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New evidence revealed in killing of 10-year-old Holly Piirainen in 1993

Paul Tuthill
Hampden District Attorney Anthony Gulluni at a news conference on Feb. 1, 2023 asked for the public's help to obtain information about a distinctive shirt found "in the vicinity" of where Holly Piirainen's body was discovered in woods in Brimfield on Oct. 23, 1993. The girl's aunt, Carla Jackman, said the family hopes someone with information comes forward to help solve the case.

Hampden DA appeals for information about distinctive T-shirt

Authorities in western Massachusetts are hoping an article of clothing will help crack the 1993 murder of a 10-year-old girl.

The Hampden District Attorney Wednesday released photographs of a white tank top shirt with a distinctive blue, purple, and pink “Boston” graphic across the front that was discovered “in the vicinity” of where the body of Holly Piirainen was found in the woods in Brimfield.

There are no tags on the shirt – nothing that points to where it was manufactured, sold, or who might have owned it.

“We need the public’s assistance; we need someone who knows something to stand up with us an do what’s right,” said District Attorney Anthony Gulluni.

The DA and members of Piirainen’s family made a public appeal for help in providing the missing information about the shirt. Carla Jackman, an aunt who was at the press conference with Maureen Lemieux, the girl’s grandmother, said they hope for a concrete lead in the investigation.

“It’s been a long road and I pray that the person responsible will confess, come forward, or at least someone he knows, who has a conscious, will do the right thing now and contact the police,” Jackman said.

On August 5th, 1993, Piiranen, who was vacationing with family members at a cottage in Sturbridge, went to a house to play with some puppies. When she did not return after about an hour, her father went looking for her and found only her sneaker on a dirt road. Police were called. A massive search was launched that went on for weeks.

The missing girl’s photo was on posters and billboards across Massachusetts and in Connecticut and Rhode Island. Hunters found her body on October 23, 1993 in woods off Five Bridge Road in Brimfield.

“I don’t think people have forgotten,” Jackman said. “People who were around in ’93, they haven’t forgotten.”

Jackman said the family, while remaining hopeful, has learned to temper expectations as through the decades rumors have circulated and investigations into possible suspects have led to dead ends.

“We don’t get our hopes up superfast easily,” she said. “We’re kinda use to that rollercoaster ride and kind of know how to handle it now.”

Gulluni said forensic testing had been performed on the shirt, but would not say when asked if any DNA was found.

“This evidence was collected back in 1993, it was stored appropriately, it was preserved, and has always been part of the investigation and now given the status of our investigation, the phase we’re in, we’re interested in knowing more about the shirt,” Gulluni said.

In another effort to solve the case, Piiranen’s picture was included in decks of playing cards distributed last year in Massachusetts jails and prisons to encourage tips from inmates.

“I know this case is going to be solved, and we’ll see how that comes,” Gulluni said. “There are various ways we could solve it and I have every confidence that we are going to get there.”

Since becoming Hampden DA in 2015, Gulluni has made it a priority to try to solve cold cases.

The tip line in the Piirainen case is 413-426-3507.

Paul Tuthill is WAMC’s Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief. He’s been covering news, everything from politics and government corruption to natural disasters and the arts, in western Massachusetts since 2007. Before joining WAMC, Paul was a reporter and anchor at WRKO in Boston. He was news director for more than a decade at WTAG in Worcester. Paul has won more than two dozen Associated Press Broadcast Awards. He won an Edward R. Murrow award for reporting on veterans’ healthcare for WAMC in 2011. Born and raised in western New York, Paul did his first radio reporting while he was a student at the University of Rochester.