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To lose in Winnmere

Edward J. Flynn Jr.

 

Summarized from Lowell Sun coverage:

March 21, 1947Twelve-year-old Edward J. Flynn Jr., an altar boy and clarinet player, left his Harriet Ave. home for CYO band rehearsal in Medford on a Wednesday evening — but never returned. He was last seen near a Woburn train station by a taxi driver around 8 p.m. This is long before the Amber Alert system existed, of course. Police Chief Malcom J. MacEachern assembled a local posse, but the search turned up nothing.

Two days later, Billerica hunter Lester Mahony found a nude body near a “lovers’ lane” area. The location is now Carter Avenue, directly across from the Riverview Restaurant.

Carter Avenue on map

Chief MacEachern made the identification: “Yes, that’s the lad we’ve been looking for.” State medical examiner Dr. Mason D. Bryant estimated the victim had died about 24 hours before discovery.The body had no obvious signs of trauma. Detectives found women’s silk stockings nearby. Were they a clue or just typical leftovers from lovers’ lane?

A day later, the horrid story took shape. The death of this honor student at Saint Charles Parochial School in Woburn came from “smothering.” He was sexually abused. His leather jacket was inside-out and was draped across his chest. His clothes were stuck in the bushes around his body, and his music case was nearby. He had a lump on the back of his head. His fingernails showed that he had scratched his assailant severely, so police released bulletins about a severely scratched fugitive. Local residents started murmuring about the practice of paroling sex offenders. District Attorney George E. Thompson ordered police to question every such parolee between Lowell and Boston. Turned out there were almost 100 of them.

Police talked to the parents and assembled some puzzle pieces:

  • Eddie left his home around 7:15 p.m. with 20 cents in his pocket.
  • He made the trip to Medford three times per week, via a bus that stopped on Winn Street near his house.
  • Nobody remembered him arriving at band practice. No roll call was taken because the event was called off due to missing music sheets.
  • Woburn cab driver John Rooney believed he saw Flynn in Woburn Square around 8:30 p.m.
  • Bus driver Harold Fitzpatrick said he took three boys holding musical instruments to Medford Wednesday night, but could not be sure of their identities.
  • Truck driver Joseph P. Trioli of Chelsea said he saw a boy meeting Flynn’s description getting into a gray 1937 or 1938 gray sedan.
  • At 9:30, when Eddie failed to return home, his father went looking for him and eventually called Burlington police.
Funeral procession Flynn
Friends and bandmates carrying the casket of Eddie Flynn. The boy was considered a talented clarinet player when he lived in Medford, so he was allowed to continue even after his family moved to Burlington.

 

Six months later, a possible break:

Farmer headline

The first sentence: “A Weymouth sex degenerate who committed suicide last May because of his affliction was suspected by state police today of the sex-slaying last March of Burlington boy.” His name was Eugene Leroy Leach. He had been employed at Tower Farm in Billerica at the time of the Flynn murder, and had sent a letter to his wife saying he had fled the area and assumed a different name because he considered himself incurable and dangerous. He had planned on returning to Massachusetts and surrendering to authorities, the note said, but more recently had decided to killed himself. He did so with carbon monoxide asphyxiation on a Tennessee highway. Tire impressions from the Flynn crime scene matched Leach’s vehicle. This seemed to close the door on the Flynn case.

Until three years later:

Milkman headline

A 27-year-old Wayland milkman named Joseph B. Sheehan was already facing “morals” charges involving a nine-year-old Lawrence boy. He had picked up other boys in his milk truck and driven them into secluded wooded areas, according to police. However, he steadfastly denied any connection to the Flynn case. He was never charged with the crime. Same happened with a prison inmate who closely matched the cab driver’s description of the alleged abductor in the grey sedan. He was questioned but never charged. This case was never conclusively solved.

 


 

A few days later and a few blocks away, another horror story:

 

Grace Mills front page

 

March 27, 1947Newlyweds Frank and Grace Mills prepared their breakfast as usual around 6 a.m., unaware that Frank’s mother had tucked a gun under one of the kitchen chairs that morning. The gun was a family heirloom, a .38 caliber revolver once used in the Civil War. When Grace went to the counter, Frank’s mother quietly grabbed the revolver, stood behind a half-wall, aimed at Grace’s ribcage and pulled the trigger. The bullet punctured  Grace’s heart and immediately sent the 36-year-old to the floor, fatally wounded. The killer turned the gun on herself — but her son lunged at her and ripped the gun from her hand. Then he hit her with a kitchen chair to disable her and fled the family home on Kempton Avenue.*

On the way out, he grabbed a shotgun and rifle from their hiding places. He ran to Mary Vincent’s store at the corner of Winn Street and Winnmere Ave. and pounded on the door in a panic. Gertrude Winchell, Vincent’s daughter, opened the door to find Mills trembling and hysterical, holding three guns. “Call a doctor!” he shouted. “My mother has shot my wife!” She took the guns from him and put them on the floor before calling police.

Confronted by the officers, Frank’s mother (also named Grace) initially told police that her son had beaten her and shot his wife. It took four hours of police interrogation before the 68-year-old finally broke down and admitted she was the killer. She was already a widow, and now she had killed her daughter-in-law. But why? She thought the couple was plotting to cut ol’ mom out of the picture. The newlyweds had moved into the family home and had drawn up plans for an in-law suite, but from there, the trio fell into constant bickering. “I just wanted to get it over with,” the killer told police.

At her arraignment in Cambridge District Court, she collapsed about 40 feet from the courtroom door and had to be revived by court officials. As she heard the indictment being read, she repeatedly yelled, “I’m not guilty!” She was held without bail. Unfortunately, newspaper archives do not contain any follow-up coverage of this case, and the state’s online court records show no cases involving a Grace Mills, so her disposition is unknown.

Kempton Ave. Burlington MA

*Kempton Avenue was an offshoot of Overlook Avenue before the Route 128 ramp system reduced it to a nub in the 1950s. Bing still shows the street as a tiny appendage at the end of Overlook. Google no longer shows it at all. The house in this story is probably gone.

6 thoughts on “To lose in Winnmere Leave a comment

  1. Boy my family moved to Burlington in February 1952. I never realized that it was such a crime infested area.

  2. burlington was never a crime infested area,but by the time of the flynn murder ,it was starting to lose its age of innocence………………….hitchhiking in the forties was common and considered a popular way to get a ride to and from woburn, the commerical hub of the area

    ……….at school we exchannged stories of being picked up by sexual predators,but luckily few were agressive or violent…………….but the flynn case scared everyone and hitchhiking tapered off

    ………………in the flynn case,it was obvious that the perpetrator knew the area…………………….the road where the body was found was not an easily accessible spot

  3. Carl Johnson I was being facetious when I said it was a crime infested place. Burlington was a very quiet place when I grew up there in the 50s. I can remember walking up Lexington Street to the Library and/or the Rexall Drug Store and seeing all the boys with their thumb stuck out asking for a ride and I had to wait for a person that I knew to stop and ask if I wanted a ride.

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