A Mother’s Plea
©2010 by Mark Swett
A Million Words Would Not Bring You Back,
I Know Because I've Tried.
Neither Would A Million Tears,
I Know Because I've Cried.
What would you do - how would you react - if the safety of your child or loved one was threatened? What if they were brutally murdered? Wouldn’t you attempt to move heaven and earth to protect them or try and find the answers as to who committed the crime and why?
In nature animals are protective of their offspring. Anything or anyone that would threaten them is right in the crosshairs of a their retribution. There are no questions asked and no second-guessing. Instincts kick in and the results are what they are. Without sorrow or guilt life goes on. That is the law of nature and it works well for them.
We are human beings and we live in a nation of laws. Sometimes - and perhaps all to often - terrible things happen to innocent people. Rather than seeking justice on our own we have a system that has placed that legal authority into the hands of law enforcement officials whether they be local, state or federal. Although at times one may be tempted to take matters into their own hands to do so would be wrong. It may bring a moment of personal satisfaction, but in the end it not only thwarts the legal process it also places the individual into a position that may be defended from an emotional perspective, but cannot be defended from a legal one. Lastly everyone - even the worst of people accused, or thought to be guilty of a crime - needs to be presumed to be innocent until proven guilty. It is a bitter pill for the family of the victim to swallow. Just as nature has its laws - so does man.
The loss of a child is hard enough to deal with, but when the death is the result of a murder - and an unsolved homicide - the pain goes deeper. Everyone in the family hurts, but perhaps no one as much as the mother. It is the mother who carries the child inside her body and brings the precious life into the world. She nurtures and cares for the little one. She worries about it and in private moments wonders about the life ahead. The hurt cuts deep.
Perhaps Frances Hawkes imagined little Alice on her first day of school, her high school prom, or her marriage and another grandchild to love. Who would be the man who would win her heart? Would he love her and protect her as much as Frances and her husband had? The future always seems full of hope and promise. That is what life is about. Frances and her family could never imagine how their lives would be so horribly turned upside down on October 4, 1987.
The tragedy of Alice’s death was compounded by the circumstances of it. She was not in the wrong place at the wrong time. She did not make a mistake that resulted in the loss of her life. She was in the privacy and safety of her own apartment - a place where she should have had nothing to fear.
Michael Wescott, from the Maine Attorney Generals office, visited Frances Hawkes and her family in her home. He sat on the couch and briefed them on the case, but he did not share all of the details about it. One thing that he did say and that has stayed with them over the years was that - "this was a vicious, brutal crime.” Wescott had his thoughts about the case too, but proving it was another thing. The family had hope and they held onto it tightly.
The Hawkes family waited patiently for the authorities to identify a suspect and to make an arrest for the murder of Alice, but despite their best efforts it did not happen. The weeks turned into months, and then into years. The family’s anticipation for a resolution to the case grew from hope to impatience and then to frustration. After five years of waiting Alice’s mother and her family decided to do something about it. They would take matters into their own hands and push the envelope; one would be public and the other private.
The Maine State Police was (and is) the sole legal authority charged to investigate the Alice Hawkes homicide, but that did not preclude Alice’s family from reaching out to a private investigator in an effort to find some answers.
As mentioned in another portion of this web site in January of 1992 the Hawkes family hired a private investigator, former Maine State Detective Ralph Pinkham. They posted a $5,000.00 reward in various newspapers throughout the State of Maine for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person(s) responsible for the murder of Alice. With little or no information forthcoming they increased the reward to $10,000.00. The offer was kept open for ten years before being rescinded it in 2002.
Ralph Pinkham’s first meeting with the Hawkes family was in late 1991 on Garland Street in Bangor, Maine where he told them that he believed that “the case could be solved.”
In the Fall of 2009 I spoke with Ralph Pinkham. He would not comment on his work on the case on behalf of the Hawkes family, or even about Alice’s web site. The only information that he offered was that during his investigation - even as a retired Maine State Police Detective - he did not have access to and did not review the case files.
At the end of his investigation Pinkham seemed to have a change mind about a possible outcome and told them “the case may never be solved.” He also suggested that counseling might be of help to them in dealing with their situation. That is not to say that Pinkham did not have some strong thoughts about the case and who may have been responsible for the murder of Alice. He did. But like the Maine State Police at the time he couldn’t prove it. Counseling was always an option for Alice’s family, but what they really needed - wanted - and deserved were answers.
Alice’s mother refused to be discouraged. In September 1992 she opted to reach out to the only person that she knew may have some answers to the questions that she had - the only one that she believed could help her to better understand what happened to Alice. That person was Alice’s boyfriend Stephen Bouchard. Before taking any action she wrote a letter to Detective Stephen Holt of the Maine State Police stating what she was going to do and why.
Dear Det. Holt,
I have decided to write to Steve asking him to meet with me. I doubt that he will but
will give it a try anyway.
I am enclosing a copy of the letter I will be mailing to him on Monday, Sept. 28th, 1992.
As you know the anniversary of Alice’s death will soon be here. I feel I can never stop searching
for the truth.
Sincerely, Frances E. Hawkes
Did you miss the strength of Alice’s mother? The letter to Detective Stephen Holt starts off with three powerful take-charge words - “I have decided…”
Frances Hawkes understood all to well that her letter to Stephen Bouchard would be a gamble. She also knew that by reaching out personally she was - albeit from a distance - interjecting herself into the investigation of her daughter’s murder. But a mother’s heart had been wounded and broken. And so five years after Alice was violently taken from her and the family she simply ran out of patience. She sent the letter by certified mail. It was received and signed for.
I know you will be surprised to receive this letter but hope you will read it with an open mind.
I would like to see and talk with you. I mean just you and I as two adults that we are.
There are things I would like to go over with you - you are the only person who can tell me the things I want to know. I believe out of respect for Alice and respect for me as Alice’s mother you could do no less.
Alice was in my life for 23 years; she was in your life for a time. Your life is going on - mine will never be the same because of the tragic way Alice died.
I haven’t asked much of you Steve, in the last five years. When one of us called you always said “talk to my lawyer.” I hope this won’t be the answer this time.
I will meet with you at your home or mine, whichever will make you more comfortable. I will expect to hear from you in a few days with your answer. I think you owe me this much.
The letter to Stephen Bouchard was very well crafted. Alice’s mother laid out her case and the importance for her to be able to meet and speak with him anywhere that he felt comfortable to do so.
It is the last paragraph where Frances Hawkes again asserted herself with some powerful words - “ I will expect to hear from you in a few days with your answer.” The ball was in Stephen Bouchard’s court.
Why would a mother have to plead with her daughter’s ex-boyfriend to meet with her to discuss the tragedy that happened to both of them? After all, Stephen Bouchard had said that he “loved Alice and was going to ask her to marry him.” Why should it be too much to expect him to meet with someone who - if he had his way - would have been his mother-in-law?
Alice’s mother waited for a response from her letter but she never received one.
It is important to know that Stephen Bouchard broke off all contact with Alice’s family a year after her murder. Their attempts to contact him were deferred to his attorney. The question that one would ask is why?
The answer to that question may be found in an article in the Portland Evening Express published on December 4, 1989 - two years and two months after Alice’s murder.
In November of 1989 The Portland Evening Express began a five part series on unsolved murders in Maine. The third article in the series was the Alice Hawkes homicide.
Staff Writer Steve Campbell did a good job of recounting what was publicly known regarding the events on October 3, and 4, 1987. It was a long article consisting of seventy-three paragraphs. In an effort to bring some updated information to the story he placed several phone calls to Alice’s former boyfriend, Stephen Bouchard, that were not returned. However, he did speak with Bouchard’s mother, Faith Davis. In the published article she spoke about the “pain” her son had gone thorough, losing his girlfriend and becoming a suspect.
The Maine State Police have never publicly commented on the name of a suspect(s), or person(s) of interest in the Alice Hawkes homicide. The most informative public statement from them came on March 12, 2009 when, According to (Lt. Brian) McDonough, the Hawkes case is still considered an open, active homicide. “There’s been fresh eyes looking at it and working at it and following up,” he said. McDonough said police have a good idea of how Hawkes was murdered and who was involved, and that it’s just a matter of proving it, at this point.
The years rolled on - birthdays and holidays passed. The phone didn’t ring from the investigators. Each year on Alice’s birthday the family published a memorial for her in the Bangor Daily News and with the exception of family and friends keeping hope alive for a resolution to her murder the case remained in limbo for sixteen years.
In the July of 2008 I approached the Hawkes family about establishing a web site dedicated to Alice and her murder. I had already conducted some extensive research on the case. In addition I had already written some articles that I wanted to upload to the Internet. All I needed was their permission to publish them. Once I received that I could begin creating the web site and locating an Internet provider to host it.
After explaining my interest in Alice’s case to her sister and brothers in a phone conversation they held a family meeting - including their mother - and all agreed that it would be a good idea.
There were conditions that I felt that we all should understand about the work. First - the web site belonged to Alice and by extension to her family. Second - I would be responsible to secure an Internet provider and all of the expenses incurred to keep it online. Third - the family would have the final say regarding any articles that were uploaded to the Internet. And fourth - I did not expect, I would not ask for, nor would I accept anything from them for the work in bringing Alice’s story to the Internet and keeping her memory alive. It was an easy agreement between all of us.
And then two months later lightning struck twice.
In September 2008 Alice’s family received a surprise phone call from Maine State Police Detective William Ross. He was calling to tell them that there was renewed interest in the case and that he wanted to meet with the family to discuss it further.
During his meeting with Alice’s family Detective Ross heard about their frustration with the case as well as their previous experience with law enforcement. They had to say what was on their mind and it was also important for him to hear it. And then it was his turn to speak. He made it crystal clear to the family that he could not guarantee a positive outcome to the investigation. What he could promise was that fresh eyes would be digging into the case, reviewing all of the information and if necessary re-interviewing some people. The most powerful weapon in his arsenal was not only the advancement of forensic technology that was not available back in 1987, but also that the case evidence had been carefully preserved. After sixteen years of waiting the new lead investigator for Alice’s case offered the family a glimmer of hope for a resolution.
One does not want to be on the opposite side of law enforcement and to be sitting across the table from a Maine State Police detective who is looking at you in the eye - looking right through you. Family and friends can allow themselves to show a range of emotions, but law enforcement authorities cannot. It is not that they are without feelings. The seriousness of their work requires that they live and work on a different level. The importance of their responsibilities to the victim, family and justice is never far from their minds. They are as serious as a heart attack in bringing a resolution to each case that they investigate.
For most of us it is hard to imagine what Frances Hawkes and her family has had to endure over the years. One thing that we do know is that she was an amazing woman. She could not - would not be deterred in her belief - given the circumstances of her daughter’s murder - that the person who killed Alice could be lucky enough to simply walk away and never be held accountable for what had happened.
In March of 2009 Alice’s web site went on line. Frances went through her daughters web site line by line with her daughter Rosemary and “it pleased her very much.” At the same time the Maine State Police commented publicly about the change in the case status. In addition several media organizations, in both print and broadcast format, ran stories about Alice’s case that covered most of the State of Maine. Those things not only reminded the public about what had happened to Alice in 1987 it also educated many who had never heard of her before. A lot of interest and momentum was generated and some of it has sustained to this day thanks to the power of the Internet.
Frances Hawkes was sixty-six years old when Alice was murdered. In the Fall of 2008 after twenty-one years of sorrow, anger, hope and frustration new life was breathed into the case. She had almost come full-circle. She had experienced the dark days and months following her daughter’s murder as well as the years of silence. She had endured moments of anger and doubt, but they did not overcome her. Her inner compass always pointed to true north - the belief that someday the answers that she needed and waited for would eventually come. And so - with the new interest of the public and law enforcement she began the waiting game again. It was familiar territory for her, but this time she believed that there would be a different outcome.
January 2009 ushered in a new year of hope for the Hawkes family, but they were under no false allusions for a quick resolution. They know that this is a real world investigation and not a sixty-minute television show. And so the clock started ticking once again and the waiting began anew.
At eighty-eight years of age Frances Hawkes health was frail, but her spirit was strong. One of her last statements to the media was delivered through her daughter, Rosemary, that is was “extremely important to her that Alice’s killer be caught and punished.”
Sadly, on September 9, 2009, Frances Hawkes passed away at her home surrounded by her loving family. She was a woman of religious faith and left behind an example to follow that no matter what the trials are that one endures throughout life faith can help you through them.
In life Frances Hawkes was of small stature - a little under five feet tall - but she was a giant to her family as well as to all of those who knew her.
Although she did not live long enough to see her daughter’s killer arrested, tried and convicted her pleas and prayers for justice did not pass away with her. Instead they are passed on to her family who adds them to their own. As Alice’s sister Rosemary said, “As long as there’s a Hawkes on the face of the earth, we’re going to search for her killer.”
Frances' faith taught her that “There is nothing hidden that shall not be revealed.” It may be that the answers that she fought for so hard in this life have now been made known to her, but for those left behind the job remains unfinished - and the quest continues.
And so the Hawkes family waits for an answer from the Maine State Police. They know that it is coming. They just do not know when it will come or what it will be. What they do know is that with every day that passes the answer they have waited for gets closer. And they are not alone.
Today Alice’s family is surrounded by friends and people who care and continue to BELIEVE that JWBD. And so we wait with them.
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