Nassau homicide detectives are using a popular social media website as an investigative tool to try to pry open new leads in a decades-old case: the 1984 disappearance of 15-year-old Kelly Morrissey of Lynbrook.
"We were looking into this case and we learned of some entries on a social networking site, Facebook," said Det. Lt. John Azzata, commander of the Nassau homicide squad, adding that he believes Morrissey is likely dead since 26 years have passed without contact from her.
The Morrissey case was the first of three that were eerily similar, occurring within the same year and involving girls from the same area. The two other cases, which ended with the discovery of the missing teenagers' bodies, are also unresolved.
The last sighting of Morrissey, according to police records, was on the night of June 12, 1984, after she was stood up by two boys who she and her friend were supposed to meet. Morrissey mentioned she might stop in at Captain Video and began walking west down Merrick Road in Lynbrook. She was not heard from again.
Website sparks interest
Police gained new interest in the Morrissey case recently when they learned that people were reminiscing about their days spent at the Hot Skates Rink on the roller rink's Facebook page - and the cases came up in the chatter.
One of the other teens, 16-year-old Theresa Fusco of Lynbrook, a friend of Morrisey's, was fired from Hot Skates the day she disappeared and was also last seen walking down Merrick Road. Her body was found a month later.
Azzata, speaking at a news conference at police headquarters in Mineola, said the Hot Skates site has "a link to 'back in the day,' where people can talk about their experiences at Hot Skates in the past, whether as customers or as employees."
He added: "The conversation eventually segued into 'do you remember the girls that were found dead and the one girl that went missing?' With that conversation, other people were saying 'Yes, I remember,' or 'I went to school with her,' something to that effect."
Azzata said officers began contacting people who posted comments and asked them what they recall of the time period.
While he stressed that no concrete leads have come from the Facebook inquiries, he said the exchanges could yet yield clues to Morrissey's disappearance.
"Right now, we're looking at Kelly Morrissey because she has never been found and never been heard from," Azzata said.
Staff at Hot Skates Rink declined to comment Thursday.
Pauline Furhmann of Wantagh said her daughter Regina, was a friend of Kelly's.
"It was a very sad thing," when Kelly disappeared, she said. "And no closure. I feel sorry for her mother."
Iris Olmstead, Kelly Morrissey's mother, could not be reached for comment.
About five months after Morrissey's disappearance, Fusco was raped and killed. She was found strangled Dec. 5, 1984, near the Hot Skates Rink where she had worked as a hostess, about five blocks from her home.
In March 1985, Jacqueline Martarella, 19, of Oceanside disappeared after she was last seen leaving a friend's house to go to a local Burger King. Her body was found that April on the Woodmere Country Club golf course.
Fusco and Morrissey were friends but police have not linked Fusco's killing and Morrissey's disappearance. They also have not connected Martarella's death to the other cases.
Police thought they had solved Fusco's murder in 1985 when they arrested three men, two of whom knew Morrissey. The men were tried and convicted for Fusco's rape and murder.
Each man spent about 17 years in prison, but, in 2003, their convictions were overturned based on new DNA evidence: Semen found on Fusco's body was not linked to the three or anyone else known to police.
Anyone with information can contact 800-244-TIPS. There is a $10,000 reward for information leading to the case's resolution, Azzata said.
With John Valenti and Kathleen Kerr