I received an email the other day from Michael Foster of the North Adams Transcript. He forwarded a message that popped up on the Transcript's Facebook page from a cousin of Kim Benoit, where she asked if the paper would "please rerun the unsolved 1974 murder case," of her cousin, "in hopes of the family getting justice for [Kim]."
Currently I am working on my third book, "The Missing & the Dead" (a working title). It looks at the lives of four young women from Northern Berkshire County, three of whom were murdered: Kim Benoit, from North Adams in 1974, Dawn Starr Smith, also from North Adams in 1975, and Cynthia Krizack, from Williamstown. Lynn Burdick disappeared from the town of Florida in 1982.
Many people with whom I discussed the idea for the book asked, "why this book?"
Once in a while, a murder or disappearance stays in our minds or our thoughts or lingers in our memory for months or even years. Each murder and every disappearance is important to the family and friends of the victim at least -- but less than 2 percent of them ever become books.
I don't presume to have any knowledge of the criminal mind or how murder investigations ought to be conducted. Nor am I an expert on the legal system. But rather I am a son, a brother and a father who would have intensely passionate feelings and reactions if the lives of any of my family were suddenly and violently ended by someone who remained unknown and unpunished, or if they just disappeared and their fate was forever unknown.
My book, rather than focus on the details of the untimely deaths and the disappearance, will look at the lives of these women. To that end, I have interviewed relatives and friends who have shared intimate experiences and often moving insights into the personalities of these young women. I would like to share excerpts from two of those interviews with you.
When I began researching and interviewing in the fall of 2011 (and the process continues), Kim Benoit's mother sat down with me at Dunkin' Donuts. She spoke of Kim's shyness, and her daughter's long, strawberry-blond hair and eyes the color of blueberries. Kim loved music and had decorated a part of the bedroom she and her sister shared with posters of the Monkeys, a then-popular singing group.
Kim's mother then related the story of the lamp.
"Kim and her sister had somehow broken a table-lamp in the living room. They glued it back together, and they had it turned so it looked OK. Months later, I was changing the room around, and as I picked up the lamp to move the end table, I saw it had been broken. I asked what had happened, but nobody would admit to anything."
She laughed loudly as she concluded the story. Just as she finished, "Day Dream Believer" by the Monkeys came over the doughnut shop's speaker system. We both smiled.
In August 2012, I sat on the terrace at the Freight Yard Pub with a childhood friend of Lynn Burdick's. She recalled playing on a swing set in Lynn's yard.
"We played ice cream truck on the ladder part of the swing set. One of us would climb up 2 or 3 rungs and be the ice cream truck man and the other would be the kid buying ice cream. When we would swing on the swings we sang the ‘Five Little Pumpkins Sitting on a Fence.' We would sing it over and over for hours. Whenever I go by, I look at the swing set, its bright colors faded, the metal pipes and bars rusted now, it still sits in the yard up on Central Shaft Road."
And then there was the class ring.
"I was in high school my junior year. I was wearing my boyfriend's class ring. I had yarn wrapped around it so it would stay on my finger. One fall day, I was over at North Pond with a bunch of friends, playing around and throwing leaves at each other and I lost the ring. Lynn wasn't there that day, but a few days later she borrowed a metal detector and we went over to North Pond and we found the ring! We were so happy we just hugged each other and laughed so much."
Her face smiles at the memory and she delights in telling the story.
I hope that these vignettes from the lives of girls long lost will bring back memories to the families and friends and that these four women will be remembered for the joy they brought to others.
Tell your tale
If you are related to or were a friend of Kim Benoit, Dawn Starr Smith, Cynthia Krizack or Lynn Burdick and would like to share your memories with the author, contact him by email at email@example.com or by phone at 413-743-3002.