18 years later, still no answers in Deanna Cremin’s death
SOMERVILLE — For 18 years, Katherine Cremin has pored over the pages of the photo album of her daughter Deanna's life, searching picture by picture and page by page for meaning, for clues to her murder.
She turned the pages so often they came free from their binding and sit now on the sofa, on the kitchen table, and in her bedroom. Every so often, she picks one up and kisses it — Deanna holding a white carnation as a child or as a teenager gabbing on a red telephone — before putting it back.
"I've been looking at her letters, her e-mails, her messages. I've been looking at her pictures from her birth right up to her 17th birthday,'' said Cremin, as she sat teary-eyed in her Stoneham apartment. "I can still see her funeral. I want answers. Who killed my daughter?"
Cremin cannot let that question go unanswered. Not while her daughter's killer roams free. Not while homicide detectives are on the trail. Not ever.
On Saturday, friends and the rest of the Cremin family will say a 4 p.m. prayer service in St. Ann Church where Deanna Cremin was baptized — and hold a rally in a nearby school yard. They plan to stand in silence in front of the Broadway home of the teenager's former boyfriend, who they believe took her life.
Then Katherine Cremin will lead the group down Jaques Street, along the route they believed Deanna Cremin walked on her last night, from her boyfriend's home to the spot behind a senior housing complex, where her body was found.
"I'm praying that someone is still out there who heard something, who saw something,'' Cremin said. "You don't know how minuscule or how valuable that information is. Maybe they can do something to solve this."
Deanna J. Cremin would have been 35 on March 26. She's been dead longer than she was alive. In her family's memories, she is still a bubbly young girl with a mischievous spirit. She grew up to be the neighborhood baby-sitter, who adored her brothers and clowned around with her older sister Christine. Once when Deanna was a child, her mother found them making chicken soup in the toilet.
She loved Pepsi and sour pickles. She had lots of friends, and a boyfriend she dated for two years. She was chatty. He was quiet and introverted, her family said. Deanna loved him and often spent time at his home.
So Katherine Cremin was not too worried when she awoke late in the night on March 29, 1995, and discovered that Deanna was not home. She called Deanna's beeper number and got no response. She figured Deanna must have fallen asleep while hanging out at her boyfriend's. That morning she called the boyfriend, concerned.
"Tell Deanna to get her [butt] home,'' Cremin recalled saying.
He explained that he had walked Deanna halfway home the previous night. Deanna's close friends had not seen her either. Cremin left for work that morning filled with worry. She told her husband, Michael, to call the school and then call her as soon as he heard from Deanna.
Around 8 that morning, two school girls found the teenager's body on Jaques Street. An autopsy revealed that she had been strangled and sexually assaulted. She was found with one of her legs partially out of her pants and only one sock on, a sign that there might have been a struggle, her mother said.
Cremin's husband was the one to bring the sad news when he called her at work that morning. "I ran'' out of the office, Katherine recalled. "I knew I was going home to a dead daughter."
When she got home, she began screaming and thrashing about. It would take years to settle down. Grief tormented her. She lost her job because she couldn't stop crying at work. Her marriage, shaky even then, fell apart. She turned to the bottle for solace. The loss of her daughter was too much.
Everyone lost something when Deanna died. It was hard on her two brothers. Her older tried hard to block the death from her memory, as if it didn't happen.
"I was in denial,'' said Christine Cremin, 36. "I still am. I can't accept it. It's too hard. I don't allow myself to think about it. I can't try to think who killed her. I can't let myself go there."
Somerville police have not responded to repeated Globe phone calls about the case. Middlesex County prosecutors say they are actively investigating, though they have released little detail about whether there are suspects, new leads, or anything else that might bring the family closure and solace.
In the days after her death, as all of Somerville mourned, the Middlesex district attorney's office released a composite drawing of a man they wanted to question in connection with the killing. He was last seen near the homicide site and was described as between 40 and 45 years old, 5 feet 9 inches to 5 feet 11 inches tall, and between 160 and 170 pounds.
In the 18 years since then, the family knows of only three men who have been questioned by police, not one of them arrested — the boyfriend, an older firefighter who family members say had been flirting with Deanna, and a man now serving time for rape, who had denied killing her but had no qualms explaining what he would have done if he were the one who had carried out the crime, her family said.
The search continues. Her family has held vigils, put up billboards, and created a website in a quest to find the killer. It has offered a $20,000 reward. In her honor, the corner of Jaques and Temple streets is named Deanna Cremin Square.
Earlier this month, Katherine Cremin met with Assistant District Attorney Adrienne Lynch, chief of homicide. Lynch said that officials are hopeful that with new forensic testing they may be able to get traction in the case, Katherine Cremin said.
The Middlesex district attorney's office — which would not answer Globe questions on the case, saying it remains an open investigation — is urging anyone with information on Deanna's killing to call authorities.
"We remain confident that these new forensic tools will have an important impact in helping us to solve this crime,'' said Gerard T. Leone, Middlesex district attorney. "As part of this active investigation, we are pursuing all available leads and potential evidence in our efforts to solve this case and provide justice for Deanna and her family."
The family has heard this sort of thing before. On the 10th anniversary of Deanna's death, then-District Attorney Martha Coakley told reporters that new forensic technology was helping authorities make progress in the case and that investigators were looking for specific people who they believe know what happened.
"In the last couple of months, we believe we've made some developments on the forensic front," Coakley said at the time.
The family is still waiting.
"I'm very angry,'' said Christine Cremin. "People shouldn't get away with murder. People shouldn't have to live with murder and never finding someone who is responsible. It's just not fair."