Numerous tips over the past 21 years have led to a newly-named suspect in the 2000 murder of 16-year-old Molly Bish, according to the Worcester County District Attorney Joseph D. Early Jr.
Francis “Frank” P. Sumner Sr., a convicted rapist and kidnapper who died in 2016, was announced as a suspect Thursday.
Born in 1945, he was active in central Massachusetts from 1960 through 2016, prosecutors said. He was known to operate auto repair shops in the Spencer, Leicester and Worcester areas. He lived in Spencer prior to his death.
Investigators said they are still seeking tips from the public looking for information relative to Sumner’s employment practices/personnel, associates, vehicles, travel and any known habits.
Early told NBC10 Boston that Sumner is being considered a suspect in the case, though the initial news release from his office called him a person of interest.
"He has over a 20-page record, I think it's about 25 pages," Early said. "He's served time for aggravated rape and kidnapping, he's served time on probation violations, we know there were harassment orders with regards to the case that he was involved with before and violated and he's got a long, long record."
Molly's sister, Heather Bish, told NBC10 Boston she did not know who Sumner was.
"I'm scared. I'm scared to hear about this person," she said Thursday. "I learned so much about him in this short time."
The district attorney's announcement comes just weeks before the 21st anniversary of Molly's disappearance from Comins Pond in Warren on June 27, 2000.
Molly lived in Warren and was working as a lifeguard at the pond. Her disappearance set off a massive search.
"I have all kinds of feelings," Heather Bish said of the new development. "Most predominantly, I feel gratitude."
“I have been asking for help for 20 years, for information – did somebody see or did somebody know something that happened to Molly and it’s been these brave people who’ve been coming forward and been giving police information that’s allowed this to really catapult itself upward and really bring this person to light,” she said.
Molly's remains were found nearly three years after her disappearance in the woods of Whiskey Hill in nearby Palmer.
Through the years, Bish's family never stopped looking for her killer, pleading for anyone who knew anything to come forward.
"We have walked in the valley of hell. You have created a fear that haunted my family. It must stop," her mother, Magi Bish, wrote in a 2013 letter.
"We don't know who did this to Molly," Heather Bish said at the time. "It's very, very scary."
Last year, on the 20th anniversary of her sister's disappearance, Heather Bish said time had not healed her family's wounds.
"Twenty is significant because of the year," she said. "But for me, I live without my sister every day. I live trying to find a murderer every day."
Anyone with information on Sumner or anything else related to the case is urged to call the anonymous tip line at 508-453-7575.