A suspect has been identified in connection with the cold case murder of a 10-year-old girl over a half century ago, authorities in Massachusetts said.
Donald Mars of Bedford was charged with the first-degree murder of Betty Lou Zukowski, who was found dead on May 30, 1966, in West Springfield, Western Mass News reported.
According to officials, Zukowski told her mother her friend had called her and she left their Chicopee home. It was the last time she was seen alive.
Days later, boys fishing in the Westfield River discovered the little girl’s remains.
An autopsy determined Zukowski was killed by drowning after suffering blunt force injuries to her head.
Jim Leydon, spokesperson for the Hampden District Attorney’s Office, said investigators at the time "believed Betty Lou knew the person who killed her, otherwise she would not have left her home after receiving the phone call” the day she went missing.
The D.A.’s Unresolved Case Unit recently began reinvestigating the cold case, and detectives learned police in West Springfield received information in November 1997 that allegedly linked the 73-year-old suspect to the girl’s murder but there was never an arrest, according to Western Mass News.
Investigators were recently able to gather enough evidence in the case to arrest Mars, according to Hampden District Attorney Anthony Gulluni, who declined to provide further details.
Mars was being held without bail.
“Sadly, Betty Lou’s parents are deceased and will not see Donald Mars answer for what we allege he did to their daughter,” Gulluni said.
“My office has been in contact with Betty Lou’s extended family members, one of whom was a pallbearer at her funeral in 1966," he continued. "While this investigation will not bring Betty Lou back to her family, or grant her the opportunity to grow into a healthy adult that she and every child deserves, it is for them and for Betty Lou that we embark upon this journey of seeking justice.”
Western Mass News reported Mars is a registered Level 3 sex offender, and he was previously charged with three counts of rape, and one count of indecent assault and battery on a child under the age of 14.