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A Cold Case Revisited — The Disappearance of Janette Reynolds

In the summer of 1978, a teenage girl from Eastern Connecticut disappeared while hitchhiking home. The disappearance of Janette Reynolds was first investigated by Connecticut State Police as a missing person. Leads were chased down and even turned up possible sightings. But as weeks passed without finding her, prospects grew more dim.

The following spring, in 1979, her body was recovered under a highway bridge near the shoreline in Groton. Suspects were developed — including a young, prolific Connecticut serial killer named Michael Ross who was arrested in 1984 —and later convicted — for the murders of six girls and young women throughout the same parts of the state.

Still the Reynolds case remains unsolved, now some 45 years later. Outside of news articles published by local media during the search for Reynolds and the eventual discovery of her body — the investigation garnered little public attention. But a recently published police-life memoir breathe’s life and shares insights into the case.

The narrative of “The Midnight Coffee Club: A Memoir of Grit, Glimmers, and The Pull of Police Life” by Jason James Barry focuses on the journey the author made in following his father into police work. But in chronicling the author’s evolution from police kid to journalist to police officer,  Barry details finding the crime notes his father long kept. The discovery launched the author into re-investigating some of his father’s cases — the disappearance and death of Janette Reynolds among them — as a way to become closer to his father.

What emerged from that research and journalistic interviews are details, leads, and investigative insights that point to plausible conclusions about this forgotten, cold case. An excerpt from the book reads:

“Dad had a tendency, with his most-sacred and top-secret, to squirrel and hide things away — his patrol notebooks among those that qualified. Pages of notes he hid in the basement outlined the first clues from when Janette disappeared. One after another, a brown pocket notebook with its rough black spine beheld the same pen scratch scrawl. The hangouts and ex-boyfriends and the part-time jobs, her friends and her home and her family — all there —  the places and people that offered up and held back on clues about this missing girl. Some crucial. Others adding to the confusion. She was a ‘missing person,’ but was she really gone? At first it seemed she may not have been.”

Barry’s musings on the case are augmented by reflections from former detectives he interviewed who were familiar with the case. What becomes evident is that the Janette Reynolds investigation has viable suspects — and there is still a circle of former police investigators who continue to hold this case close to heart.

The paperback edition of “The Midnight Coffee Club: A Memoir of Grit, Glimmers, and The Pull of Police Life” by Jason James Barry was published on May 24, and is available in the book section on Amazon.


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