Tom Duggan, May, 2015
The friends and family of a child murdered in 1985 have privately raised nearly $4,000 for a headstone, 30 years after the murder of Michelle Pimentel in 1985.
Pimentel’s friends and family raised the money in less than one week after appearing on 980WCAP’s Paying Attention Radio program to tell their story and ask former Kane School (Now the SLE) graduates in the area for help.
Because of the response of Valley Patriot readers and WCAP listeners, last week Pimentel’s sister, Christy Rivera, walked in the doors of Colizzi Memorials to pick out a headstone for her sister.
Flanked by her son Zachary and her husband Rickey, Christy Rivera sat and worked with Mike and Candy Colizzi picking out a headstone, working on the laser etching of Michelle’s image and a poem she wrote for her sister.
Rivera tearfully thanking the Colizzi’s and everyone who donated to memorialize her sister.
“This is so wonderful,” Rivera said weeping. “It’s been so long and she is finally going to have the gravestone she deserves.”
THE CALL THAT MADE IT HAPPEN
Calling into 980WCAP radio, Michelle’s sister, Christy Rivera said that she started a GoFundMe page last August to raise the money for a gravestone, but had only raised a few hundred dollars.
“People who go to her grave looking for her need to know where she is. Everyone deserves that,” Rivera said.
She says it broke her heart that many of her sister’s friends are afraid to ask where she is buried.
“She needs a gravestone so people can go and find her,” Michelle’s childhood friend, Lisa Henshall said.
“She deserves a stone. Unfortunately, Christy’s family was not able to afford a gravestone, even at her burial people kicked in to help pay for Michelle to be buried. So, here we are today, 30 years later, and she still has no gravestone.”
Mike and Candy Colizzi said they were donating some of their services, also donating $500 was Johnny Tarshi of the Tarshi Law Office on Essex Street, Superintendent Riley, employees of the Lawrence Public Schools and dozens of donators to the GoFundMe page online.
THE MURDER OF MICHELLE PIMENTEL
“Back in 1985 …my older sister was murdered by my step-father. She was 15 at the time, I was 14,” Christina Rivera recounted.
“After he murdered my sister, he came home that night, he had told my mother he had gotten into a bar fight. He had about a six-inch knife wound in his hip, so, we took care of him because he was leaving the next day to go to New York to go live with his son.”
But Christy said it wasn’t long before they learned what had really happened.
“My mother’s husband murdered my sister. It was a pretty brutal murder. He had fallen in love with her. I was living in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic at the time. I had just gotten home and I had only been back here for five days. She came over, and let me know she wasn’t living [at home] at the time. She said she was living on Tremont Street, and that she would talk to me tomorrow … tomorrow never came.”
“He chased her around the house and stabbed her, it was pretty brutal.”
Michelle’s classmate, Lisa Henshall, said that she told Michelle before the murder that she had to come forward about the abuse at home, and that she had to tell school officials what was happening.
“When we were in school in the 8th grade,” Henshall says, “We were in gym class. Michelle approached me and said that some things were going on at home, her sister Christy was coming back into the picture, and she was worried for her safety. So, I convinced her to go to the school and tell them what was happening at home.”
“The school, of course, called the proper authorities and Michelle was taken from the home at her mother’s to go live with a friend of the family.”
“Shortly after that, we got the call and the whole school found out that Michelle had been murdered. He had gone to the home where she was staying and laid in wait for her. She was supposed to have a friend stay with her that weekend; she wasn’t supposed to be alone. He went there and forced his way into the house and killed her.”
The murderer was arrested by Lawrence Police but escaped shortly after. Not long after he was recaptured, he attempted suicide, lived in a coma for a few days and eventually died from his injuries. “He took the coward’s way out,” Rivera said of her stepfather.
Henshall says that the family couldn’t afford the burial or a gravestone.
“So, what we did was, we went to class and asked the woodworking teacher after the funeral arrangements were made … the woodworking teacher helped us make a cross for her grave and it’s still there today after 30 years, which is absolutely amazing. I was dumbfounded that Michelle didn’t have a proper stone. It’s very hard to find the grave because the cross is so small. Christy, Michelle’s sister, is the mother of five children and she has tried to collect the money throughout the years to do this for her sister, and has not ever been able to do it. Something always comes up.”
A JULY SERVICE
Mike Colizzi of Colizzi Memorials in Methuen said that the stone will be ready some time in July. Christy Rivera said they when the stone is ready to go on Michelle’s grave she plans on having a small service with family and friends.
SPECIAL THANKS to those who contributed: The staff and students of the South Lawrence East Middle School, Marion Grochmal, Dawn DeRosa, Tricia Covey, Christina Greaver, Thomas Lessard, Lisa Henshall, Janet Montanez, R. Fortin, Jana deBeer, Dan Kirk, Edward Reynoso, Jassmyn Chavez, Tina Cole, Sarah McLaughlin, Jeffrey Riley, Maggie Carberry, Laura Pallazola, Mary T, Lynn Andelman, Scott Kuhagen, Stacy Manfrate, Ryan Gentry, Lisa Krebs, Kelley Sipsey, Cindy Lefebvre, Shawna Currier, Dan Terry, Eric Phetteplace, Andre Ramy, Ann Sciuto, Kerri Mazzaglia, Tom Dardas, Xiomara Hernandez, Shauna Ruffen, Lisa Candelario, Deb & Paul Lamothe, Suzanne Lafave, Patricia Carignan, Shirley Wood, Mike and Candy Colizzi, Johnny Tarsthi, Tarshi Law Office, Hennessey School PTA, 980WCAP.