On Oct. 7, 1976, Cynthia “Rocky” Krizack, a senior at Mt. Greylock Regional High School, had plans to use Sawyer Library for research and then visit a friend at the College. She left her home on Southworth Street at 8 p.m. that Thursday night and never returned. At 12:30 a.m., her concerned parents contacted the Williamstown Police Department (WPD), who immediately organized a search of the campus.
Chief of Police Joseph J. Zoito, Jr. and State Trooper John F. Flaherty led the fire department, local and state police officers and volunteers from the town and College in an extensive search of the campus and town in the days following her disappearance, but found no traces.
The police department’s only leads were nebulous at best. Tracking bloodhounds brought them to Mission Park twice, where a student had noticed “suspicious vehicles.”
One of Krizack’s classmates reportedly sighted her on the Sunday after her abduction, and a townswoman walking her dog near the College on Thursday night reported screams, but as Officer Edward Morin, quoted in the Berkshire Eagle on Oct. 13, 1976, said, “it’s not unusual to hear screams in the area of Williams College.”
The WPD distributed fliers with Krizack’s picture and description, but the formal search was called off after five days because of the frustrating lack of any solid clues leading to Krizack.
“It’s a question of looking for something you don’t want to find,” her first-year friend at the College, James Rouse, told the Berkshire Eagle on Oct. 12, 1976.
The case remained in limbo for more than three weeks, when on Halloween, Krizack’s body was found by a creek in Windsor, 15 miles from Williamstown. David Bowman, a trapper, contacted the police after locating her body while setting his traps.
An autopsy revealed that Krizack had been struck on the head but that the cause of death was strangulation. She was buried on Nov. 3.
Both local and state police continued to investigate the case, led by Detective Lieutenant Milo F. Brown, Jr., but they simply did not have enough leads to follow. The absence of solid evidence made the case maddeningly difficult.
Over a year later, in Dec. 1977, State Trooper Flaherty, who was still working the case, questioned a man arrested in Vermont for sexual assault and robbery, but did not prove a connection to the Krizack murder. Despite all the hard work the police poured into it, the case was never solved and is still officially open.
The police reached even less closure on a more recent case. Between 8 and 9 p.m. on April 17, 1982, Lynn Burdick, an 18-year-old girl from the nearby town of Florida, was abducted while working at the Barefoot Peddler store on the Mohawk Trail. Her body was never found, so she is considered a missing person instead of an official case of homicide.
Just before 8 p.m. that night, Burdick’s abductor had attempted an attack on a female Williams student, who managed to fight him off. He then sped off campus and to the Barefoot Peddler, where he encountered Burdick. He was never apprehended.
Sergeant Vincent Zoito, Joseph Zoito’s nephew who currently works for the WPD, recalled the night of the two attacks. He had been called to a local residence to respond to a domestic violence call, and said that because he had left the area, “I missed the guy by just 15 seconds.”
Zoito said he wished the two incidents had been solved. “I want to see old cases resolved before I retire,” he said. The Burdick case in particular, because he just barely missed apprehending the perpetrator, “is a case that will stick in my craw for a long, long time.”
Although there is no guarantee that the cases would be solvable if they happened today, Zoito did say that the tremendous advances in forensic science since the 1970s and early ’80s would help provide better clues than investigators had at the time of the investigation.
“At a crime scene, there’s always clues. It’s just a matter of finding them,” Zoito said.
The technology for finding these clues is so far advanced from 26 years ago that there would be much more evidence to go on today. The most obvious change in forensic science is the introduction and widespread use of DNA fingerprinting. Extracting useful information from a crime scene is never easy, but new technology has greatly increased forensic scientists’ efficiency.
Cases like Krizack’s and Burdick’s are frightening, but fortunately rare. Williamstown is lucky to have not seen a murder in so long. Zoito said the WPD is mostly called in to deal with domestic violence, sexual assaults, occasional brawls and car thefts. He also mentioned with a smile that of course they visit the College every once in a while.
Referring to crime in Williamstown, he said, “it’s getting more violent now. People are losing their tempers over the most minute things.”
Zoito said it seems as if crime is moving out of the big cities, which are getting “too hot and heavy,” and into the smaller towns.
“The killing of ‘innocent victims,’ that is, victims whose occupation or way of life did not in any way contribute to or occasion their death usually elicit universal condemnation,” Robert Jackall, professor of sociology and an expert on violence, said.
According to Jackall, Cynthia Krizack is “a classic example of an ‘innocent victim.’” He noted that, “in large cities, such as New York, where cases like this occur with some frequency, similar reactions follow the events themselves, and linger in the consciousnesses of those most directly affected by the crimes, but subsequent similar cases displace them in the public consciousness at large.”
Jackall said the entire College community was horrified by the Krizack events and many students, faculty and staff volunteered to help search for her. When such a serious crime occurs nearby, he said that the College’s responsibility is to “cooperate in any way possible to help the authorities to find the culprit(s) responsible and bring them to justice.”
Sergeant Zoito had advice for helping to prevent violent crimes. He recommended that students, especially females, take self-defense classes. He understands the need to unwind after the stress of an academic week, but emphasized the importance of drinking safely.
He suggested that students should walk facing the flow of traffic so they will be aware if a car is trailing them. Going to party locations during the day to find the nearby streetlights, walking with friends, telling friends where and when you are going and when you expect to be back, checking on the reputation of potential “hook-ups” and above all, exercising caution and sense are all good ways of preventing dangerous situations.
Lastly, Zoito said to trust instinct. “If you ever get a gut feeling that something is not right, call Security and tell them to get over there immediately and get you from point A to point B,” he said.