We wanted to pick cases we thought people might remember with a little gentle nudge.”

The project could definitely help, Cindy Brown, one of Brougham’s sisters, wrote in an email.

“After 11½ years it often feels like Mickey has been forgotten as new stories keep happening,” Brown wrote. “And yet for us, it is real every day that he is not with us. We want/need to know as much as we can about what happened and would like to see justice.”

Two days after he was last seen, Brougham’s wallet, watch and cellphone were found near the New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, on a weekend when a NASCAR event took place. That prompted New Hampshire State Police and Fish and Game officers to oversee an unsuccessful 12,000-acre search for Brougham using search dogs, a helicopter and all-terrain vehicles.

Another search involving 100 volunteers from around New England followed in October 2010, covering new terrain in the same area of Loudon, including a series of ponds.

His family members, though, have long maintained that Brougham disappeared much closer to home. His truck and motorcycle, as well as prescription medication, were all left at his home.

In addition to making the playing cards, the state police are posting to social media channels a video featuring State Police Col. Christopher Mason, the department’s superintendent, and a slideshow containing front and back images of each card. That will allow the public to assist.

“The victims in this deck were someone’s mother, father, sister, brother, wife, husband, child, or partner,” Mason said. “Much time may have passed since the crime that took them from their loved ones, but they, and the victims of all our unresolved cases, are not forgotten. Our detectives and forensic specialists across the state work daily to solve cases like these.”

Scott Merzbach can be reached at smerzbach@gazettenet.com.
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