Marital dispute ends in deaths
A Georgia man trails his wife to Tampa, where he kills her, then
himself, police say.
By Alexandra Zayas
January 1, 2006
TAMPA - After Aileen Nicholaou's husband broke
her shoulder in a fight four weeks ago, she fled their home in
Georgia for her sister's house in West Tampa.
But Michael Nicholaou followed. Shortly after he
caught up with his wife Saturday, she was shot dead, he was dead by
his own hand and Aileen Nicholaou's daughter was critically wounded,
"He apparently armed himself and drove down here
... to Tampa, in effect hunting her," said Tampa police spokesman Joe
Aileen Nicholaou, 47, had been staying at her
sister, Audrey Leon's, home at 3321 W Walnut St. for three weeks, said
About 12:20 p.m. Saturday, Leon, 30, called police.
Durkin said she had heard a lot of yelling and feared for her sister's
Two officers met Leon in her driveway and went
inside the home. When an officer tried to walk through a partly opened
bedroom door, he was met by Michael Nicholaou, who pointed a long-barreled
weapon at them, Durkin said.
Then the door slammed shut.
As the officers scrambled for cover and grabbed
Leon, they heard at least two gunshots inside the bedroom.
They retreated and called for help.
Soon the police tactical response team arrived and
tried to telephone Michael Nicholaou, 56. When that failed, the team
went inside and found the two bodies and the wounded daughter, Taryn
Bowman was taken to Tampa General Hospital, where
she remained in critical condition late Saturday.
Aileen Nicholaou's uncle, Rene Toranzo, 72, had
gone to Georgia to bring her to the sister's Tampa home. He said the
couple had been married for more than 15 years.
"We got along well," Toranzo said.
The violence Saturday was not Michael Nicholaou's
first encounter with law enforcement.
In 1988 in Holyoke, Mass.,
Nicholaou's previous wife, Michelle, disappeared, said a 2004 news
report from Fox 25 television station in Boston.
Police were suspicious of the circumstances, but
never charged Nicholaou, a failed porn shop owner who moved to Holyoke
from Charlottesville, Va.
Nicholaou told Holyoke police that his wife had run
off with another man.
In 2001, a missing person's agency located Michael
Nicholaou in Tampa and called him. Nicholaou denied ever knowing
Michelle Nicholaou, but then told the agency he heard she was doing
drugs with a drug dealer, the television station reported.
In Tampa, Saturday's shooting was a shock for the
Oscar Rodriguez, 32, who lives about a block away,
said he heard a boom Saturday, but had never heard gunshots in the
"It is a tight-knit community. Everybody knows
everybody here. It's very peaceful. This is the first time anything
like that has ever happened around here. It's left me speechless. I
can't believe this happened, especially on New Year's."
The "Connecticut River Valley Killer" refers to an unidentified
serial killer believed responsible for a series of similar knife
murders mostly in and around Claremont, New Hampshire, and the
Connecticut River Valley, primarily in the 1980s.
In the mid 1980s, three young women disappeared from the
Claremont, New Hampshire area. In 1985 and 1986, the skeletal
remains of two of the vanished women were recovered within about a
thousand feet of each other in a wooded area in Kelleyville, New
Hampshire. The condition of the remains made the cause of death
difficult to determine, but certain factors pointed to multiple stab
wounds. Between the recovery of the first and second bodies, a 36-year
old woman was stabbed to death in a frenzied attack inside her
Saxtons River home. Ten days later, the remains of the third missing
woman were found; postmortem examination revealed evidence of
multiple stab wounds.
At this point, investigators began examining prior homicides in the
area and found two previous cases, in 1978 and 1981, that further
reinforced the presence of a burgeoning serial killer. At the peak of
the investigation, and after additional homicides and one non-fatal
attack, investigators noted similarities in M.O., oft-used dump sites,
and specific wound patterns that linked many of the murders,
suggesting a common perpetrator.
Seven homicides are commonly cited as being conclusively linked
to the Connecticut River Valley killer.
On October 24,
1978, 26-year old Cathy Millican was photographing birds at the
Chandler Brook Wetland Preserve in New London, New Hampshire. The next
day, her body, with at least 29 stab wounds, was found yards away from
where she was last seen.
On July 25,
1981, 25-year old Mary Elizabeth Critchley disappeared while
hitchhiking. She was last spotted near Interstate 91 at the
Massachusetts/Vermont border. Fifteen days later, her body was found
on Stage Coach Road in Claremont. Her manner of death has not been
16-year old nurse's aide Bernice Courtemanche was last seen
by her boyfriend's mother in Claremont on
May 30, 1984.
She was thought to have set out to see her boyfriend in Newport by
hitchhiking along Route 12. She did not reach her destination and was
subsequently reported missing.
Two months later, on
July 20, 1984, 27-year old Ellen Fried—supervising nurse
at Valley Regional Hospital—made a late-night stop to use a payphone
outside Leo's Market in Claremont. Fried spoke with her sister for
approximately an hour when she suddenly remarked on a strange car
she'd observed driving back and forth in the vicinity. She stepped
away from the phone briefly to make sure her car's engine would start
and then returned. After speaking for a few minutes longer, Fried
concluded the call.
The next day, Fried failed to report to work and her car was found
abandoned on Jarvis Road, a few miles away from Leo's Market.
On July 10,
1985, 28-year old single mother Eva Morse was seen hitchhiking
near the border of Claremont and Charlestown, New Hampshire, on Route
12. This is the last time anyone would see Morse alive, and she too
was reported missing.
On September 19,
1985, the remains of Ellen Fried were found in a wooded area near the
banks of the Sugar River in Kelleyville, New Hampshire. Postmortem
examination revealed evidence of multiple stab wounds.
During the afternoon of
April 15, 1986,
36-year old Lynda Moore was doing yard work outside her home in
Saxtons River, Vermont, a short distance from I-91. That evening, her
husband returned home to find his wife's dead body, bearing multiple
stab wounds. The crime scene suggested a fierce struggle had taken
Numerous witnesses reported having seen a slightly stocky, dark-haired
man with a blue knapsack lingering near Moore's home the day of the
murder. The man was thought to be between 20 and 25 years old, clean
shaven, with a somewhat round face, and wearing dark-rimmed glasses.
The following year, a composite sketch was released.
Four days after Moore's murder, a fisherman happened upon the
remains of Bernice Courtemanche about one thousand yards from where
Ellen Fried's remains had been recovered. Forensic examination
uncovered evidence of knife wounds to the neck and an injury to the
Six days later, the remains of Eva Morse were found by loggers
about 500 feet from where Mary Elizabeth Critchley's body had been
discovered in 1981. Postmortem examination found evidence of knife
wounds to Morse's neck.
On January 10,
1987, 38-year old nurse Barbara Agnew was returning from a
skiing outing with friends in Stratton, Vermont. That evening, a
snowplow driver encountered her green BMW at a northbound I-91 rest
stop in Hartford, Vermont. The door was cracked and there was blood on
the steering wheel. On
March 28, 1987, Agnew's body was found near an apple tree in
Hartland. She had been stabbed to death.
There was a heavy snowstorm in the area during the night of Agnew's
disappearance, and she was a mere 10 miles from her home. Her reasons
for pulling into the rest stop have been puzzling to investigators.
Jane Boroski attack
The killings remained unsolved and had apparently stopped when,
late in the evening on
August 6, 1988,
22-year old Jane Boroski, six months pregnant, was returning from a
county fair in Keene, New Hampshire when she stopped at a closed
convenience store in West Swanzey to purchase cola from a vending
machine. Boroski returned to her car and began drinking the beverage
when she took notice of a Jeep Wagoneer parked next to her. Via her
rear-view mirror, Boroski then saw the driver of the vehicle walking
around the back of her vehicle. He then approached her open window and
asked her if the pay phone was working, at which time he immediately
grabbed her and pulled her from the vehicle. Boroski struggled, and
the man accused her of beating up his girlfriend and asked if she had
Massachusetts plates on her car. Boroski responded that she had New
Hampshire plates, but this did not deter her attacker, who proceeded
to stab her 27 times before driving away and leaving her to die.
Boroski managed to return to her car and drive on Route 32 toward a
friend's house for help. As she neared the house, she noticed a
vehicle driving in front of her and realized that it was her attacker.
Boroski finally reached her friend's home at which the occupants
immediately came to her aid. Her attacker apparently performed a u-turn
and slowly passed by the house as Boroski was tended to before
speeding away into the night.
Boroski was treated at the hospital, where it was determined that
the attack had resulted in a severed jugular vein, two collapsed lungs,
a kidney laceration, and severed tendons in her knees and thumb.
Fortunately, Boroski's baby survived, although not without
complications; Boroski's daughter would later be diagnosed with mild
Boroski was able to provide authorities with a composite sketch and
the first three characters of the attacker's license plate.
Despite two composite sketches, the formation of a task force,
assistance from criminal profiler John Philpin, a handful of local
suspects, and an Unsolved Mysteries segment concerning the
April 10, 1991),
no arrests were made in the Connecticut River Valley killings and the
case grew cold, as the killings ceased after the attack on Boroski.
In 1993, Scribner published a book, The Shadow of Death: The
Hunt for a Serial Killer, by true crime author Philip E. Ginsburg.
Both the Unsolved Mysteries segment and Ginsberg book featured
substantial input by Philpin.
On May 20,
1984, 16-year old Heidi Martin went for a jog in Hartland, Vermont, on
Martinsville Road. The next day, her body was found in a swampy area
behind Hartland Elementary School. She had been raped and stabbed to
death. 21-year old Delbert C. Tallman confessed to the crime and was
tried; however, he later recanted his confession and was acquitted.
Nearly three years later, Barbara Agnew's body would be found
approximately a mile from where Martin was discovered.
Tallman has resided in Bellows Falls, Springfield, and Windsor,
Vermont as well as Claremont, New Hampshire, the locus of most of the
Connecticut River Valley killings. He was convicted in 1996 on two
counts of lewd and lascivious conduct with a child and is currently
serving time in a Lake County, Florida prison for failure to comply
with sex offender registration requirements.
Given the circumstances of Martin's murder, and the dearth of
information related to the arrest and trial of a suspect, some
websites cite Martin's death as unsolved and part of the Connecticut
River Valley killings.Delbert Tallman has NEVER been a suspect in
the Connecticut River Valley Serial Murders. Delbert Tallman is a
convicted child molester. There is NO evidence of ANY of the
Connecticut River Valley Victims being raped. Delbert Tallman would
have been 25 years old in 1988 when Jane Boroski was attacked. She did
hand to hand combat with her attacker and stated his age at between 35
and 40 years old.
In 2001, private investigator Lynn-Marie Carty was contacted by the
mother of Michelle Marie Ashley, a Vermont woman who had been missing
since December 1988, along with her two children. The woman hired
Carty to gather information pertaining to the possible whereabouts of
her daughter, as well as her two grandchildren, whom she believed to
be in the company of Ashley's common-law husband, Michael Andrew
Michael Nicholaou was a Vietnam veteran who'd served as a
helicopter pilot in the Army. Nicholaou had earned two Purple Hearts,
two Silver Stars and two Bronze Stars before being charged in 1970,
along with seven comrades, with strafing civilians while on a
reconnaissance mission in the Mekong Delta. (Years later, military
acquaintances would describe Nicholaou as having, on at least one
occasion, abandoned his camp to seek hand-to-hand individual combat
with the enemy, armed only with a knife, stating that he was going "hunting"
for humans.) Murder and attempted murder charges were ultimately
dropped, and Nicholaou returned home disgraced and bitter,
subsequently filing suit against the US Army. During this time and
throughout the remainder of his life, Nicholaou received treatment
from the Veterans Administration for Posttraumatic stress disorder.
While living in Virginia, Nicholaou opened and operated a sex shop
called The Pleasure Chest. The store was raided twice and he and his
business partner were charged with selling obscene materials; in one
instance, they were convicted, and in the other, there was a mistrial.
At the time, Nicholaou remarked to the The Progress, "Evidently
the police don't have enough serious robberies, murders and rapes to
occupy their time."
It was in Virginia that Nicholaou met Michelle Ashley and soon
after moved to Holyoke, Massachusetts, where the couple had two
children, Nick and Joy.
Michelle's family, who lived in New England, regarded Michael
Nicholaou as strange and quiet. As his marriage to Michelle became
more troubled, Michelle attempted to leave him, taking her two
children with her. This prompted Nicholaou to pursue Michelle's
whereabouts, making contact with her family during this period.
Michelle, who told family members that she feared for her life,
eventually returned to Nicholaou, but expressed intentions to family
to leave him for good. In December of 1988, Michelle's mother dropped
by the home of Michael and Michelle to check on her daughter after
weeks of no contact; she found spoiled food in the refrigerator, an
abandoned baby book, and the apartment vacant. There was no trace of
Michelle, Nicholaou, or the two children.
Shortly after being hired by Michelle's mother in 2001, Carty was
easily able to obtain Nicholaou's contact information with some
cursory Internet research. She called Nicholaou, who was living in
Georgia, and he answered. Nicholaou initially asked how she had found
him and denied knowing anything about the family's whereabouts.
Eventually, he stated that Michelle was a "slut" who had been doing
drugs and ran off, abandoning the children. He stated that the
children were fine, and Carty confirmed this by reaching Nick the
following day, who tearfully described life with his combat-traumatized
father, who had since remarried.
By 2005, Nicholaou's second wife, Aileen, had also sought to escape
him after he'd attacked her. On December 31 of that year, Nicholaou
tracked down Aileen to her sister's home in Tampa, Florida. Wearing a
black suit and tie and carrying a guitar case filled with guns,
Nicholaou led his wife and stepdaughter, 22-year old Taryn Bowman,
into a bedroom while his sister-in-law fled to summon police. While
awaiting for the arrival of the SWAT team, Nicholaou shot Aileen,
Taryn, and himself. Aileen and Michael Nicholaou died at the scene;
Taryn died at the hospital a short time later.
Carty read about the tragedy in the newspaper and was compelled to
investigate Nicholaou's past, as well as explore other New England
crimes around the time of Michelle's disappearance. It was then that
Carty began reading about the Connecticut River Valley killings and
suspected that Nicholaou could have been the perpetrator. Among many
points of interest to Carty was that Michelle Ashley was a nurse, a
profession shared with three of the Connecticut River Valley victims.
While Nicholaou's residence in Holyoke was about 90 miles (140 km)
from Claremont, Carty was able to determine that Michelle had
relatives in the area, and a note in the abandoned baby book placed
her in 1986 at the same Hanover, New Hampshire, hospital from which
Barbara Agnew would disappear a year later. It was also determined
that Michael Nicholaou owned a Jeep Wagoneer in the 1980s, which is
consistent with the vehicle described by Jane Boroski.
Carty began communicating with Boroski shortly after Nicholaou's
murder-suicide (both were interviewed in a 2008 episode of THS
Investigates: Serial Killers on the Loose that focused on the
Connecticut River Valley killer). Carty shared her findings about
Nicholaou with Boroski. Boroski was shown pictures of Michael
Nicholaou and expressed that there was "some resemblance" between him
and the man that attacked her. The culmination of Carty's interactions
with Boroski was that Boroski is now convinced that Michael Nicholaou
was her attacker and, by extension, the Connecticut River Valley
New Hampshire cold case detectives, in 2007, stated that they were
in the process of examining surviving physical evidence, as well as
Michael Nicholaou's possible connection to the case. To date, no
conclusions have been publicly announced, and Nicholaou has not been
conclusively linked to the crimes of the Connecticut River Valley
It's worth noting that Nicholaou's candidacy as a suspect is
hampered by the fact that he appears to have been living in Virginia
at the time of the Courtemanche, Fried, and Morse murders (reinforced
by the date of his obscenity trial), and likely both up to and beyond
that time. Furthermore, online sleuths have variously posited
Nicholaou as being the Colonial Parkway Killer, the Route 29 Stalker,
the Blue Ridge Parkway Rapist, and the murderer of Julianne Williams
and Lollie Winans at Shenandoah National Park.
Gary Westover's deathbed confession
In October, 1997, a 46-year old Grafton, New Hampshire paraplegic
named Gary Westover related to his uncle, retired Grafton sheriff's
deputy Howard Minnon, that he had a confession. Westover told Minnon
that, in 1987, three buddies picked him up for what was described as a
night of partying. Allegedly, they loaded Westover and his wheelchair
into their van and set out to Vermont, where they abducted, murdered,
and dumped 38-year old Barbara Agnew, who had long been considered a
victim of the Connecticut River Valley killer.
Westover provided the names of the three friends and Minnon
recorded them on a piece of scrap paper. Thereafter, Minnon shared
Westover's information with his wife, daughter, and law enforcement.
Minnon felt, however, that authorities were not interested in his
information. Westover died in March 1998, and Minnon died in 2006.HOWEVER
before Sheriff Minnon died in 2006, he was in a New Hampshire Hospital
reading the newspaper when he saw a story about Michael Nicholaou
being named as a suspect in the Connecticut River Valley Murders, he
read about the information brought to authorities by the private
investigator Lynn-Marie Carty. He read Jane Boroski had to say about
Nicholaou. Upon reading all this in his local paper he become very,
very upset. He showed the story to his family and told his family "
See this, this is Gary's story, this is what I tried to tell the state
police Gary told me when I called them to the house, but they treated
me like a fool. I have wasted my whole life in law enforcement, they
did nothing about what I told them and he killed more people." Then
his family tried to encourage him to contact the private investigator.
He said not unless we find that piece of paper with the names on it
for proof. He said New Hampshire State Police Officer William McGee
was one of the officers who was in his livingroom the day he gave him
the list of 3 names in October 1997 He could not remember the name
of the Vermont State Police Officer who was also there in his living
room who was also given the list of the 3 times. Upon checking into
what was going on with N.H. Officer William McGee in October 1997, he
was busy working on a newly re-opened cold case in the area where the
sheriff lived and has been accused of covering up the evidence in that
very strange www.dowmurders.com then click on Modern Day Cover up to
read about McGee's actions on that case.
In August of 2006, one of Westover's aunts wrote Anne Agnew, sister
of the victim, with the information originally given by Westover to
Minnon. Agnew forwarded the letter to Carty, who ran the name of
Michael Nicholaou by Westover's aunt, who stated that the named "sounded
familiar." Carty was told that authorities are in possession of the
names Westover provided to Minnon, and further speculated that
Westover may have become acquainted with Nicholaou at an area Veterans
Affairs hospital, although none of this has been confirmed and the
Connecticut River Valley killings have not been solved. Westover
provided to his Uncle in October 1997 and his Uncle provided to the
State Police in October 1997, and then his surviving family members in
2007 provided to the private investigator, state police and victims
family, one DEFINING KEY piece of information that ONLY the killer/killers
would know. This can be confirmed by the original criminal profiler
who worked on all the Connecticut River Valley cases John Philpin.
Other possible victims
Joanne Dunham, 14, was sexually assaulted and strangled on June 11,
1968, in Charlestown, New Hampshire. Ginsberg cites Dunham as a
Connecticut River Valley victim in Shadow of Death, although
this inclusion is primarily his own and is made on the basis of
geographic proximity to the later crimes.
On October 5th, 1982, 76-year old Sylvia Gray was found bludgeoned
and stabbed to death in a wooded area, a few hundred yards from her
Plainfield, New Hampshire home, a day after having been reported
Sarah Hunter, 36, was employed as a golf pro in Manchester Center,
Vermont. On September 19,
1986, her car was discovered parked at a gas station off Route 7A and
she was subsequently reported missing. Two months later, her remains
were stumbled upon in a brush at the edge of a cornfield in Pawlet,
Vermont. She had been strangled. At the time, Hunter's death was being
reviewed by Vermont and New Hampshire authorities as being possibly
connected to other unsolved homicides in the area.
38-year old Steven Hill was last seen on
June 20, 1986
retrieving his paycheck from his Lebanon, New Hampshire employer. On
July 15, Hill's
body was found with multiple stab wounds in Hartland, Vermont, across
the Connecticut River from where Sylvia Gray's body had been found
four years prior.
On July 25, 1989, 14-year old Carrie Moss of New Boston, New
Hampshire, left her parents' home to visit friends in Goffstown and
disappeared. Exactly two years later, on July 24, 1991, Moss's
skeletal remains were founded in a wooded area in New Boston. While
her cause of death could not be determined, she was thought to be the
victim of a homicide.
New interest in
Connecticut River Valley serial killings
A missing woman. A murderous
husband. A man with a long-kept secret. A St. Petersburg investigator
is still on the trail.
By Ben Mongtomery - St Petersburg Times
January 27, 2008
The detectives found the woman near an apple tree
when Vermont began to thaw. She wore ski bibs and a lift ticket. The
snow was black with blood.
They called Anna Agnew at 2:30 a.m. as the pieces
Can you describe her jewelry? a detective asked.
Anna's sister had been missing since January. A
snow-plow driver had found her green BMW at a rest stop off Interstate
91 in Vermont, door cracked, blood on the steering wheel.
Now it was March, and detectives had finally found
the woman's body. Anna helped them identify her by her ring.
Anna Agnew's sister, Barbara, was likely the victim
of a serial killer who stalked the Connecticut River Valley in the
1980s, slaughtering six young women, maybe more, and dumping their
bodies in the bucolic borderlands between Vermont and New Hampshire.
The man was never caught.
For 21 years, Anna Agnew has lived with this
reality. The Maryland social worker has symptoms she associates with
post-traumatic stress disorder. She has sought peace on a month-long
hike through the Grand Canyon and a journey through China.
A fire rages inside, and she can only blame a
Call it closure. Call it finality.
She needs to give him a face.
"I'm going to hell, Cindy. I'm going to hell."
Gary Westover was pale and sweating. Maybe he was
on drugs. Maybe the nightmares that robbed him of sleep, that caused
him to wake up screaming and soaking wet, were now robbing his mind.
Westover was full of hell and fire. He had been
paralyzed in a diving accident, leaving him with partial use of one
arm. He lived his adult life in a wheelchair, collecting disability
checks and peddling drugs on the side.
The leaves outside were changing that fall of 1997,
and Westover felt as if he wasn't going to make it to winter. The 46-year-old
was dying. He called his uncle, the person he trusted most.
He needed to confess.
His cousin and uncle sat down. His cousin took his
"I'm going to hell," Westover said.
"Don't say that, Gary," said his cousin, Cindy Fysh.
"I've got something to tell you, Uncle Howard," he
Uncle Howard was Howard Minnon, a retired sheriff's
deputy in Grafton County, N.H. Before Westover could continue, Uncle
Howard told Cindy to leave the room.
The two men spoke while the women waited in the
kitchen. When Uncle Howard emerged, his face was cold and stiff.
In the following days, he shared the details of the
conversation with his wife and daughter.
Westover told his uncle that three of his buddies
picked him up for a night of partying. They loaded his wheelchair into
They insisted that he go with them, so that he was
culpable, recalled his aunt, Lois Minnon, 78, who still lives in the
area. "He had no choice, but they took him over in the van with his
wheelchair. They made him be there."
Westover told his uncle that he and the three men
abducted a woman, butchered her and dumped her body off a back road.
His uncle wrote the names of the three men on a
scrap of paper, then called the authorities.
"Dad was giving them this information, but they
weren't listening," said Westover's cousin, Cindy Fysh, in an
interview with the St. Petersburg Times. "He just thought it
was laziness, that they didn't want to admit that it was an unsolved
murder. They didn't want it brought up."
"Howard was hurt more than anything," said Lois
Minnon. "Then he got mad. He said, 'I'll never take anything to law
enforcement again.' "
No arrests were made. If the police acted on the
information, they never told.
Gary Westover died in 1998, leaving his sins with
the living. Howard Minnon died in 2006. Now, thanks to renewed
interest in the case, the deathbed confession could help solve the
Anna Agnew opened the letter in August. She didn't
recognize the name on the envelope.
"Dear Anne," it said.
"A nursing school classmate sent me a newspaper
article from the Valley News about the sad death of your
sister Barbara. She knew that I had information about her death and
would want to share it with you."
The letter was from another of Gary Westover's
aunts. She had also heard Westover's confession, as she detailed in
"This is an awful thing to write, so I know it is a
much worse thing to read, but I want you to know why I believe he was
telling the truth. He said he never got over that awful feeling. He
had been afraid of the men who killed her because he was helpless to
defend himself or his family. Now his conscience overrode his fear."
The newspaper article also mentioned a woman who is
believed to be the last victim of the Connecticut River Valley killer.
A man attacked the woman in August 1988 outside a market in New
Hampshire, stabbing and slicing her 27 times.
The woman lived. She's the only surviving victim of
the serial killer. Last year, after 20 years of silence, she said she
knew who attacked her that night. Beyond a doubt.
Anna Agnew forwarded the letter to Lynn-Marie Carty,
a private investigator in St. Petersburg.
Carty knew all about the Connecticut River Valley
slayings. After two years of trying to solve them, and seven trips
from Florida to the Connecticut River Valley, she could rattle off the
smallest details of the crimes.
The investigator had been captivated with the
killings since Dec. 31, 2005. That's when a haunted Vietnam veteran
named Michael Nicholaou pronounced NICK-allow killed his wife and
stepdaughter before shooting himself in the mouth inside a West Tampa
The investigator was hired to find Nicholaou's
former wife. She disappeared from Holyoke, Mass., in December 1988 and
hasn't been seen or heard from since. The woman's family suspected
Nicholaou killed her and fled to Florida with their children.
The woman's disappearance in 1988 came just three
months after the last attack attributed to the Connecticut River
Valley killer. The St. Petersburg investigator learned that Nicholaou
had driven all over the valley on trips to visit his wife's relatives.
She showed pictures of Michael Nicholaou to the last surviving victim
of the serial killer. The woman recognized Nicholaou as her attacker.
When the investigator read the letter from Anna
Agnew, she got chills.
The information seemed valid, and it answered
questions about Barbara Agnew's death.
One problem the police had in solving Barbara's
murder was that they couldn't figure out why she would pull into a
rest area during a snowstorm when she was just 10 miles from home.
If she had been trying to clear ice from her
windshield, why would she park in a dark area, away from the street
lamps? If she were going to use the restroom, why wouldn't she wait 10
more minutes? If she was forced off the road, why wasn't there
For the investigator, Gary Westover's confession
helped answer those questions. Maybe Westover was bait.
One thing Barbara Agnew's friends and family agreed
upon was that she had a heart for helping. That's why she was a nurse.
Could she have pulled over to help a paralyzed man
who was stuck in the snow?
All the investigator needed was the names of the
men who took Gary Westover hunting that night. She suspected Michael
Nicholaou was one of the three men Westover told his family about. She
could see the two meeting at a Veterans Affairs hospital in the area.
Westover's aunt thinks the name Nicholaou is
familiar. And Nicholaou visited family near where Barbara Agnew was
Carty is sure the police have the names. She
doesn't have access to the case files, so she passed the information
to the Vermont State Police.
If there's an outside expert on the cases, it's
John Philpin, a criminal profiler who lives in Vermont. Philpin worked
with police at the time of the killings to generate a psychological
sketch of the serial killer.
Philpin thinks Gary Westover's deathbed confession
"Given the point that this guy was at in his life,
I can't see why he would be telling anything other than the truth,"
Philpin said. "What does he have to lose? What does he have to gain?"
But he wonders why the police haven't acted on the
"It's totally inadequate," he said of the
investigation. "I'm very dismayed by it."
Detective John Hagen of the Vermont State Police
said he's exploring whether Michael Nicholaou could be connected to
"We're looking at that as a possibility," Hagen
said by telephone. "We're investigating whether he has any connection
to Barbara Agnew and some of the other killings in the area."
Hagen said he couldn't go into specifics since the
case is open, but he's investing "as much time as we can" on the
Anna Agnew compares her sister's case to a
McDonald's bag floating in the wind. Litter.
She calls it objectification. Her sister is a case
number. No name. No face. The case is so cold, no one feels
responsible for solving it.
"There's a timelessness to this pain that no one
really gets," she said. "It's amazing to me how when I actually
reflect on it or think about it or feel it, it's not 20 years ago,
it's in the moment.
"It's truly right there as if it's happening today,
here and now."
She flew to Fort Myers last month as the 21st
anniversary of her sister's death approached. She spent two weeks at a
house on the Caloosahatchee River, seeking peace in the sunshine. The
face of the man who haunts her is coming into focus.
New lead in 6
June 12, 2006
murder-suicide in Florida five months ago has rekindled interest in
a series of unsolved murders in the 1980s along the Connecticut
River Valley that separates New Hampshire and Vermont.
Florida deaths on New Year's Eve 2005 caught the attention of a
private investigator in St. Petersburg because she recognized the
name of the killer, Michael Nicholaou, who shot his estranged wife
and stepdaughter before killing himself.
St. Petersburg Times reported yesterday that the investigator, along
with a retired Vermont criminal profiler and a New Hampshire cold
case detective, have been piecing together Nicholaou's life. DNA
test results that could be ready by the end of the summer may
complete a puzzle and solve six murders that have baffled
investigators in the two states for two decades.
Lynn-Marie Carty was startled on New Year's Day as she read a news
story about the murder-suicide in Tampa, because she knew of Michael
Nicholaou (pronounced NICK-allow). Five years earlier, a Vermont
mother hired Carty to find a daughter, Michelle Ashley, who had two
babies with Nicholaou, then disappeared in 1988.
said the mother suspected Nicholaou, based on something her daughter
once said: "If I'm ever missing, he killed me, and you need to track
him down and find the kids."
a few minutes at the computer in 2001, Carty found a phone number
As she recounted it for the newspaper, Carty called the number and
asked about Michelle. At first, Nicholaou denied knowing her, Carty
said, but when she pressed, Nicholaou said Michelle was a slut who
was doing drugs and had run off, abandoning the kids.
asked about the children, Nick and Joy. He had them, he said. They
were fine. The conversation was short, and when Carty called back
the next day, Nicholaou's phone was disconnected.
tracked down Nick Nicholaou on the phone and told him she didn't
think their mother had abandoned them. He and his sister had always
thought otherwise. Nick cried as he described their hard life, being
dragged around by a father still traumatized by his duty in Vietnam.
Vietnam, Michael Nicholaou flew helicopters for the 335th Aviation
Company, called the Cowboys. The Times interviewed a dozen Cowboys,
who recalled Nicholaou as a brave and duty-bound man with a dark
side. A least once he left camp on his own, carrying only a knife
and seeking hand-to-hand combat with the enemy. It became a legend
in the company.
at home, friends noticed evidence of posttraumatic stress disorder,
a mental illness for which he later sought treatment in Miami and
Michelle's family thought Nicholaou was creepy, too quiet during
visits to Vermont, where Michelle's mother and grandmother lived. He
and Michelle had an apartment in Holyoke, Mass., about 110 miles
down Interstate 91.
Carty said, Michelle told her mother she feared Nicholaou and
planned to leave him after her sister's November 1988 wedding.
December 1988, her mother went to the couple's Holyoke apartment.
The Christmas tree was up, presents unopened. The refrigerator was
full of spoiled food.
the years that followed, Nicholaou, with kids in tow, visited his
mother in Virginia, friends in Florida and Army buddies across the
country. He told some people Michelle had run off with a drug
dealer. He told others she was dead.
days after reading that Nicholaou had killed his latest wife, Carty
punched words into Google.com: New England. 1988. Murder.
clicked on the story of a pregnant New Hampshire woman who was the
sole survivor of a series of attacks known as the Connecticut River
remains of at least six other young women had been dumped beside
back roads along Interstate 91 in a stretch that straddled Vermont
and New Hampshire. A killer had slit throats and stabbed victims
repeatedly in the lower abdomen.
dead included Mary Elizabeth Critchley, a hitchhiker; Bernice
Courtemanche, a 17-year-old nurse's aide; Ellen Fried, a nurse; Eva
Morse, a single mother; Lynda Moore, a housewife; and Barbara Agnew,
another nurse. Only Jane Boroski survived.
Noticing that several victims were nurses, Carty remembered hearing
that Nicholaou's first wife was a nurse and that his mother worked
at a hospital. She later learned that Michelle and Nicholaou had
been at a Hanover hospital on Thanksgiving, 1986. A nurse from the
hospital disappeared two months later.
also learned the killer used a martial arts grip on the surviving
woman. Nicholaou had a black belt in karate. Relatives remembered
Nicholaou taking Christmas gifts out of a station wagon with wood-paneled
sides in the mid-1980s. The surviving victim had told the police her
attacker drove a wood-paneled Jeep Wagoneer.
the time of the murders, fear crept into the area. Security guards
shuttled nurses to their cars. Boyfriends armed girlfriends with
guns. People locked their doors.
was the worst thing that ever happened in this area," said Carla
Hawkins, sitting on a stool at McGee's, a bar in Claremont. Her
family took in one of the victim's daughters.
was freaked out about it," she told the Times. "Still am."
learned that the last attack was only four months before Michelle
and Nicholaou disappeared from the area.
read online about John Philpin, a criminal psychologist who, in the
1980s, helped the police profile the serial killer. She called
Philpin in Felchville, Vt., and told him what she knew about
Philpin agreed Nicholaou could be the killer.
is the first, I'd call it major, lead in three or four years,"
Philpin told the Times.
February, Carty called the New Hampshire State Police and spoke with
Detective Steve Rowland. Rowland usually hears from family members
of the victims who are seeking updates, or from people who want to
share theories about the killer.
But Lynn-Marie Carty had more. It was the first time Rowland had
heard of Michael Nicholaou, and Carty's information revived the
investigation. She also suggested the police might try to match
Nicholaou's DNA with evidence from the crime scenes.
April, authorities considered Nicholaou one of their three strongest
suspects, Rowland said.
other two are still alive. The police can't check their DNA without
probable cause. That's not the case with Nicholaou.
profile fits the profile of somebody that would commit this type of
crime," Rowland said. "There's no question about that."
Rowland now has Nicholaou's fingerprints, and he's working to get
DNA from the medical examiner in Florida. The forensics lab that
tests DNA is backed up with current homicide cases, Rowland said, so
he doesn't expect an answer until late in the summer.
he told the newspaper he wouldn't be surprised if the results point
Decades-Old Homicides Might Soon Be Solved
TURNBRIDGE, Vt. --
Half a dozen unsolved murders in Vermont and New Hampshire that are
decades old may soon be solved, thanks to a private investigator
Five years ago,
Lynn-Marie Carty was asked to find Michelle Ashley, of Tunbridge.
Ashley had been
missing since 1988 and, at the time, she was married to Michael
"They said she
went missing off the face of the Earth in 1988, and right before she
went missing she told her mother, 'If I ever go missing, Mom, please
look for Michael and save the children,'" Cary said.
Ashley's body has
never been found.
Also in the early
to mid-80s, six other women in the Upper Valley disappeared. Almost
all of their bodies were found within a 30-mile radius of Claremont,
Carty thinks the
deaths might be linked to Nicholaou, who killed himself, his wife
and his stepdaughter on New Year's Eve in Florida.
"I found out that
the man has been through a lot of trauma and fit the profile of
somebody who would commit crimes like this," Cary said.
John Philpin, a
retired psychologist and author from Reading, studied thse cases 20
years ago. He said he was asked by the New Hampshire State Police to
develop a psychological profile of the killer.
"The biggest piece
of evidence came from the medical examiner who looked at bones of
some of the victims and was able to determine that they'd all be
stabbed. So, we know from that that we were looking for someone who
worked with a knife," Philpin said
Philpin, Nicholaou fit the profile he created two decades ago
because he never had a fixed address and frequently made trips to
the area where the bodies were found.
"The connection of
him to the area is what the main interest is. That, and given all of
the characteristics, the habits that he did and would've done in the
area," he said.
Carty and Philpin
agree that Nicholaou needs to be ruled in or out as a suspect in the
"I think it's a
blessing that these families can get the answers that they've
deserved for decades and thru the diligent work of the police
department, that will happen," Carty said.
"As far as
Nicholaou, if it turns out that he's the person who is involved, (there's)
no question he's a serial killer," Philpin said.
will reveal whether Nicholaou was involved in any of the murders
from the Upper Valley.
The tests should
be complete by the end of the summer.
His bullets cut families' hope for answers
When Michael Nicholaou shot his wife, her daughter, then himself in
Tampa, say police, he left mysteries.
By Alexandra Zayas - St. Petersburg Times
January 8, 2006
To the Cowboys of the Army's 335th
Assault Helicopter Company, Michael Nicholaou was frozen in time as "Nick
the Greek," a fearless 20-year-old gunship commander who flew through
57 bullets to save a comrade's life.
He earned medals that included two Purple Hearts,
two Silver Stars and two Bronze Stars. Then, in October 1970, he and
seven others were accused of strafing civilians on a reconnaissance
mission in the Mekong Delta. The soldiers languished in a stockade in
South Vietnam for six months until the Army dropped murder and
attempted murder charges.
Nicholaou left Vietnam, feeling
bitter and betrayed, but Vietnam never left Nicholaou. He hired a
lawyer to sue the Army. He spent his life both fleeing the war and
clinging to it, glory days captured on news reels and shared by fellow
Cowboys at reunions. He became obsessed with telling his story and
found a teacher he hoped would write it.
Decades blurred into a roaring whirlwind of
paranoia, failed jobs, criminal charges, disconnected phone numbers
and dysfunctional relationships.
The noise ceased when the bullets did, a week ago
Nicholaou had a Massachusetts detective on his
trail over the 1988 disappearance of former wife Michelle. Georgia
police had questions, too, after his latest wife, Aileen, claimed he
and his son ran her over with a Jeep last month, breaking her shoulder.
Wearing a black leather trench coat, hiding guns
inside a guitar case, Nicholaou, 56, appeared at Aileen's childhood
home on Walnut Street in West Tampa, where she was recovering.
After an hourlong police standoff, Nicholaou, 56,
With him, police say, he took Aileen, 45, and her
20-year-old daughter, Terrin Bowman.
And he took the answers to so many questions.
Whispered gossip from family members
surrounded his childhood in New Jersey.
Nicholaou told people his mother molested him and
his father beat him. He was always finding substitute father figures -
a high school buddy's dad, a superior soldier, his father-in-law.
He was a portrait of teen bravado. He rode a
motorcycle to Farmingdale High School in Long Island, where friends
cheered him at wrestling matches.
Afterward, they would take their girlfriends to a
local hamburger joint.
It was Nicholaou who came up with
the idea of dropping a rooster into the women's bathroom and skipping
out on a check, said Mark D'Angelo, a lifelong friend.
"Okay," he remembers Nicholaou saying, "when the
girls start screaming ..."
He craved adventure. In the Army he could fly Huey
helicopters with no college degree. He boasted about stealing a
helicopter while in boot camp and leaving it on a roof.
After boot camp, the stories slowed. At a welcome
home party, Nicholaou said he wasn't allowed to talk about Vietnam.
"To get Silver Stars, you had to be a really good
warrior, and we realized what he was and what he did," D'Angelo said.
"Not that we held him up as a hero. It was a rude awakening to us that
this guy did some really good military stuff."
They lost touch. D'Angelo went into the insurance
Nicholaou worked jobs in restaurants and on
construction sites. He always seemed to be moving. Charlottesville,
Va. Richmond, Va. Holyoke, Mass. Fort Lauderdale. Great Bend, Kansas.
Tampa. Dade City. Houston. Lutz. Hiawassee, Ga.
With Michelle Nicholaou, he fathered two children;
his next wife, Aileen, already had Terrin.
Over the years, people confused him with a Virginia
cousin by the same name, causing problems for the cousin. There were
unpaid fines. A hit-and-run crash.
"Bring back my daughter," cussed and screamed
Michelle Nicholaou when she thought cousin Nicholaou was her husband.
That was 1986, the year their first child was born.
Michelle Marie Ashley had met
Nicholaou in New York. They married in the mid 1980s, and she went
from being a bubbly young woman to a paranoid wife, her family said.
"He ran her life," said her aunt, Linda Glamuzina.
"It was like taking over another person."
When Nicholaou and Michelle visited the Glamuzinas
in Louisiana, he wore skimpy shorts Glamuzina found indecent. He
brought a stash from his Charlottesville, Va., porn shop. Disgusted,
Glamuzina threw it in the Mississippi River.
"There was something scary about him," Glamuzina
Michelle thought so, too, her family said.
In December 1988, relatives entered the Nicholaou
apartment in Holyoke and discovered it deserted. Michelle's baby
diaries were there. There was food left behind. But no people.
Family hadn't seen Michelle, or her toddler Joy and
baby Nicholas, in a month.
Just days after the family vanished, Michael
Nicholaou met up with a female acquaintance in Charlottesville. The
kids were dirty and hungry, and he stole the woman's brand new car,
the woman later told Michelle's aunt.
There were calls to police, but nothing panned out.
Michelle's family hired a private investigator. Her mother, Rose Young,
told the investigator something Michelle had once said.
"If I'm ever missing, he killed me, and you need to
track him down and find the kids."
Michael D'Angelo and his son Mark
bumped into Nicholaou when he was working at Pete's Restaurant in Boca
Raton in 1992.
He told them Michelle was dead, Michael D'Angelo
said. He had told other people that she ran off with a Cuban drug
Nicholaou later visited D'Angelo and his wife at
their home. Joy, then a mature 6-year-old, told them she brewed her
dad coffee every morning. Nicholas, 4, asked D'Angelo if he could be
his grandfather. Their sneakers were worn, and they looked hungry.
They had been living in Nicholaou's car, Nicholaou later admitted in a
letter to D'Angelo.
Nicholaou wanted D'Angelo to help write a book
In 1996, Nicholaou wrote from an in-patient unit of
the post traumatic stress disorder clinic at a Miami veteran's
hospital. He had been under treatment for a year.
He complained that the military had
left him with "isolation and avoidance behaviors" that kept him from
flying, yet he drew just $338 a month in disability benefits.
"Not too many commercial qualified pilots are
afraid of heights and give up careers in aviation to become bums," he
He said he left Fort Lauderdale because the state
wanted his kids.
He called them his "sole reason for living."
Once, in 1997, he and his kids stayed with a friend
in Dade City. Nicholas, then 9, got into a fight with the boy next
door. Nicholaou later pleaded no contest to torching the neighbor's
car and got three years probation.
It was October 2001 when the private investigator,
Lynn-Marie Carty of St. Petersburg, tracked down Nicholaou, living
with Aileen in Tampa, and called.
"How did you find me?" she remembers him asking.
He said he had the kids, and they were fine. Carty
asked about Michelle.
"She's a slut," he said. "She was doing drugs at
the time. She ran off, and she just abandoned the kids."
The next day, his phone number was disconnected.
Holyoke police detective Kevin Boyle, in an
interview last year with a Boston television station, said, "The
factors surrounding this case are suspicious, and Michael's actions
Boyle did not return a telephone call from the
Relatives describe Aileen Nicholaou
as a bola de humo, a Cuban fireball who charmed every man she met. Her
only flaw, her sister Adnery Almirola recalled, was that she had poor
Aileen and Michael connected eight years ago
through a newspaper personals ad. Two weeks later, Nicholaou and his
kids moved into Aileen's Tampa home. When relatives visited, Joy sat
on Aileen's lap and called her "mom."
"They were love-starved, it seemed," Almirola said.
Nicholaou seemed charismatic. He called Aileen's
father, Arnaldo Toranzo, papi as he helped him cook Christmas Eve
About four years ago, they married in a Las Vegas
wedding chapel. In the wedding photo, their faces are superimposed
over other people's bodies.
Then, in September 2004, a family friend discovered
an online news story about Michelle Nicholaou's disappearance. Aileen
had no idea. Nicholaou convinced her Michelle had run off, but her
family suspected he had killed her.
Four weeks ago, after a heated argument with Aileen
in their Hiawassee, Ga., home, Nicholaou and his son got in their Jeep
to leave. According to a Towns County Sheriff's Office report, Aileen
approached the Jeep. She needed Nicholaou's military sticker to get on
base to buy groceries. She told deputies Nicholaou threatened her with
a pistol and told Nicholas to step on the gas. The Jeep hit Aileen and
the two men took off.
Through a family spokesman, Nicholas
denied doing anything wrong. Towns County has a warrant for his arrest,
confirmed Tampa Police spokesman Joe Durkin. Nicholas' attorney,
Allison Perry, did not return a Times call.
Tampa relatives learned Aileen was recovering in a
hospital, and brought her to her father's Walnut Street home. Her
daughter Terrin brought magazines to her bedside.
Terrin Bowman, 20, had a firm handshake and a
flirtatious wink. She had a job waiting tables but was so bright she
had taken college courses as a 16-year-old.
"She wanted to fly to the moon," said her cousin
Shawn Lhota, 21.
Terrin had friends across the world she met while
backpacking through Europe. Her friend Lorena Bledsoe recalls Terrin's
favorite quote: "The purpose of living is to prepare for dying."
About 3 a.m. Dec. 31, a friend saw Terrin heading
home to her aunt's house in Town 'N Country.
Relatives, after talking with police, think that
Nicholaou held Terrin hostage in her bedroom for at least five hours
as her aunt and uncle slept. Cigarette ashes peppered Terrin's
typically tidy room, along with marijuana residue, pills and
fiberglass tape, relatives said.
They think Nicholaou used Terrin to get access to
the West Tampa home where Aileen was staying.
Just after noon, when Aileen's sister, Audrey Leon,
opened the door on Walnut Street, Terrin rushed in and hugged her
"I could tell she was scared," Leon said.
Leon remembers what happened next:
Nicholaou stepped into view.
"You didn't think you were ever going to see me
again," Nicholaou announced, entering the house. He approached Aileen
in the dining room.
"What are you doing with a gun?" Aileen asked him.
Leon told him to get out.
"No, no, no," Nicholaou responded. "I'm going to
shoot myself over your mother's grave."
The sisters had struggled with their mother's
As Leon scrambled to get her two children out of
the home, call her father and call police, Nicholaou, Aileen and
Terrin walked toward a bedroom.
"Alina (Aileen) tells me really calmly, she goes "Look,
we're going to go to papi's room to talk, okay?' I'm like "Terrin,
Terrin, come here.' She wouldn't budge. She went in there. She
wouldn't come out. Either he had her afraid or she didn't want to
leave her mom," Leon said.
Leon greeted police in the driveway. When an
officer announced herself and walked toward the bedroom, Nicholaou
pointed a rifle at her. Aileen threw herself at the door, closing it.
Outside the door, police and family heard the
In the room, they found Aileen and Terrin, both
shot in the head. Terrin, fatally wounded, was lying on her mother's
body. Terrin died the next day. Her mother was already gone.
Police said Nicholaou shot them before turning a
gun on himself.
In Massachusetts, Michelle's sister
Tammy Patla hopes for a reunion with Nicholas and Joy.
She also hopes for more.
That the answer to Michelle's disappearance didn't
die with Michael Nicholaou.