I’ve been combing the local papers from late 1990 for news articles related to my late sister in law Grace’s unsolved murder. I’ve found myself immersed in the culture of the era. Not the nostalgic pop culture that we like to think about like the clothing, music or TV programs that were in rotation. The headlines of that time are filled with word like “war,” “slaying,”“attack,” and “homicide,” sometimes referring to the Gulf war and other times referring to the rising record breaking number of murders in Boston that year. I haven’t found it yet, but it was one of those headlines followed by a list of names at the bottom of which lay a “Jane Doe” that prompted Grace’s identification.
What I did find is a later headline from the front page of The Boston Globe, printed on January 1, 1991, which read “As 1990 ended, so did 3 more lives.” It went on to detail the devastation and was accompanied by a map of the city with dots where each murder had occurred and a list of the 148 homicides. The list gave simply the number in order of occurrence, the victim’s name and age (when known), where they lived, where they were found and the manner of death and Y or N (indicating whether or not an arrest had been made in connection with the murder). Grace was 131 on the list, having been identified by Tommy and their father Jim by that time.
Of all the things we’ve been looking at and talking about since re-editing the piece about Grace’s murder, seeing her name as a line item like this stole my breath. I sat there and ugly cried by myself for a good minute, took a deep breath and jotted down the names around hers to help my search for the prior article.
In doing so, I fell down the rabbit hole.
It’s hard not to do with this type of research. I also wrote down the names of women who were killed in a similar manner and prioritized them by age, keeping the women closest to her age at the top. Why did I do this? Because there will always be a part of me looking for her killer. Shouldn’t I be certain that the detectives working on her case have already connected these dots? I should, they are very fine people.
So I wrote down the names to save for later and continued on my search but one name was nagging at me: Mary Cox.
Why Mary Cox?
I wasn’t sure either until went back to the article. She didn’t have an age listed. I spent the better part of my day looking for information on Mary Cox and by 4:30 I had nothing more than I started with.
This was haunting me.
I realize that before Tommy started talking about Grace publicly, there was not much published on her either. This concept renewed my passion for reaching the families of these seemingly forgotten victims.
I changed approach and gave myself a time limit. I narrowed my search and within minutes I found two short articles mentioning Mary Cox. One gave the details of her discovery and the other announced her identity. She was found on August 25, 1990, in a vacant lot on Bowdoin Street in Dorchester. The article that revealed her identity estimated her age to be between 30-35.
Beyond the known disturbing details about Mary’s death, I find it so unsettling that her age is estimated. What does that mean?
I can’t get her out of my mind. So, I tracked down the author of that article with the list of names. I found out that he still writes for the Globe and his name and contact information are listed on their website.
“Why not give him a call?” I thought.
He answered on the first ring! I fumbled my words but managed to articulate who I am and why I was calling. I called, in fact, to gather more information on Grace’s coverage (which maybe I’ll tell you more about later) but while I had him I had to ask about Mary Cox.
What he told me was of subtle comfort. He said that information passed through so many channels at that time and everything was written down making it difficult to get all the right information. He said, she may very well have been claimed by a family member but that whoever they spoke to may not have known who claimed her or couldn’t read what was written on her death certificate.
He told me the best way to find out more about Mary would be to go to the Office of Vital Record.
So that is precisely what I intend to do.
Stay tuned for Part Two of “Who Is Mary Cox?”