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Related Coverage

Chapter 1
Have You Seen Andy?

Chapter 2
The Shallow Grave

Chapter 3
The Mismatched Parents

Chapter 4
The Prime Suspect

Chapter 5
The Disappearing Psychic

Chapter 6
A Killer Confeses, Repeatedly

Chapter 7
Melanie's Roller Coaster

Chapter 8
The Search Intensifies

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The Mismatched Parents

and the main
in his case

Andy Puglisi
Andy Puglisi,
a 10-year-old Lawrence boy who vanished without a trace in 1976.

Melanie Perkins
Melanie Perkins,
Andy's childhood playmate, now a filmmaker working on a documentary about his disappearance.

Alan Roy,
a neighborhood resident who came across what may have been a grave in the area where Andy was last seen.

Alan's friend, who was with him when they discovered this oddly shaped hole.

Gary Thibedeau,
a troubled neighbor interrogated by police in connection Andy's disappearance.

Faith Puglisi
Faith Puglisi,
Andy's grieving mother, questioned by police.

Angelo Puglisi Sr.
Angelo Puglisi Sr.,
Andy's irate father.

Jerome Phillips,
Faith's spurned boyfriend.

Melanie Perkins is filming her search for her childhood pal Andy Puglisi, a Lawrence boy who vanished without a trace nearly 23 years ago. She decides that to understand his disappearance, she must understand his parents.

he Garden of the Gods, at the edge of Colorado Springs, is a powerful place full of red sandstone formations sculpted in odd shapes by wind and water. Cedars and ponderosa pines stand out against the deep blue Western sky and the red earth, and even the dust is red -- the red-brown color of old blood.

Faith Puglisi moved to Colorado Springs in 1990, 14 years after her 10-year-old son, Andy, disappeared from a public pool in South Lawrence. The Garden of the Gods is where Faith comes to mourn, drawing strength from the natural beauty around her.

Andy Puglisi's mother, Faith, comes to Balancing Rock at the Garden of the Gods in Colorado for spiritual sustenance. (Globe Photo / Gaylon Wampler)
She gravitates particularly to a huge rectangular boulder precariously perched atop a sandstone slab. Itís called Balancing Rock. "It reminds me of myself," she says.

Hers is a particularly difficult balancing act: She tries not to grieve for her son because she isnít sure he is dead. Still, she canít help missing him deeply, wanting to hold him, and harbors the emptiness of not knowing what happened to him.

A jumble of emotions is made infinitely worse by the knowledge that she is a suspect in the case. Police have suspected that either she or Angelo Puglisi, Andyís father, abducted the boy as an act of revenge against the other.

"I did not murder my son," she says flatly, politely. But when asked who might have, she says, "I suspect everyone, even myself." Did she unknowingly contribute to a tragedy?

"So many times I ask myself: What could I have done differently to change the course of events? And why was it my child?"

Today, at 49, Faith is a single mother of eight children, by three different fathers, who works as a pediatric nurse. She lives in a trailer park at the foot of Cheyenne Mountain. Most of her children have grown up and moved away; only her 16-year-old twins, Chandler and Brandon, are with her now.

Melanie is visiting with her camera crew for what she considers the most important interview of her documentary.

Faith's small trailer is full of family memorabilia. Nearly 200 framed portraits of her children, photographed mainly as babies, sit atop tables, shelves, cupboards, hutches. Along with them are dozens of small figurines of babies.

But the fathers are nowhere to be seen. Melanie notices that even family photo albums, which Faith displays, have pictures that are half torn, leaving photos with no fathers.

"The men in my life have been worthless. No moral ethics," Faith says. "Having the men wasn't important. I wanted kids, a houseful of kids. I wanted someone who would love me back."

She says she came from a surreal sort of home with a violent, abusive father and a mother who thought if she simply ignored any unpleasantness, it would go away. Faith's father says he was not violent, but he remembers many heated arguments with Faith's mother. He says he was "distant" from his children.

In 1965, at age 15, Faith married Angelo Puglisi, who was 19, "because he was strikingly handsome and had his own vehicle." And she desperately wanted to get away from her parents.

Andy was born the following year, but his parents' relationship didn't hold. "It was on and off, flipping like a light switch," Faith says.

Angelo Puglisi Sr. thinks about his lost son, Andy, while at home in Haverhill. He has since moved to New Hampshire. (Globe Staff Photo / Suzanne Kreiter)
Angelo, now 53, is head custodian for the Lawrence schools and lives with his third wife in Danville, N.H. In a separate interview, he blames himself for the problems with Faith. They divorced in 1975.

He spent too little time with her and their children, he says, covering his face with his hands. "I was a workaholic." Now his memories of Andy are long gone.

But he also claims Faith created a home that was unsuitable for children. He was upset when he learned that Faith was having relations with two men, James Dobynes and Jerome Phillips, during their marriage. And the fact that both were black, he says, infuriated him even more - an anger so strong that police believed at the time that it could have led him to kidnap his son out of revenge.

From 1974 to 1976, Faith admits, "my life was like a swinging door. This one came in, that one left." She eventually married Dobynes in 1982; they divorced two years later.

Today, Angelo holds to a belief that Andy is not dead, citing a near-death experience:

In September 1994, he suffered a severe heart attack that left him unconscious for several minutes. During this brief period, he saw himself in heaven with all his deceased relatives gathered around. Looking for his son, Angelo peered intently into the faces of the dead, he said, "but Andy wasnít there."

On the day Andy disappeared -- Aug. 21, 1976 Ė Angelo was living in Salem, N.H. Dobynes had moved to Alabama. Phillips was living with Faith, but she had just told him to move out.

With the camera rolling, Faith tries to re-create that traumatic day for Melanie: Andy watched television that morning, while Phillips sulked and smoked some marijuana. About 11:30, Faith made Andy some soup for lunch. Then he said he was going to the pool.

"I said, ĎRemember to stay with your brothers and sisters.í That was the last time I saw Andy."

About 3 p.m., the other children came home for lunch, but Andy wasnít with them. About 3:30, he phoned, for reasons that remain unclear. His brother Michael answered.

"Tell him to get his ass home," Faith yelled. "Heís in trouble."

According to police files, a lifeguard talked to Andy at 5 p.m. A clerk at the pool saw him leave alone at about 5:45, wearing just his bathing trunks and sneakers. But he never got home.

About 6, Faith began combing the neighborhood for him. An hour later, she asked family members to help. At 11, she reported Andy missing to police, who began their long, fruitless search that night.

As the investigation unfolded, friction in the Puglisi family was obvious. A memo in the police file observed, "Accusations and counter-accusations between the mother and father have only tended to muddy an already unclear disappearance." Some detectives thought Faith might be hiding Andy to hurt Angelo, or vice versa.

But eventually, most investigators put Angelo and Faith at the bottom of their suspects list. And after hearing Faithís story in detail, seeing her anguish, and watching her warm interaction with her children, Melanie agrees. "My gut instinct is that Faith didnít do it," she says.

Angelo, who was working for General Tire Design Center in Salem, N.H., at the time Andy vanished, also seems to her an unlikely villain. Even Faith now doubts he had a hand in the disappearance.

Some investigators thought Jerome might have been involved, perhaps as revenge for Faithís decision to kick him out. He died from a heart attack in November 1998, before Melanie had a chance to interview him. However, he was with Faith when Andy vanished, and also passed a lie detector test. He seems a less likely suspect than other criminals Melanie soon would encounter.

Chapter 4: The Prime Suspect

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