Effort underway to update ‘Granby girl’ headstone from Unknown to Patricia Ann Tucker

By EMILY THURLOW

Staff Writer

Published: 03-16-2023 7:14 PM

GRANBY — The mystery that surrounded the case of the murder victim who came to be known as “Granby Girl” was one that struck a lot of people, including the town’s retired police chief, Lou Barry.

Though he took the helm at the Police Department in 1987 — nine years after the young woman’s decomposed body was discovered by loggers off Amherst Street near the intersection with Route 116 — Barry received tips about the case on and off throughout his tenure.

He recalled how Tony Regan, who was a cemetery commissioner at the time, made her a white wooden cross that read “Unknown Girl,” and later helped to raise funds to place a permanent marker there bearing the inscription “Unknown.”

So when the Northwestern district attorney’s office identified the woman as Patricia Ann Tucker last week, Barry knew he wanted the headstone that replaced the wooden cross in West Street Cemetery to bear her name.

And within 48 hours of starting a GoFundMe fundraiser for that effort, more than $2,300 was raised.

The fundraiser was organized by Erin Desrochers of Private Investigations for the Missing. The nonprofit organization provides free investigative services for loved ones of missing people.

“As soon as I knew Patricia Ann Tucker was identified, I talked to Erin and told her we gotta get her name on that stone, and they were more than glad to help out,” said Barry, who has volunteered for the nonprofit since its inception in 2018.

Private Investigations for the Missing was founded by Bruce Maitland of Vermont, whose daughter Brianna Maitland went missing when she was 17 years old. She was last seen on the evening of March 19, 2004 after leaving work in Montgomery, a town in northern Vermont. She was supposed to be heading to a friend’s house, but never arrived.

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After Barry retired from the Granby police in 2010, he continued to teach criminal justice classes at Holyoke Community College. Around 2016, he found himself with a little down time and decided to reach out to Maitland.

“I had been familiar with Brianna’s case and thought I could help, so I reached out to Bruce and offered my services and it just snowballed from there,” he said.

After that, Barry continued to work with Maitland, and joined Maitland once he formed the nonprofit.

Barry estimates he has dedicated about 1,000 hours to researching cases through the organization.

“Unfortunately, police departments have limited resources, and the truth is, people can’t really afford to pay investigators — private investigators are expensive. Bruce started this nonprofit to help fill some of that gap,” Barry said.

From the more than 100 case requests that have come in, Barry said, 27 people have been located, some deceased and some alive. Those numbers include discoveries from outside of their organization as well.

The nonprofit’s priority target is members of marginalized populations, which includes Black, Indigenous and people of color, as well those with mental health struggles and substance use disorders, Barry said.

“We did review any case that comes in, but our primary focus is those that are underserved. It seems that there is a lot less effort put on those cases. At times, we’ve found that no one is looking,” he said.

Barry also noted that he helped with research on Tucker’s case, as much of what he does at Private Investigations for the Missing is tracking people down.

“When I was notified that they identified her six to eight weeks ago, it was really gratifying to know that everyone had kept at it,” he said.

Barry commended the work of the district attorney’s office and detectives from state and local police departments for dedicating the funding and resources to Tucker’s case.

The district attorney’s office publicly announced that they had identified Tucker at a press conference on March 6.

Tucker’s identity was confirmed by Othram, a forensic laboratory in Houston working on behalf of Massachusetts authorities, after finding a possible family match for the woman’s DNA in a woman living in Maryland. The woman turned out to be Tucker’s niece, who put them in contact with Tucker’s son, Matthew Dale. A genetic sample from Tucker proved to be a 100% parent-child match to Dale, who had already submitted his DNA to Ancestry.com.

Barry met Dale in person at the press conference. Through multiple conversations with the family, he asked permission to start a fundraiser to purchase a new headstone and they agreed.

“They’re totally on board and appreciative,” he said.

The order for the new headstone was put in on Friday, he added.

Although Tucker has been identified, the perpetrator behind the violent murder remains unknown. First Assistant District Attorney Steve Gagne said at the press conference that he hopes to generate additional leads to help identify her murderer.

The district attorney’s office said one avenue of inquiry has since come to an end after investigators learned that Laura Holmes, the last person known to have seen Tucker alive when she dropped 5-year-old Matthew off at Holmes’ house in Chicopee in August 1978, had died.

Anyone with information related to the case is encouraged to contact Granby police at 413-467-9222, or Detective James White via email at jwhite@granbypd.org.

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