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Massachusetts man charged with Plymouth cold-case murder

  • FILE - This combo of January 1995 file booking photos shows murder suspect Craig Conkey, 28, of Lexington, Mass.  Conkey faces charges in connection to the rape and murder of Mary Lou Sale, whose body was found in her Lexington home Dec. 6, 1994.  On Tuesday, July 23, 2013 the New Hampshire Attorney General's office announced that it is charging Conkey with the 1991 murder of Theresa Reed in her Plymouth, NH apartment.<br/><br/>(AP Photo)

    FILE - This combo of January 1995 file booking photos shows murder suspect Craig Conkey, 28, of Lexington, Mass. Conkey faces charges in connection to the rape and murder of Mary Lou Sale, whose body was found in her Lexington home Dec. 6, 1994. On Tuesday, July 23, 2013 the New Hampshire Attorney General's office announced that it is charging Conkey with the 1991 murder of Theresa Reed in her Plymouth, NH apartment.

    (AP Photo)

  • FILE - This combo of January 1995 file booking photos shows murder suspect Craig Conkey, 28, of Lexington, Mass.  Conkey faces charges in connection to the rape and murder of Mary Lou Sale, whose body was found in her Lexington home Dec. 6, 1994.  On Tuesday, July 23, 2013 the New Hampshire Attorney General's office announced that it is charging Conkey with the 1991 murder of Theresa Reed in her Plymouth, NH apartment.<br/><br/>(AP Photo)

    FILE - This combo of January 1995 file booking photos shows murder suspect Craig Conkey, 28, of Lexington, Mass. Conkey faces charges in connection to the rape and murder of Mary Lou Sale, whose body was found in her Lexington home Dec. 6, 1994. On Tuesday, July 23, 2013 the New Hampshire Attorney General's office announced that it is charging Conkey with the 1991 murder of Theresa Reed in her Plymouth, NH apartment.

    (AP Photo)

  • FILE - This combo of January 1995 file booking photos shows murder suspect Craig Conkey, 28, of Lexington, Mass.  Conkey faces charges in connection to the rape and murder of Mary Lou Sale, whose body was found in her Lexington home Dec. 6, 1994.  On Tuesday, July 23, 2013 the New Hampshire Attorney General's office announced that it is charging Conkey with the 1991 murder of Theresa Reed in her Plymouth, NH apartment.<br/><br/>(AP Photo)
  • FILE - This combo of January 1995 file booking photos shows murder suspect Craig Conkey, 28, of Lexington, Mass.  Conkey faces charges in connection to the rape and murder of Mary Lou Sale, whose body was found in her Lexington home Dec. 6, 1994.  On Tuesday, July 23, 2013 the New Hampshire Attorney General's office announced that it is charging Conkey with the 1991 murder of Theresa Reed in her Plymouth, NH apartment.<br/><br/>(AP Photo)

A Massachusetts man has been charged with the murder of a Plymouth woman more than two decades ago – the first in a string of similar killings he is believed to have committed.

The New Hampshire attorney general’s office announced yesterday that a grand jury has indicted 46-year-old Craig Conkey of Shirley, Mass. Conkey is alleged to have killed 30-year-old Theresa Reed, who was found dead of multiple stab wounds in her apartment on Highland Street on Sept. 6, 1991.

Reed was an assistant registrar at Plymouth State College, and her death and unsolved murder traumatized many in the community.

Conkey is currently serving a life sentence for the 1994 murder of a 49-year-old Massachusetts woman. He confessed last year to a second killing, of a 31-year-old Massachusetts woman, in 1992. For Reed’s death, he faces two charges: one of first first-degree murder committed during a burglary; the second, an alternate count, of reckless second-degree murder.

Conkey had been a possible suspect in Reed’s murder at least since 1996, when he was tried for the murder of the 49-year-old, Mary Lou Sale. Acknowledging similarities in the cases – both women were single, living alone and had been killed violently – New Hampshire authorities in January of that year appealed to the public for information about his background and whereabouts around the time of Reed’s death, according to previous news reports.

Conkey was arrested for Sale’s slaying shortly after she was found dead, strangled and bludgeoned repeatedly in the head in her apartment in December 1994. He was twice convicted of first-degree murder, but both convictions were overturned by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court. In 2009, he agreed to plead guilty in exchange for reduced charges of second-degree murder and armed robbery.

The third woman, 31-year-old Katherine Dempsey, was found dead of multiple stab wounds in her apartment in Lexington, Mass.

It’s unclear what new evidence, if any, connected Conkey to Reed’s murder. Senior Assistant Attorney General Jeff Strelzin would not comment yesterday on the investigation. In 2012, New Hampshire State Police detectives assigned to the Cold Case Unit reopened her case, and their findings were presented to the Grafton County grand jury on Friday, according to a press release from the attorney general’s office.

Also unclear is whether Conkey knew or had contact with Reed before her murder.

Reed grew up in Rumney and graduated from Plymouth State College in 1983.

In 2001, then-Plymouth police Chief Tony Raymond described Reed’s death to the Associated Press as “a horrific event for the community, one that I have certainly never forgotten, or will ever forget.”

Strelzin said yesterday that her family, which was notified of the indictment Friday, “is very pleased we’re finally able to charge her killer.”

New Hampshire authorities are now working to transfer Conkey to New Hampshire to stand trial for Reed’s murder. Strelzin said he could be arraigned in the next two to four weeks.

(Jeremy Blackman can be reached at 369-3319,
jblackman@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @JBlackmanCM.)

This was a horrific crime and frightening for all in the PSU and Plymouth Community. I recall there were several suspects and different theories. I am so happy for the Reed family that now there may be some closure.

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