Deanna Cremin was a 17-year-old girl from Somerville, Massachusetts, where she was enrolled at Somerville High School. She loved children and had an ambition to become a pre-school teacher. In an effort to hone her child care skills, she had been babysitting regularly over the past four years and had been working with third-graders at a nearby school. “She was a well-liked student who worked three days a week in an early childhood development course at the East Somerville Community School,” recalled Paul Trane, an aide to Mayor Michael Cupuano. 1
To help support herself, Deanna had been working as a part-time cashier at the Star Market on Broadway in Winter Hill for the past three months. Those who worked alongside her described her as a “nice kid.” Each day she came into work, she always had a massive smile on her face and was said to be really upbeat. “She was a really nice girl. Really beautiful. Everybody liked her,” recalled Stephanie Chute, for whom Deanna often babysat.
Her mother, Katherine, described her as “a real goofball.” She recalled one occasion when Deanna stole her older sister’s clothing and said that she always covered for her younger brother whenever he got into mischief. She said: “She always identified with the underdog. She was a teenager with goals, most of them centered on helping people in need.” 2
It was a pleasant evening on 29 March 1995, and Deanna left her home to visit her boyfriend, 18-year-old Thomas LeBlanc. The couple had been dating for around a year and it was a routine visit. Deanna was expected home by 10 PM, but 10 PM came and went, and Deanna was a no-show. Her mother, Katherine Cremin, was scheduled to be at work early in the morning, so she went to bed. 3
The following morning, two boys were taking a shortcut in Somerville to their elementary school when they made a gruesome discovery. It was the partially nude body of Deanna. She was lying on her back with nothing on her upper body other than a red jacket that was open at the front. Her underwear was pulled off her right leg and pulled down around her left thigh. There had been no attempt to hide Deanna’s body; she was lying next to a chain-link fence.
Deanna’s body was transported to the medical examiner’s office where it was found that she had been strangled to death.
An investigation was immediately launched, and detectives went door-to-door in the area where her body was found to ask whether anybody had seen – or heard – anything suspicious, but nobody had. Naturally, detectives went to speak with Thomas first. He told them that Deanna had arrived safe and well, and as 10 PM was approaching, he walked her halfway home before they went their separate ways. 4
The murder sent shockwaves throughout the community, with those who knew Deanna best saying that she must have been killed by a stranger. One friend said: “She was too nice. No one who knew her could have done this.” Their theories that she was killed by a stranger matched the theory of the detectives, who believed that she was intercepted by her killer after she and Thomas went their separate ways to walk home.
As the investigation was underway, hundreds of mourners showed up to Deanna’s wake at the Cataldo Funeral Home in Winter Hill. Deanna’s classmates came together in small groups to grieve the loss of their friend. By 3PM, the line to the front door stretched to the sidewalk.5
Deanna was laid to rest days later, and people packed into St. Polycarp Church to bid her one final farewell. All 600 seats were occupied, with mourners spilling out into the aisles. The service was led by Rev. Robert Doyle, who revealed that although he had been a priest since 1949, he had never buried a murder victim before.
He poignantly said: “We can’t bring Deanna back to us. Once this beautiful gift of life is gone there’s nothing we can do to bring it back. But there is something we can do in remembering her: Love life! Respect life! Respect yourself. And respect one another. That’s the legacy, the beautiful testimony, she leaves for each of us today.”6
A couple of days after the service, it was announced that detectives had questioned a man three times in relation to Deana’s murder. It was 36-year-old Lt. Charles Houghton, a firefighter since 1984, who came from a prominent Somerville family. His father was attorney Charles H. Houghton.
While investigators continued looking into Houghton as a person of interest, they announced that they were looking for an unidentified man who was seen in the area where Deanna was found strangled to death. He was described as a white man with short dark hair, somewhere between 40 and 45-years-old, and around 5 feet 9 inches tall to 5 feet 11 inches tall.
Assistant District Attorney Martin Murphy said: “At this point, we have no evidence to believe he is a suspect. We believe he was in the area possibly at the time of the murder and we seek to obtain information from him about what he may have seen or heard.”7
In May, Deanna’s family announced a $10,000 reward for information that could lead to her killer. The reward had been gathered through a fund-raiser that was organized by the family and through sales of T-shirts and buttons.
Unfortunately, the lure of the reward did very little to generate much information, but toward the end of the month, Thomas found himself in trouble with the law. His mother, Susan LeBlanc, filed a restraining order against him. It was the third in recent years. In the affidavit, she wrote: “When Tommy goes into a rage, I fear that my life is in jeopardy.”
Susan was granted the restraining order and Thomas was ordered to move out of her home and stay at least 100 yards away from her. According to the affidavit, Thomas had thrown lamps and furniture at his mother in an “effort to maintain control of me.” She said that with Thomas living inside her home, she felt as though she was living inside a prison.
According to an earlier affidavit from a restraining order from 1993, Thomas had a history of a violent temper, and if he didn’t get his own way, he would lash out and act irrational. His mother, Susan, had written: “He is a very angry child since the age of 5 or 6.” Susan had even revealed that when Thomas was younger, he had shot her cat three times with a BB gun.8
According to detectives working the homicide case, Thomas was on the “short list” of potential suspects. One source commented: “He has always been on the short list. He’s never been off the list.”
As time passed, weeks turned into months, and Deanna’s family was faced with the daunting task of rebuilding their shattered lives and moving on. Despite the overwhelming grief, they remained determined to keep Deanna’s case in the public eye. In September, her mother, Katherine, stated firmly: “I’m relentless about this. I will not let this go. I want the person who killed my daughter punished.”
In March, the one year anniversary rolled around. Deanna’s loved ones all gathered for a memorial at St. Ann’s Church in Somerville. Her father, Bert Rodgers, said: “Somebody out there knows something, and that’s what we’re hoping for, that we’ll get a break in the case.” It was announced that the reward fund still was available for anybody with information that would lead to the conviction of Deana’s killer, and that it was now going to be advertised on a billboard just off McGrath Highway.9
Eventually, those months dragged on to years and Deanna’s family were left to pick up the pieces of their lives and move forward as best as possible. In 1997, Katherine spoke with the media from a drug rehab program. The past two years had been undoubtedly tough on her, and she had relied heavily on tranquilizers and alcohol to get her through the ordeal. She said: “What this has done to us is just totally unfair.”
Captain Robert Bradley made a commitment to continue working on the case, stating that they still needed crucial information to unravel the complexities of the murder. Katherine revealed that she had been told that Deanna didn’t die where her body was found, and this led her to think of Thomas. She stated: “Two years ago, Tommy made a promise to me that he would do whatever it took to clear his name. He said he’d take a polygraph. So far, he’s never done it. It troubles me he’s never done the footwork to clear his name.”10
There was no movement in the case until March of 1999, when a new billboard was erected in an effort to target the killer’s conscience. It included information on Deanna’s murder along with offer of a $10,000 reward. It included a chilling reminder: “You know what you did to me.” The billboard was located in the neighbourhood where Deanna’s body was found.11
In unveiling the billboard, Katherine said: “There are people who haven’t cooperated in Deanna’s murder and they know who they are.” It was disclosed for the first time that Thomas was in fact a suspect in the murder case, and that he had refused to cooperate in the investigation. At first, he told investigators he had walked her half-way home, but since then, he had refused to speak with investigators. He since moved away from the area.
The billboard did very little to elicit any information, and in 2001, the reward fund was increased to $13,000. In announcing the increase, her father, Albert, said: “We’re not going to stop until we get answers. They’re going to dread the month of March as much as we do.”12
In 2005, it had been a decade since Deanna was killed. Investigators revealed that they had three persons of interest in the case, including Thomas and Charles as well as a third man, Anthony Delago, who was currently incarcerated at Massachusetts Correctional Institution.
Katherine said she has always considered Thomas the most likely suspect. She said: “After every date, Tommy always called the house to say goodnight to Deanna. But not that night. Why did he pick that night to walk her half way home?” Katherine said that every other night, Thomas walked Deanna the entire way home. She continued: “Every promise the kid made to me after Deanna’s murder turned out to be a lie. He’s refused to cooperate with police, refused a lie detector test, refused to deal with us.”13
That same year, the reward fund was increased even further to $20,000. In announcing the new reward fund, District Attorney Martha Coakley said that a couple of people in the community were holding crucial information, and she hoped that with the reward fund, it would encourage them to finally come forward.
Over the forthcoming years, Katherine and Albert continued to plead with the public for information. Each year, they held a memorial for their daughter in an effort to keep the unsolved murder at the forefront of the community’s mind. The Middlesex County District Attorney’s Office said in 2006 that the investigation was still ongoing, but Katherine wasn’t convinced. She said: “There isn’t enough manpower in the Somerville Police Department to investigate an 11-year-old crime, I believe it is a cold case.”
Katherine revealed later that year that she had read through dozens of letters Thomas had sent to Deanna and reached the conclusion he was obsessed with her. She also revealed that during a grand jury, Thomas had refused to answer questions, and once again mentioned that he refused to take a polygraph examination.
The murder of Deanna Cremin still remains unsolved today. If you have any information that may assist in the case, call the tip line of 617-544-7167.
- Boston Herald, 31 March, 1995 – “Victim Loved to Work with Kids”
- The Somerville Times, 5 September, 2006 – “Mother of Murder Victim Survives, Organizes for Daughter”
- Boston Herald, 31 March, 1995 – “Everybody Loved Her”
- Boston Herald, 1 April, 1995 – “Cops Say Somerville Teen was Strangled”
- Boston Herald, 3 April, 1995 – “Teen Friends Grieve at Wake for Murdered Somerville HS Junior”
- Boston Herald, 4 April, 1995 – “Valuable Lesson Comes from Teen’s Tragic Death”
- Boston Herald, 5 April, 1995 – “Possible Witness Sought in Killing of Teenager”
- Boston Herald, 26 May, 1995 – “Mom Fears Slay Suspect”
- Boston Herald, 31 March, 1996 – “Year Doesn’t Lessen Pain of Teen’s Murder”
- Boston Herald, 8 July, 1997 – “Mother Still Struggles for Answers”
- Boston Herald, 10 March, 1999 – “Billboard Targets Killer’s Conscience”
- Boston Herald, 16 March, 2001 – “Message from Grave Dominates Somerville Street”
- Boston Herald, 30 March, 2005 – “Teen’s Unsolved Slaying Weighs Heavily on Mom”