Friday, July 10, 2015

Slow Saturday Special: Castonguay Castigates Globe

"Unsolved missing person case leaves all sides disturbed" by Thomas Farragher Globe Staff  July 03, 2015

He hardly could have expected a pretty floral bouquet from Welcome Wagon when he got out of federal prison — again — and sure enough, John D. Castonguay returned to his North Quincy home last month to find the remains of something much uglier.

Someone had scrawled “Sex offender’’ in black spray paint across the white doors of the convicted child kidnapper’s garage, words that had been obscured just before he got out of his cell at Fort Dix, N.J. But he doubtlessly got the message.

He’s also getting the cold shoulder, and worse, from his anxious neighbors who, peering from behind curtains and locked doors, are watching his every move. Can you blame them?

“Everyone’s concerned because the police said he’s dangerous and they’re keeping an eye on the guy,’’ said Kevin, who lives nearby and asked that I not use his last name. “I would love to see the guy gone, no doubt about it.’’

Castonguay, 53, is a suspect — “a significant person of interest,’’ as authorities reiterated this week — in the disappearance and presumed murder of Evelin Valibayova, a bright and ambitious 23-year-old who disappeared from her Quincy apartment four years ago this month.

He was the handyman in the building where Valibayova lived. Police said Castonguay told them that he had master keys to all the doors and apartments and said he was at Valibayova’s building on the day she was last seen. Investigators said he told them that he had never seen or met Evelin, something her roommate flatly contradicted in his statement to police.

In a brief telephone call, Castonguay told me he had nothing to do with Evelin’s disappearance. And his lawyer, in a spirited interview this week, said his client is “trying to live a law-abiding life.’’

He should consider himself lucky because it could have been much worse.

He accused the Globe of “criminal harassment’’ for continuing to link his client to the case. And he said the handyman, convicted of kidnapping in 1987, had keys only to the common areas of the building, not individual apartments.

“I’m aware of zero evidence that my client killed her,’’ said John Swomley, Castonguay’s lawyer.

Those closest to Evelin are praying that new evidence is uncovered as authorities assign a new investigator to cast fresh eyes on the case.

Those prayers are most fervent 5,500 miles away in Azerbaijan, where her mother and father, Nargiz and Artyom Valibayova, are holding a sorrowful vigil that would sear any parent’s soul.

“I wouldn’t wish anybody to be where I am now,’’ Artyom said in an interview via Skype from Azerbaijan. “We try to think positive, but it’s hard to be in the unknown.’’

Nargiz said that each time her telephone rings, she hopes to hear her daughter’s voice again.

“We just don’t understand it,’’ she said through an interpreter. “It’s horrible. How could this person be released and continue to live a normal life as if nothing happened?’’

Because he really didn't do it?

The answer to that question, it turns out, is fairly complex. And distressing.

It begins with the record of Castonguay’s federal kidnapping case, a file of evidence so monstrous that it cannot be fully described in a family newspaper.

Castonguay saw a 9-year-old walking her puppy in Woonsocket, R.I., in the summer of 1986 and lured her to a remote area of Blackstone, Mass. He told the girl that he knew a great place to pick blueberries. Instead, he sexually and physically assaulted her in a gravel pit, court records show.

When US District Judge Mark L. Wolf sentenced him to up to 75 years in federal prison in 1987, he said that if Castonguay were to be released, he would be “susceptible to committing another brutal offense.’’

Castonguay successfully challenged the length of Wolf’s sentence and he was paroled in August 2006, a court decision that set him on a path — a deadly path, investigators suspect — toward Evelin Valibayova, who was last seen on surveillance video as she left the North Quincy Red Line station.

Twenty-nine days after that, police interviewed Castonguay at his home in Quincy. And in his application for a search warrant in late August 2011, State Trooper John Morris made the authorities’ suspicions clear.

“I believe that it is probable that John Castonguay is involved in the death/disappearance of Evelin Valibayova,’’ Morris wrote in a document unsealed last year at the Globe’s request.

“By his own admission he places himself at the victim’s apartment building on the morning she is last heard from,’’ Morris wrote, describing the evidence he believes links Castonguay to the disappearance.

That's a hell of an alibi.

To all of this circumstantial evidence, Castonguay’s lawyer says: Baloney.

Actually, he’s even more colorful than that. Swomley said he conducted his own investigation into Evelin’s disappearance and concluded that his client is completely clean.

When I asked Swomley to describe the rigor of his probe, he said he visited the restaurant where Evelin last worked. He could not say with whom he spoke or even if it was to a manager. He visited the T stop where she was last seen. And he talked to “or tried to talk to’’ others.

Swomley even invoked the plot of the best-selling thriller “Gone Girl,’’ suggesting that perhaps Evelin staged her own death and spilled her own blood in her apartment. “Maybe she wanted to start a new life,’’ said the lawyer, relying on a piece of fiction.

I saw it, and that's something coming from a propaganda pre$$ that publishes more fiction than fact. 

At that point, I was waiting for him to start shaking his Magic 8 Ball, asking it whether Castonguay was involved, and nodding approvingly at its answer: “My reply is no.’’

“You are probably more up to speed on this than I am,’’ he told me when I first sat down with him in his Lewis Wharf office.

Swomley represented Castonguay in his most recent brush with the law, a parole violation that landed him back in federal prison until last month. But he said he is no longer billing his client for his work.

Swomley said he has not read the 1986 kidnapping case file. At times, he seemed loosely familiar with details of the ongoing investigation.

Right, he doesn't know what he is talking about -- and Globe has nothing but innuendo.

But he did know this. He doesn’t like me or the Globe’s interest in the authorities’ suspicions about his client. “I have a fundamental distrust of you,’’ he told me. “You and I have a problem.’’


I somehow resisted the impulse to hide under his desk and call for my mommy because I had other questions for Swomley.

Like this: Would you want to live next door to your client?

“I probably would have him paint my house,’’ he said. “I think he’s a pretty mild-mannered guy.’’

Swomley assailed the investigation carried out by the State Police and Norfolk district attorney’s office. Dots are being connected that cannot be connected, he said. Do police lie when seeking search warrants? Of course they do, he said.

“Let’s look somewhere else,’’ he said.

Fair enough. Let’s look everywhere. If police had enough evidence to charge Castonguay, they would have done so.

But when I told Norfolk District Attorney Michael Morrissey about Swomley’s vigorous insistence on Castonguay’s innocence, he did not back down.

“He’s a significant person of interest to us,’’ Morrissey said. “The sworn police statements that the Globe has access to speak for themselves and reflect our interest in following the evidence until we can prove who was involved.’’

Morrissey said Evelin’s disappearance is the first unsolved case since he took office in January 2011.

“I’m troubled by the fact that this poor woman is missing, and her family deserves to have some closure,’’ Morrissey said. “It’s coming up on the anniversary and I think about it all the time. I would love to solve it.’’

Anyone who can help him do that is asked to call a tip line at.... 

It is editorial policy here to never publish phone numbers of any kind.