On December 16th,1974, no one heard the cries of Henry Bedard Jr. because he never had a chance to cry.
He never knew what lay ahead of him as he made his way home that fateful day in December. Not only did a coward hit Henry once with a baseball bat, but as his body lay lifeless, the coward continued to bludgeon him to death.
This was the vision in my mind as I recently stood on the site of my brother’s murder for the first time since that day. This is the vision I have to fast forward day after day in order to keep my sanity and continue with life.
As I looked around, one thing was clear to me, Henry went up there to meet someone or to get together with a group of friends. It wasn’t the usual route home. He had to hike a ways to get up to the place where his body was found.
There was an old couch there, a clear indication that kids were still hanging out at “Swampscott View” 36 years later even after what happened. To me “Devil’s View” would have been a more suitable name. So what really happened on that hill on Dec. 16, 1974?
Sometime in early 2009, one of Henry’s closest friends, Cindy Cavallaro, created a memorial page for him on Facebook: Henry Bedard Jr. – In Loving Memory. Since the page opened, there have been 470 members.
So many people have written on Henry’s wall, expressing their memories, feelings on the case, and how it affected their lives. Many have written me personally. Each person remembers exactly what they were doing that very day and the days to follow. Many were afraid to go anywhere alone for a while. Henry’s murder not only affected his family and friends, but it rocked the Swampscott community and all the communities on the North Shore.
It is difficult for so many to believe that this case was never solved. Rumors, allegations and theories have circulated for all these years; some whispered almost in fear. Swampscott is a small community where everyone knows everything about everyone. Nothing is private. Someone must know what happened. There are so many questions haunting so many people.
Was it someone from Swampscott?
Was it someone from Lynn?
Was there more than one person up on that hill with Henry?
Was there a murderer and a witness?
Are they afraid to come forward?
What are they afraid of?
Did Henry see or hear something he shouldn’t have?
Was he at the wrong place at the wrong time?
Why has no one recognized the personalized carvings on the bat?
Was he killed over money?
Was he killed out of pure rage?
Will we ever know the truth?
Will there ever be justice?
Will there ever be closure?
As we all search for answers to the questions that have haunted us over the years, Henry’s murderer runs free. As each day passes, I continue to pray for the truth, for justice, and closure for everyone. Both Henry’s family and the Swampscott community deserve it.
If you have any information on the murder of Henry Bedard, Jr., please contact Chief Ron Madigan in confidence at the Swampscott Police Department: TEL: 781-595-1111;
EMAIL: firstname.lastname@example.org; or
TEXT: CRIMES and put the keyword SPD before your text message.
It was December 17, 1974, a day that will remain clear in my mind forever as though it were yesterday. It had been raining the night before and the temperature was still rising. Although it was winter, there was a strange feeling that spring had arrived. It was warm, gray, wet and the air was somewhat foggy.
That morning my parents had sent all of us off to school, even though we were up all night looking for my 15-year-old brother, Henry, who had been missing since the day before. The police thought he was a runaway. We all knew in our hearts that Henry wasn’t a runaway type of kid. He had nothing to run away from.
On my way home from school in Boston, I pulled into Uva’s Gas Station on Paradise Road to get some gas before going home. There was a large group of people standing around, most of them were staring at me in a peculiar sort of way. I recognized most of the faces; after all, Swampscott was a small town. At the time, I thought nothing of it and proceeded to head home.
As I pulled into the driveway, I felt a strange silence around the house. None of the neighborhood kids were playing in the cul de sac. I stepped out of the car and cautiously headed towards the house.
As I got closer, I saw my father coming out of the side door looking tired and worn. As I drew closer, I sensed something was terribly wrong. His first words as he reached out to embrace me were “your brother has been shot in the head, he’s dead.”
When Henry didn’t come home the previous night, I already suspected something was terribly wrong, but nothing ever prepared me for the reality of those words. I felt such an overwhelming amount of pain explode in the deepest part of my soul, much too great to bear, describe or comprehend. No words could ever describe the magnitude of the grief I felt.
My reaction was to cry out in anguish like an animal that had just been seriously wounded, a piercing, frightening cry that still resonates in my head when my mind wanders back to that dreadful day. My legs buckled underneath me, and I fell into my father’s arms.
At that moment, Cheryl Bedard, the sister of Henry Bedard — me — died as well. It has now been 35 years, yet it seems like yesterday as I sit here sobbing and mourning as though it were the same afternoon on December 17, 1974.
We later learned that Henry had not died of a gunshot wound, but rather he was beaten to death with a baseball bat. His body had been found in the woods, up on the hill behind Uva’s Gas Station, where I had stopped earlier for gas.
Thinking about the details of his death places you on the edge of madness. It is so difficult to comprehend. What savage could do such a thing to another human being?
Henry was a 15-year-old, happy-go-lucky kid with a smile that would warm any heart. Suddenly he was gone, in such a gruesome way. As I entered the house that day, I saw my mother and some other people sitting at the table, each in shock. I vaguely remember anything else except going downstairs to the family room and laying on the couch.
My little brother Scott, then 5 years old, lay beside me, both of us crying and holding each other. This little child, his best friend now gone, obviously devastated and confused, tried to comfort me.
Did he understand what had happened? How would it affect his life? How does a tragedy like this affect anyone’s life? My entire family has suffered so deeply through this tragic incident. It affected the entire community, altered so many lives, and I am sure extended beyond the community.
The days that followed were carried out with such a numbness, mechanically. My physical body was barely functioning, and my soul and spirit had vanished into oblivion. I stayed in this state for quite some time, followed with weeks, months, years of mourning, denial, crying, anger and in search for answers. There was an emptiness gnawing at my soul. I refused to be part of a society I could only see as savage, cruel, hostile, unloving.
Over the years I became more of a loner, isolating myself from people, only allowing a select few to be part of my life.
It has been 35 years now and that one day remains so vivid in my memory. And to this day, that deep-rooted pain has surfaced time and time again, and I once again find myself having to bury some of the thoughts and feelings for fear of losing my mind.
Henry’s death changed many lives. It has changed the course of all of our lives forever. The circumstances surrounding his death tore our family apart, each of us retreating into our own cocoon, never discussing his death as a family.
As a result, I never really knew how my parents and brothers felt or how they dealt with their feelings. I can only observe how it has affected their lives.
There is nothing more devastating than the loss of a loved one. It truly changes you as a person and your perspective on life. All hardship tends to send us inward searching for the truth, answers to life’s questions.
Sometimes tragedy brings us all together, sometimes it tears us apart. Henry’s death was the beginning of a journey I never wanted to take. I may never understand the circumstances, nor do I try anymore. I often wonder what life would be like if he were still here with us.
And so now, 35 years later, a very different person, my faith in life, its beauty, magic and mystery, has slowly been restored through the love of God and my beautiful daughter. However, the core of my being has never fully recovered from the loss of such a magnificent brother as Henry.
(Editor’s note: No suspect or motive has ever been identified in Henry Bedard’s death but the investigation remains open with State and Swampscott police.)
Thirty years later, the scars of an unsolved mystery linger
Reprint from the Boston Globe, By Steven Rosenberg, Globe Staff
SWAMPSCOTT — The sky was full of clouds, darkness was coming, and silence had returned to a rocky ledge the teenagers called SV, or Swampscott View. Soon it would rain — hard, and all night. On the ledge, buried beneath a pile of leaves, lay Henry Bedard Jr. He was 15, and by 4 p.m. on Dec. 16, 1974, his skull had been crushed. Yards away lay the murder weapon, a baseball bat. His killer or killers were farther away.
Thirty years after his brutal death, no one knows who killed Bedard. An investigation by the Swampscott police and the State Police never led to an arrest. There were no suspects. No leads. No motive. ”We never got anything that was worthwhile. Nothing. Nothing at all,” said James Hanley, the retired Swampscott police captain who oversaw the investigation. ”There were all kinds of theories. Theories like some hobo came down the track and killed him. A nut from Lynn could have done it. I never got anything that would kind to seem to have any credence to it.”
The pain, shock, and confusion that overtook the small North Shore town in 1974 has eased over the years. Bedard is no longer a household name. His parents divorced and moved away. Classmates grew up and married. And along the way, Swampscott matured from a working-class town filled with craftsmen and General Electric employees to a select destination for professionals with six-figure incomes.
Still, every Dec. 16, Bedard’s father and a core group of the murdered boy’s childhood friends wonder why no one could ever have been charged with the crime in this close-knit town of 14,000 people where everyone seems to know everyone else.
”I was hoping that it would have been solved before I died,” said Henry Bedard Sr., who is retired and living in Florida. ”But it looks like it’ll never be solved.”
Childhood friends like Paul Zuchero have spent dozens of sleepless nights over the years going over scenarios that could have led to the murder and searching for any kind of motive. ”It’s unbelievable,” said Zuchero, who remembers sitting next to Bedard at church the day before the teenager was murdered. Zuchero, who is now 45, still has his dead friend’s ninth-grade graduation picture hanging on his refrigerator door. ”I want him in the middle of everything,” he said, pointing to a montage of family photos surrounding Bedard. At this point, he hopes that the murderer — if he or she is still alive — leaves a deathbed confession someday.
Over the past two years, Swampscott police and State Police have taken a renewed interest in the case. Thirteen months ago, Bedard’s clothing and the murder weapon — a 31-inch Louisville Slugger bat with cryptic markings on its handle — were sent out for DNA testing. Police hope to match two partial fingerprints that were found on the blood-splattered bat.
The wooded area where Bedard was killed looks the same as it did 30 years ago. A path ascends from a former Boston & Maine rail bed up a small hill to the rocky clearing. The area can be seen from Paradise Road — the second busiest street in town — and overlooks Swampscott’s Department of Public Works yard. Fading brown leaves are piled deep and make walking slow.
Just why Bedard walked along that clearing 30 years ago is still a mystery. In the summer, he had played cards with friends at the site, but when winter set in, the rocky clearing was no longer a place where friends would meet. Nor was it considered a shortcut back to his home, 1 mile away. ”I just want to know why he was up there that day,” his mother, Gloria Bedard, said in a short telephone interview.
At 15, the high school sophomore was on track to be a success. Street-smart and confident, he was less than a year away from buying his first car with the $900 he had saved from caddying and pumping gas at his father’s gas station in Danvers. At 5-foot-4 and 135 pounds, he had earned a spot on the junior varsity football team. Friends remember him as a scrappy kid with a good sense of humor who would never back down from a threat. With his quick smile and blond hair, he was not shy when it came to asking a girl out for a date.
”I’d give an arm, a leg to find out who did it,” said Cindy Cavallaro, who took Bedard to her eighth-grade dance. She remembers the small ring Bedard gave her when she was 14. After his death she wore it every day for two years, until it disappeared down her bathroom sink. ”I was devastated. It was the last thing I had from him.”
Retracing his steps Henry Bedard began his last day of life by walking his younger brother to school and then continuing on for another 2 miles to Swampscott High School. Bedard attended all of his classes that day, but after school let out at 2:15 p.m. he altered his routine. Instead of walking home with friends, he took a bus from the school to the Vinnin Square shopping center. Between 2:30 and 3 p.m., he dropped off a roll of 8-millimeter film to be developed at CVS and purchased a bottle of perfume as a Christmas gift for his sister.
Around 3 p.m., two-fifths of a mile from the CVS, he was seen by then-lieutenant Peter Cassidy on Paradise Road. Cassidy waved to him and noticed that Bedard was walking fast. ”He looked like he was in a hurry to get somewhere,” Cassidy said. By 3:40, Bedard was almost a mile south of the CVS when several town workers spotted him walking across the DPW lot.
”He looked up and said, ‘Merry Christmas,’ ” said Tom Scanlon, who remembers seeing Bedard walking toward the abandoned railroad tracks that sit next to the DPW yard. Scanlon said Bedard held up a bag and told the town workers he was going home to wrap Christmas presents. The men watched Bedard disappear into the woods, onto the path of the former rail line. Scanlon then went back to work inside the wooden building just 10 feet underneath the ledge. Within the next 15 minutes, Bedard would be attacked just above the workers’ heads and left to die. ”We never heard anything,” said Scanlon. Around that time, Cliff Goodman was getting ready for his 10th birthday party. Two of his friends arrived at about 4 p.m. They didn’t tell anyone that they had just found and then left an empty brown wallet and a CVS bag with a bottle of perfume on the ledge behind Goodman’s house. As darkness fell on the town, an icy rain began.
Meanwhile, Bedard’s parents began to worry when their son didn’t come home for supper.
”We knew something was wrong right away, because Henry was always home by 5:30 p.m.,” said Zuchero. By 7 p.m., Bedard’s father had picked up Zuchero, and together with friends and family, they drove in the heavy rain, searching in parks, woods, and back paths for Henry. ”We were hollering in the middle of the woods; we thought he had fallen and hurt himself and couldn’t move,” said Zuchero. ”We never, ever thought he was dead.”
By the next day, Swampscott police had arranged for a helicopter to help search the town. During school that day, one of Goodman’s friends told the 10-year-old about the empty wallet and perfume by the ledge. Intrigued by the find, Goodman and his friend reached the spot after school, around 2:30 p.m., and scanned the leaves for the perfume and wallet. Then Goodman and his friend started to scream. They had found Bedard, covered in leaves and blood; his head was cracked open. ”After all these years I don’t like anything scary, or to be in the dark,” said Goodman, who is now 40. He remembers being overwhelmed by a wave of emotions that followed in the hours after discovering Bedard’s body. That night he kept the light on in his room as he lay in his bed. As he tried to sort out his feelings, he could hear the hum of portable generators that lit up the hill as police searched for clues. Since that night he has visited Bedard’s grave more than a dozen times. ”I never knew him, but I felt like I had to go,” Goodman said.
On Dec. 20, 1974, 1,500 people packed St. John’s Church in Swampscott. Children and adults wept as the priest described Bedard as ”a good man.” Inside the coffin, Bedard wore a Swampscott football jersey with the number 30. It was the same number his older brother had once worn for the high school football team. The seaside town known for its quaint beaches, storied football team, and quiet neighborhoods was in shock. People began to lock their doors. Kids walked in pairs. Residents expected an arrest right away. ”It was like a little hamlet, really; you felt that you were living
Today is a celebration of the day we were blessed with the presence of Henry E. Bedard Jr. Though his life was short, he made a large impact on many souls. Thank you Henry for the time you gave to each of us. I know you are in a wonderful place and that we will all be together again…we really haven’t parted at all for you live in so many hearts.
Much love to you today my dear brother as always. Cheryl <3