The sergeant and the serial killer

A woman walking to her car found them: two teenage girls, naked and dead in a sliver of woods behind an apartment parking lot. They were facedown, side by side, as if placed there with care. “A horrible scene,” the police commissioner said that day. “Like two little dolls at Christmastime.”

It was Aug. 14, 1974, in Montvale, New Jersey, a suburb just over the New York state line. The girls, Mary Ann Pryor, 17, and Lorraine Kelly, 16, had last been seen days earlier at a nearby bus stop. The police believed they had given up on the bus and were trying to hitchhike to a mall.

Their murders shook the region. No one could find any clues in the girls’ backgrounds: no drugs, no trouble with the law. Boyfriends, ex-boyfriends, family members — all were questioned and cleared of suspicion. The police “pursued a welter of tips, rumors and false alarms,” The New York Times reported at the time.

Years ticked past, 1974 into 1975, into the 1980s, the 1990s. When the 40th year since the killings arrived in 2014, the local police asked the public for any new information. No leads were forthcoming. The 45th year passed in the same way.

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