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Missing Man: William Paul Smolinski - CT - 08/24/2004

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For Connecticut Investigators, Prosecuting Murder Cases With No Bodies Is Difficult

Published: Sunday, February 19, 2012

By MICHELLE TUCCITTO SULLO

New Haven Register Investigations Editor

While investigators believe missing people like William Smolinski Jr. of Waterbury and Jose Ortiz of New Haven are murder victims, no arrests have been made — leaving their grieving families without answers, closure or justice.

A prosecution without a body can be challenging.

Tad DiBiase, a former federal prosecutor who manages the web site, nobodymurdercases.com, said in any murder case, the body is the best evidence.

“The body gives you information about when, where and how the murder happened,” DiBiase said.

Read more: http://www.housatonictimes.com/articles/2012/02/19/news/doc4f41305c8ca61760138888.txt?viewmode=default

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http://nhregister.com/articles/2012/08/10/news/doc50258ebaacfbb800103219.txt

Former girlfriend of William 'Billy' Smolinski wins $52,000 in defamation case against his family (poll)

Published: Friday, August 10, 2012

NEW HAVEN — A judge on Friday awarded $52,666 in damages to Madeleine Gleason, the former girlfriend of missing man William “Billy” Smolinski who sued his family members, claiming they harassed her, defamed her and falsely accused her of involvement in his disappearance.

Superior Court Judge Thomas Corradino, in a 34 page ruling issued late Friday, awarded $32,000 to Gleason for intentional infliction of emotional distress, $7,500 for defamation, plus $13,166 in punitive damages.

Attorney John Williams of New Haven, who represents Gleason, said “Justice has been done. This is a fair and just verdict. I hope this puts an end to the torment my client has been suffering.”

Gleason, of Woodbridge, who dated Billy until they broke up just prior to his 2004 disappearance, sued his mother, Janice Smolinski of Cheshire, and his sister Paula Bell, in 2006.

Janice Smolinski had not had an opportunity to review the ruling as of Friday evening.

“It is not over – this is ridiculous,” she said. “We will sit down with our lawyer and sift through it and go from there, and decide what our next move is. Our main purpose is to find Billy and get justice for him.”

In the ruling, Corradino noted that the Smolinski family put missing person posters about Billy in areas Gleason frequented, such as near her home and along her bus route. Gleason is a bus driver. Corradino cited a Woodbridge police report, in which Janice Smolinski allegedly stated that she was intentionally saturating all the areas Gleason frequents “because she was trying to break her.” The judge also cited statements attributed by a witness to Janice Smolinski that she believed Gleason knew what happened to Billy, so they “wouldn’t stop hounding her until she gave up the information.”

“What is unacceptable here and worthy of a finding of outrageous and extreme behavior is the continuing aggravated nature of the defendants’ activity in hounding Gleason where she lived and worked and engaged in the ordinary activities of life,” the ruling states.

Corradino found that Gleason suffered severe emotional distress. Corradino also found that the Smolinski family made defamatory statements about Gleason, by making statements to others alleging her connection to Billy Smolinski’s disappearance.

Corradino heard testimony in the case in November and December 2011. At a post-trial hearing in April, Corradino called it a “disturbing case,” and said, “No matter what I do, it will cause pain and suffering.”

In the ruling, Corradino wrote, “The facts of this case are distressing. Two sets of basically decent people found themselves in conflict and involved in a series of mutually antagonistic events because of a tragic event – the disappearance and apparent death of a young man with his whole life ahead of him.”

Attorney Mark Lee of Waterbury, who represents the Smolinski family, could not be reached for comment.

During the trial, the Smolinski family denied harassing or threatening anyone, and said they put up posters about Smolinski, thousands throughout the region, solely to try to find him. The family noticed posters had been taken down, and were shocked to learn Gleason was doing it, according to trial testimony.

Gleason acknowledged during the trial that she ripped down posters about Billy, because they were “saturating” areas where she lived and worked. Gleason claimed during the trial that Smolinski’s family members threatened to kill her, which the Smolinski family denied.

While Woodbridge police did ultimately arrest Janice Smolinski on trespassing and disorderly conduct counts after Gleason complained, the charges were dismissed in court.

Police have said they believe Billy Smolinski, who disappeared Aug. 24, 2004, at the age of 31, was murdered. He has never been found. Police have said they believe Gleason’s son, Shaun Karpiuk, killed Smolinski. Karpiuk died in 2005 at age 27 of a drug overdose.

Chad Hanson, who has been identified in court documents as a suspect in Smolinski’s disappearance, has led police to conduct unsuccessful searches for his body in Seymour and Oxford. Hanson, who is incarcerated, is due in Superior Court in Derby on Aug. 17 for making a false report concerning injury or death, interfering with an officer and making a false statement for allegedly lying to police about Billy Smolinski’s whereabouts.

Billy Smolinski and Gleason had just broken up when he disappeared. Gleason told Waterbury police Smolinski broke up with her because he thought she was cheating on him, and he left her place in the early morning of Aug. 24, 2004, “a little depressed,” and that was the last time she saw him.

Police reports show Gleason had also been seeing Chris Sorensen of Woodbridge, who told police he received a phone message Aug. 24, 2004, in which the male caller said, “Chris, you better watch your back at all times.” The caller was identified as Billy Smolinski. The last three calls Smolinski made prior to his disappearance were to Sorensen, police reports show. Sorensen testified he never saw Smolinski that day.

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http://www.nhregister.com/articles/2012/08/17/news/doc502eb8304d419190735065.txt?viewmode=fullstory

Connecticut to seek reimbursement from suspect in Smolinski searches; family to appeal defamation verdict

Published: Friday, August 17, 2012

By Michelle Tuccitto Sullo, Investigations Editor

DERBY — The state wants Chad Hanson, who has led police to conduct unsuccessful searches for the body of William “Billy” Smolinski Jr. of Waterbury, to reimburse the cost.

Meanwhile, the Smolinski family is planning to appeal a recent civil ruling against them, and they have set up a legal defense fund.

During Hanson’s brief appearance in Superior Court in Derby Friday, prosecutor Marjorie Sozanski told Judge Burton Kaplan officials are still trying to find out the exact amount investigators spent searching for Smolinski.

Hanson’s case was continued to Sept. 25. He faces charges of interfering with an officer, second-degree false statement, and making a false report concerning injury or death, for leading state police to conduct an unsuccessful 10-day search in Oxford, near Prokop Road and Woodruff Hill Road, for Smolinski’s body in October 2011. Hanson is incarcerated, being held in lieu of $10,000 bail.

Hanson, of Seymour, has also given information to police that led to unsuccessful searches in Seymour in 2008 and in the Naugatuck State Forest in 2010.

According to the June 2012 arrest warrant affidavit, Hanson told police he helped Shaun Karpiuk, who has since died, bury Smolinski. Hanson reported to police he helped bury a carpet with Smolinski’s remains inside and covered it with lime. The warrant shows Hanson also claimed he wasn’t aware what was inside the carpet, “but he could tell it was probably a body and he’ll never forget the smell of blood.”

After the unsuccessful Oxford search, Hanson “admitted that he had an idea Billy was in the rug and that he knows for a fact that Shaun killed Billy with a 16 oz. hammer,” the warrant states.

Smolinski disappeared Aug. 24, 2004, at the age of 31. Karpiuk died in 2005 of a drug overdose.

State police spokesman Lt. J. Paul Vance said Friday that police are currently working on determining the search cost, such as for getting equipment and paying overtime. It involved multiple agencies, and police hope to give the prosecution a dollar figure soon, Vance said.

Janice Smolinski of Cheshire, who attended Hanson’s court appearance, said he should reimburse the state for the cost of all the searches.

“We feel the state of Connecticut should not be responsible for it,” she said. “Chad should have to pay if he is lying.”

Hanson’s defense attorney, Bruce Weiant, declined to comment.

Meanwhile, the Smolinski family said Friday they are appealing a recent ruling in a civil case related to Billy’s disappearance and their search for him.

Superior Court Judge Thomas Corradino on Aug. 10 awarded $52,666 in damages to Madeleine Gleason, Billy Smolinski’s former girlfriend and Karpiuk’s mother. Gleason, of Woodbridge, sued Smolinski family members in 2006, claiming they harassed and defamed her and falsely accused her of involvement in Smolinski’s disappearance.

Corradino awarded $32,000 to Gleason for intentional infliction of emotional distress, $7,500 for defamation, plus $13,166 in punitive damages.

The Smolinski family this week is setting up a legal defense fund. Check www.justice4billy.com for information.

In his ruling, Corradino noted the Smolinski family put missing person posters about Billy in areas Gleason frequented, such as near her home and along her bus route. Gleason is a bus driver. Corradino cited a Woodbridge police report, in which Janice Smolinski is quoted as telling police she was intentionally saturating areas Gleason frequents “because she was trying to break her,” for example.

Corradino also found that the Smolinski family made defamatory statements about Gleason, by making statements to others alleging her connection to Billy Smolinski’s disappearance.

The Smolinski family denied any harassment, and said they put up posters about Billy throughout the region only to try to find him. They said they had permission from utility companies to put the posters on poles. The family noticed posters had been taken down, and were shocked to learn Gleason was doing it, according to trial testimony.

During the civil trial, Gleason admitted ripping down posters about Billy, and said she did so because they were “saturating” areas where she lived and worked.

Attorney John Williams of New Haven, who represents Gleason, has called Corradino’s ruling “fair and just.” Williams could not be reached for comment Friday on the Smolinski family’s plans to appeal.

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Today marks 8 years since Billy disappeared.  Our thoughts and prayers are with his family, friends and loved ones.

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http://www.registercitizen.com/articles/2012/12/05/news/doc50bfbc678c422370214592.txt?viewmode=fullstory

Alleged conspirator in Billy Smolinski case throws tantrum over plea offer (document)

Published: Wednesday, December 05, 2012

By Michelle Tuccitto Sullo, Investigations Editor

DERBY — A man accused of lying to police about the location of missing man William “Billy” Smolinski’s body swore and threw a tantrum in Superior Court Wednesday, after he learned a plea bargain offer was for more prison time than he had anticipated.

Prior to being brought out to appear before Judge Frank Iannotti, Chad Hanson made repeated loud banging sounds in a prisoner holding room adjacent to the courtroom. Iannotti briefly stopped court proceedings to chastise Hanson.

Once Hanson was brought before the judge, Hanson said his understanding after his last court appearance was that an offer would be made for him to serve three years in prison in exchange for pleading out.

However, Hanson learned Wednesday the plea bargain offer would be for him to serve five years. This would have meant another 4½ years, because Hanson has already been incarcerated for six months since his arrest.

Iannotti, who was filling in at the Superior Court in Derby, told Hanson he has learned more about the case since Hanson’s last court appearance.

“I spent too much time reading,” Iannotti said. “There was more I should have known about the case.”

Hanson is due back in court Jan. 14. The judge advised Hanson that if he is convicted at trial, he could face up to seven years in prison.

Hanson, after he was led back into the prisoner holding room, loudly yelled, “Get this (expletive) party started.”

Prosecutor Marjorie Sozanski said the state is seeking to have Hanson reimburse it for the cost of the unsuccessful searching, or about $100,000.

Janice and William Smolinski Sr. of Cheshire attended the court proceeding. Their son’s remains have never been found.

“The last time we were in court, the judge said he needed to read more about it,” Janice Smolinski said. “My hope is that maybe now, Chad will come forward and tell the truth. We’ll be back here on Jan. 14, which was Billy’s birthday.”

Hanson, 33, faces three charges, including making a false report concerning injury or death, interfering with an officer, and second-degree making a false statement.

Hanson was charged after leading state police to conduct an unsuccessful 10-day search in Oxford, near Prokop Road and Woodruff Hill Road, for Smolinski’s body in October 2011.

Hanson, of Seymour, has also given information to police that led to unsuccessful searches in Seymour in 2008 and in the Naugatuck State Forest in 2010.

According to the June 2012 arrest warrant affidavit, Hanson told police he helped Shaun Karpiuk, who has since died, bury Smolinski. Hanson reported to police he helped bury a carpet with Smolinski’s remains inside and covered it with lime. The warrant shows Hanson also claimed he wasn’t aware what was inside the carpet, “but he could tell it was probably a body and he’ll never forget the smell of blood.”

After the unsuccessful Oxford search, Hanson “admitted that he had an idea Billy was in the rug and that he knows for a fact that Shaun killed Billy with a 16 oz. hammer,” the warrant states.

Smolinski, of Waterbury, disappeared Aug. 24, 2004, at the age of 31. Karpiuk died in 2005 of a drug overdose.

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AAN Annual Poster Notify Sent to AAN Subscribers  Code 101

Help us find the missing: Become an AAN Member and receive notifications about missing persons via email.

Click here to become a part of the solution: http://www.projectjason.org/awareness.html

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http://www.mycitizensnews.com/news/2013/08/hope-burns-bright-at-vigil/

Hope burns bright at vigil

Monday, August 26, 2013
by Laraine Weschler, Special to the Citizen’s News

NAUGATUCK — About 75 people held thin white candles as David Harris sang a prayer of hope as the sun set on a mild summer night on the town Green.

The Night of Hope event, sponsored by the Smolinski family and LostNMissing, Inc., commemorated the ninth anniversary of the disappearance of Waterbury resident and Naugatuck native William “Billy” Smolinski Jr. on Aug. 24, 2004, at the age of 31.

Billy Smolinski’s mother, Janice Smolinski, said those who attended were dedicated friends, family and supporters, but she wished the issue of missing persons could garner more attention.

She said she works every day to find her son, and has helped others find their missing loved ones along the way through outreach on social media.

William Smolinski’s father, William Smolinski Sr., said police need to take tips, which he said are still coming in, seriously.

“There’s a story that has to be told here, and it has to come out soon,” he said.

Private detective Mike Ward, who has worked with the family since 2006, said Billy’s picture still hangs above his desk in Kentucky, where he has retired.

“This case has been with me every day,” he said. “I will be here until they bring Billy home.”

He said attitudes have changed since Billy disappeared in 2004.

“Fifteen years ago, we looked at a missing person’s case as a waste of time,” Ward said.

He asked police to commit their hearts and souls to missing people.

Janice Smolinski said healthy young men like Billy are still ignored by police, who figure they are off having an affair and will show up sooner or later. She said police and the media pay more attention to children, the elderly and beautiful young women.

Janice Smolinski gave credit to Waterbury police, who now consider any missing person a crime until proven otherwise.

When a person goes missing, Janice Smolinski said, families often go bankrupt and 90 percent of marriages end in divorce.

She said her marriage of 43 years has lasted because she and her husband are focused on the common goal of finding their son. Janice Smolinski said her life and her personality have changed drastically since her son disappeared. She has become more outgoing, and sticks up for herself.

There is still reason to hope, according to state police Sgt. Jim Thomas. He said the state reduced the number of missing persons to less than 200 this year, down 300 from the number listed missing in 2009.

Some of those people, like Eastern Connecticut State University student Alyssiah Marie Wiley, were found dead, but others have been brought home safe and alive.

Thomas pointed to the case of Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight, who were missing in Ohio for a decade before being rescued alive from the clutches of their kidnapper earlier this year. He said those women’s families never gave up hope.

“Neither should we,” he said.

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http://foxct.com/2015/03/31/supreme-court-to-rule-on-claim-in-billy-smolinskis-missing-person-case/

Supreme Court to rule on claim in Billy Smolinski’s missing person case

 

smolinski_william4.jpg

Posted 10:58 PM, March 31, 2015, by Beau Berman

HARTFORD — The state’s highest court will hear arguments in April about a family’s right to post missing-persons fliers.

Family members have been searching for Billy Smolinski since he went missing in 2004.

Eleven years later, Supreme Court justices will decide whether his family was merely pushing for justice or committing harassment.

After Billy disappeared, his mother and sister posted fliers in various towns, including near where his ex-girlfriend, Madeline Gleason, worked. Billy’s family was soon accused of inflicting harm to Gleason, though she was caught on camera tearing the fliers down.

Smolinski’s family ended up in trouble, but the family argues they were simply asserting their right to free speech in the search for their son and brother. Janice and William Smolinski say they lost their son and then seem to have lost the right to find out what happened to him.

“We’ve been punished, we’ve been disrespected, and for only one reason, for the love of a child and bringing him home,” said Mrs. Smolinsky.

Her son, 31-year-old Billy Smolinski, vanished from his Waterbury home in 2004.

His mother and his sister Paula began posting his photo across Waterbury, Woodbridge, parts of New York and other locations.

Gleason told police the fliers were targeting her and their placement near her workplace constituted harassment.

Billy’s mother was arrested.

Then in 2007, Gleason sued Billy’s mother in civil court.

“They would follow her, they would taunt her.”, said John R. Williams, Gleason’s attorney.

In 2012, a judge ruled in Gleason’s favor, awarding her more than $50,000.

“The family just fixated on her when they couldn’t find him and they’re obviously in a lot of pain and they wanted somebody to blame so they picked on her,” said Williams.

The Smolinskis say that’s not true. They appealed the ruling and lost in appellate court, but the case will now head to the state Supreme Court on April 27.

What’s at issue is essentially whether the family was exercising their right to free speech or if their actions defamed or harassed Gleason.

“There’s nothing that we did wrong. We’re just trying–we’re not harassing nobody, we’re not trying to hurt anybody. All we want to do is find our son,” said Mr. Smolinski.

The family’s Maryland-based attorney, Steven Kelly, will come to Connecticut for the hearing. He told Fox Connecticut on Tuesday that what’s at stake in the case is the right of all crime victims and their families to seek justice for loved ones.

“John Williams’ motivation was to fire a shot across the bow and shut these people up–and in large part he succeeded,” said Kelly.

Kelly said there is a lot more to the full story than the battle between Gleason and the Smolinskis over the fliers.

“Essentially this pits free speech rights of a family to seek justice against the claimed rights of somebody who feels attacked by the speech. The real story here is there’s a lot of really shady stuff going on,” said Kelly.

Janice Smolinski believes that Williams’ legal success has blocked her right to fight for the truth.

Now there’s one more chance for the Smolinskis to vindicate their efforts to search for their son.

“That’s the main purpose, to bring Billy home. All these other things that happened is absurd. It’s a nightmare, that just won’t go away,” said Janice Smolinski.

Kelly said that several nationally-based victims’ rights groups are paying close attention to the Smolinski case and the Supreme Court’s forthcoming decision on the matter. He said the case has implications for all victims of crime and their families across the state.

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http://www.nhregister.com/article/NH/20151029/NEWS/151029447
 
Connecticut Supreme Court overturns defamation ruling in Smolinski disappearance case

By Anna Bisaro
Posted: 10/29/15, 1:57 PM EDT

HARTFORD >> When her son went missing in 2004, Jan Smolinski took to the streets, hanging up fliers everywhere she thought people might have known her son, William “Billy” Smolinski Jr., hoping that someone might come forward with information.

“You don’t give up on a child or a brother,” Smolinski said. “We felt there was something wrong, and we had to do something.”

But, the fliers were not welcomed by everyone. Madeleine Gleason sued Smolinski and her daughter, Paula Bell, in 2006, arguing that the fliers defamed Gleason and falsely accused her of being someone involved in Billy’s disappearance. Smolinski and Bell in 2012 were ordered to pay a $53,000 defamation and emotional distress award to Gleason, and an appellate court upheld that ruling in 2014.

The state Supreme Court this week overturned the ruling requiring a restitution payment with a 5-2 vote that Smolinski’s and Bell’s First Amendment right was not properly factored into the original decision.

“We conclude that a new trial is required because the trial court’s findings on the plaintiff’s claims of defamation and intentional infliction of emotional distress did not consider, and are not consistent with, the various limitations placed on these torts by the First Amendment,” the opinion stated.

John Williams of New Haven, who served as Gleason’s attorney, said he has spent most of his career fighting for First Amendment rights, but he believes there needs to be limits.

“The Supreme Court went too far this time,” Williams said. “If it’s ever permissible to do what these people did, we will have anarchy.”

According to the Supreme Court opinion released Wednesday, “(Smolinski’s and Bell’s) tactics included, among other things, saying disparaging things to the plaintiff’s friends and acquaintances on several occasions and posting copious numbers of missing person fliers depicting Bill along the plaintiff’s school bus route and near her home.”

“As the Appellate Court noted, the plaintiff ‘claims the defendants’ activities interfered with and damaged her monetarily by interfering with her business of operating a school bus for a living. She also says she was defamed by the defendants who had characterized her as a murderer,’” the Supreme Court opinion stated.

The facts in the opinion, which Smolinski and Bell did not dispute during the proceedings, stated that the two believed Gleason had something to do with Billy’s disappearance and began pressuring her to cooperate with law enforcement in the investigation.

Billy Smolinski and Gleason had been dating prior to his disappearance, Smolinski said. Billy Smolinski reportedly broke up with Gleason because he had found out that she was cheating on him a couple days before he disappeared, the high court said in the opinion.

Smolinski said Gleason and her son both worked as bus drivers, and she and her daughter put the fliers up along Billy’s route. When they saw Gleason “taking down the fliers and debasing them,” they reached out to the Waterbury Police Department for help, she said.

At the suggestion of Waterbury police, Smolinski and her daughter began videotaping Gleason’s behavior, Smolinski said.

“They did it to try and break her,” Williams said of Smolinski’s and Bell’s actions toward Gleason after Billy went missing. “That’s not protected (by the First Amendment).”

Williams said Gleason seeks to re-try the case.

Billy Smolinski still is missing and no arrests have been made in the case. Police have said they believe Billy Smolinski was killed, but nobody has been charged with the offense.

In late September, U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., introduced a bill, Billy’s Law, for the fourth time in Washington. Billy’s Law, inspired by the Smolinskies’ story, is an attempt to increase cooperation between investigators and the families of missing persons.

If passed, Billy’s Law would make reporting missing persons a more efficient process. It also would provide funding to educate investigators on how to use databases on which families can share identifying information about a missing person. In Billy’s case, Smolinski said, her son’s dental records were incorrect for several years of the investigation.

The bill was sent to the House Judiciary Committee on Sept. 28 for consideration.

“Advocates across the country are reaching out to federal legislators,” Smolinski said. “Many of us feel that the fourth time it’s going to go.”

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http://www.foxnews.com/us/2016/08/20/connecticut-family-hopes-for-answers-12-years-after-sons-mysterious-disappearance.html

Connecticut family hopes for answers 12 years after son's mysterious disappearance

By Cristina Corbin Published August 20, 2016 FoxNews.com

Billy Smolinski was 31 and in love when he disappeared nearly 12 years ago from his Connecticut home -- a one-story house in Waterbury not far from the farm where his parents had raised him.

Since that day -- Aug. 24, 2004 -- no one has seen or heard from Billy, the only son of William and Janice Smolinski -- a hard-working tow-truck driver who, by all accounts, loved sports, his German Shepherd "Harley," and his close-knit family.

Detectives have long suspected foul play, according to sources close to the investigation, but without a body or other forensic evidence, the case is a mystery that continues to haunt Connecticut residents. Yet with each passing year, the family's determination to solve the case never wavers and, as the 12th anniversary of his disappearance nears, they are appealing to the public for information.

"Someone, somewhere knows something," said Janice Smolinski.

"He just loved life," said Smolinski, who believes her son was murdered. "He had such a future ahead of him."

According to police reports and numerous media accounts, Billy Smolinski was dating Madeleine Gleason, a school bus driver from Woodbridge, Conn., at the time he vanished. The two had just returned from a trip to West Palm Beach, Fla., when Smolinski reportedly learned Gleason was also dating a married politician.

Smolinski confronted Gleason about the alleged cheating, and his last phone call on record was to the other man, identified in press reports and court documents as Chris Sorensen.

Both Gleason and Sorensen have denied any involvement in Smolinski's disappearance. Gleason told Waterbury police that she last saw Smolinski leaving her home on the morning of Aug. 24 --"a little depressed," she said, because the two broke off their relationship.

Sorensen told detectives he received a phone message on Aug. 24, 2004, in which a male caller said, "Chris, you better watch your back at all times," according to police reports. Authorities later determined the caller was Smolinski.

Shortly before that phone call, Smolinski -- described by his family as "heart-broken" -- contacted a friend and former girlfriend and invited her on a date to Six Flags. At around 3 p.m. on Aug. 24, he drove his white truck to a local Burger King, where he purshased two hamburgers and fries, according to receipts found in a trash bin inside his home.

What happened to Smolinski next is a mystery.

When his parents drove to his home from their farm in Naugatuck on Aug. 25, Janice Smolinski said she immediately feared for her son but was told by police she had to wait three days before reporting him missing.

Smolinski's white truck was parked in a usual spot -- with his keys and wallet still inside, his mother said, and a rubber glove was found under the driver's seat.

A next door neighbor would later tell the Smolinskis that Billy asked him to walk his dog because he was leaving town for a couple of days -- a claim Janice Smolinski does not believe.

"Billy would never ask anyone aside from Mary Ellen to watch the dog," she said, referring to Smolinski's friend and former girlfriend. The neighbor said that when he went to the home on Aug. 25 to walk the dog, the spare key Smolinski hid in the foyer was nowhere to be found.

"As soon as we heard that, we knew there was something very wrong," she said.

Authorities received tips claiming Gleason's son, Shaun Karpiuk, killed Smolinski, according to police and local media reports. Karpiuk died at age 27 in 2005 from a drug overdose.

Over the years, several searches have been conducted -- some using cadaver dogs. One such search involved digging up the yard of a home after Chad Hanson -- one of Karpiuk's friends -- claimed Smolinski was buried there. The search turned up no clues. Hanson, who has been identified in court documents as a person of interest in the disappearance, was jailed for two years for making false statements to police about Smolinski's whereabouts.

The family still maintains a website, Justice4Billy, which tracks the number of days, hours, minutes and seconds since Billy was last seen alive. The site includes a tipline for information in the case.

The Smolinskis have also plastered Waterbury and surrounding towns with flyers about their son -- much like the families of other missing loved ones. The posters, however, have caused legal trouble for the Smolinskis, who were sued in 2006 by Gleason for alleged harrassment and defamation of character.

Gleason -- who admitted to ripping down the flyers along her route as a school bus driver -- claims the Smolinskis taunted her and falsely blamed her for their son's disappearance. In 2012, a judge awarded her $52,666 in damages, including intentional infliction of emotional distress and defamation. In 2015, the state Supreme Court overturned the trial court's decision on First Amendment grounds. The case was remanded to the trial court and later withdrawn by the plaintiff.

The FBI referred all inquiries into the Smolinski case to the Waterbury Police Department, which did not return calls seeking comment. Gleason declined to speak about the matter through her attorney, John Williams, of New Haven. Sorensen could not be reached.

For William and Janice Smolinski, the pain of not knowing what happened to their son is unbearable at times.

"All we are is a family looking for Billy," Janice Smolinski said as she reminisced about a son who loved to play practical jokes, "lived for the holidays," and was known to pick up wounded or stray animals and care for them.

"We will never give up looking for Billy," she said.

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