A profiler who has worked on the Molly Anne Bish case said yesterday that Gerald B. Battistoni is someone law enforcement officials should take a close look at.
Battistoni, 49, who is serving 10 to 12 years at Cedar Junction state prison in Walpole for rapes he committed in Palmer in the early 1990s, has emerged as a possible person of interest in the disappearance and murder of Bish in Warren in 2000 and Holly Kristen Piirainen in Sturbridge in 1993.
Work by Worcester private detective Daniel E. Malley of Allegiant Investigations, an extensive review of court records by the Telegram & Gazette, and interviews with women who were close to Battistoni reveal a charming man with a dark side, sexually deviant behavior, and a penchant for young, blond girls.
John Kelly of S.T.A.L.K. Inc., a New Jersey-based profiling team that works with law enforcement, said yesterday allegations Battistoni collected underwear from young girls and had his wife wear them and act out rape fantasies is troubling.
“He’s a sexual sadist,’’ Kelly said. “They need to go over his place with a fine-tooth comb because he may have kept something as a trophy.’’
Battistoni caught Malley’s attention when the private investigator was working on a child custody case.
Evidence surfaced indicating Battistoni might have raped a 13-year-old girl years earlier and when Malley was able to find the girl, she told him that she had been raped as many as 100 times by Battistoni, who had been her mother’s boyfriend.
She had told only one childhood friend of the rapes and kept them secret for years.
But this summer she testified against him and in August, he was found guilty and sentenced to prison.
With that case closed, Malley went back over what he had learned about Battistoni and eventually went to the Worcester and Hampden district attorneys believing there were things he could not ignore.
In an interview with the Telegram & Gazette yesterday, Worcester District Attorney Joseph D. Early Jr. said State Police detectives assigned to his office spoke with Malley about Battistoni.
He said that Battistoni is “one of the people on our radar’’ in connection with the Bish case.
Kelly said detectives should be looking closely at Battistoni.
“He’s certainly a good person of interest and they need to rule him out,’’ he said.
The investigation showed Battistoni’s former girlfriend, a realtor, had listed for rent a home near where Piirainen disappeared. The former girlfriend said her name and picture were on the realtor’s sign.
Her daughter was the rape victim. He had followed them to Sturbridge before and might have been near the house looking for his victim, or her mother.
Battistoni had also been to Comins Pond where Bish worked as a lifeguard and he bears a resemblance to a man Bish’s mother saw in the parking lot the day before she vanished.
His second wife said he had driven over Whiskey Hill from Ware to Warren to buy drugs and was familiar with many back roads in the area.
Bish’s remains were found on Whiskey Hill three years after her apparent abduction. Piirainen remains were found on Five Bridge Road in Brimfield 11 weeks after her disappearance in 1993.
Mental illness has plagued Battistoni much of his life.
His first wife wrote in a 1992 restraining order affidavit that he has suffered from mental health problems since he was 11 and had threatened to kill her.
She also wrote about an episode in which he allegedly shot up a house in Ludlow a few months earlier and that he had attempted suicide.
The suicide attempts, two of which happened in Palmer, were thwarted by now-retired Sergeant Kevin Kopacz, who recalled cutting Battistoni down from a rope in his basement several years ago.
The Bish case has proven to be a challenge but Early said that will not stop investigators.
“We get tips in this case all the time, and we won’t rest on this or any case,’’ he said. “I don’t think any case is unsolvable.’’