|Re: 11/28/05 - NY Times: In an Old Family, a Suspect in Crimes Old and New|
In an Old Family, a Suspect in Crimes Old and New
Author: WILLIAM YARDLEY and MICHELLE YORK
WATERBURY, Conn. - John F. Regan had been out on bail for a year when a concerned photo clerk at the Walgreens on West Main Street called the police earlier this fall.
"He says, 'I'm getting all these pictures developed by this guy John Regan and they're of all these women,' " said Sgt. Chris Corbett of the Waterbury police. "He thought it was odd, because the pictures didn't add up. They were like surveillance photos. These are pictures of women getting out of their cars in a parking lot, going into a store, going into a bank."
The clerk had another reason to be suspicious: He knew Mr. Regan's name and face.
Mr. Regan, 49, a married father of three from a prominent family with deep roots in this city, has been a focus of local news coverage since he was charged last year in two cases that involved allegations of sexual assault. He is awaiting trial in those cases; he faces kidnapping charges in one and unlawful restraint charges in the other.
Within six weeks of the photo clerk's call, the Waterbury police used the photographs to charge Mr. Regan with a new crime, stalking. But before they did, the police in New York say, Mr. Regan had already committed another crime, the attempted kidnapping of a 17-year-old track star at Saratoga Springs High School after practice on Halloween.
The girl's coaches chased Mr. Regan, who was in his van, moments after she fought him off, the police said. Inside the van, the police said, they found a rope, a blue tarp, liquor and other items that investigators regarded as suspicious.
In the weeks since, local and F.B.I. investigators in Connecticut, New York and Massachusetts have been examining whether Mr. Regan might have links to several unsolved sex crimes and murders reaching back nearly two decades. Parents of long-missing young women have expressed cautious hope that a suspect might finally be in custody.
But so far, for all the attention and suspicion, no evidence has surfaced, some investigators say.
Mr. Regan is now in custody at the Central New York Psychiatric Center near Utica after he attempted suicide this month while in jail in Saratoga Springs. While the Waterbury police portray him as a dangerous man, he has steadfastly maintained his innocence through his lawyers.
To represent him in one of the Connecticut cases, Mr. Regan's family hired Hope Seeley, a Hartford lawyer who defended Michael Skakel, a nephew of Ethel Kennedy, against murder charges, and Alex Kelly, a convicted rapist from Greenwich who fled to Europe when he was first charged as a teenager.
Mr. Regan, a former salesman and branch manager for a roofing and siding company, ABC Supply, and his wife, Ruth, who teaches at a Catholic school, own a charming two-story, colonial-style house on Euclid Avenue in the historic neighborhood of Overlook, a few blocks from where he grew up and where his parents still live.
An elementary school in Waterbury is named for Mr. Regan's grandfather Frank G. Regan, a high school principal for nearly half a century. Mr. Regan's father, Dr. Frank G. Regan Jr., a retired dentist known as Scoop for his reputation as a young man for knowing the talk of the town, refused to comment for this article.
Mr. Regan's brother, Patrick M. Regan, is a prominent lawyer in Washington. He has helped hire lawyers to represent his brother in Connecticut and New York. He did not respond to two requests for comment left with an employee in his Washington office.
If family and neighbors were stunned by the allegations against Mr. Regan in Waterbury last year, scrutiny only increased after his arrest in Saratoga Springs. On a recent cover of a local tabloid, The Waterbury Observer, a large photograph of his face was displayed beneath the headline, "Busted!"
Louise Boulanger, who has lived across the street from Dr. Regan and his wife, Gioia, for half a century and whose children grew up with Mr. Regan, described Mr. Regan's parents as "devastated, they're absolutely devastated."
"She's been to church every day of her life," Ms. Boulanger said. "She's a very religious woman, and she definitely didn't deserve this."
Before the arrest in Saratoga Springs, when Mr. Regan faced charges only in Connecticut, Ms. Boulanger met his mother on the sidewalk one day. "She said, 'He's innocent, you know.' She looked me right in the eye," Ms. Boulanger recalled. "If it was my son, I would have said the same thing."
Mr. Regan was first arrested in the summer of 2004 on an unlawful restraint charge. He is accused of trying to force a co-worker in her early 20's to have sex with him on a back porch at his parents' house while they were away.
DNA evidence gathered in that arrest led the Waterbury police to charge Mr. Regan with a second crime, an unsolved case from 1993 in which a businesswoman said she was raped in her home. The police initially were skeptical of her allegation, but the case remained open. In 2001, the woman won a civil suit claiming the police mishandled the investigation. Last year, Mr. Regan was charged with kidnapping in the case because the statute of limitations for rape had expired.
Mr. Regan was fired from his job at ABC Supply after his arrests last year. This fall, he was in Saratoga Springs working on property belonging to his mother's family when he was arrested on Halloween.
Lt. Gary Forward of the Saratoga Springs police said Mr. Regan was arrested on charges that he tried to abduct a student after track practice, about 5:30 p.m.
"She came back to her car after track practice," Lieutenant Forward said. "There was a blue-gray van parked next to her. She was putting some things in the back seat, and she heard the van's sliding door open. The man grabbed her around the torso and mouth and tried to drag her into the van. She was able to get her mouth free, and she started screaming for help."
One of the track coaches "confronted the guy," Lieutenant Forward said. "He got back into the van, closed the door and drove away." Another coach began chasing Mr. Regan, calling the police on his cellphone at the same time and helping them pinpoint the location. Mr. Regan drove a few blocks, and stopped just as the police arrived.
The publicized details of the arrest in Saratoga Springs, coupled with the charges Mr. Regan already faced in Connecticut, prompted a broader investigation of his life.
The Waterbury police say they are also investigating whether Mr. Regan was involved in two murders, in the late 1980's, of prostitutes who worked not far from where Mr. Regan lived.
In New York, the parents of Suzanne Lyall, a student at the State University of New York at Albany when she disappeared from a shopping mall in 1998, have asked the state police to revisit her case. In Massachusetts, where Mr. Regan sometimes traveled when he was a salesman for ABC Supply, the parents of Molly Bish, who was 16 when she disappeared in 2000 from Warren, near Worcester, said elements of the Saratoga Springs case paralleled their daughter's disappearance.
But John J. Conte, the district attorney in Worcester, who is investigating the Bish case, said last week that his office had confirmed that Mr. Regan was not in the area the day Molly disappeared, June 27, 2000.
"Everybody's talking similarities and they're not talking facts," Mr. Conte had said in an earlier interview. "They're all maybes: maybe it lines up, maybe it's similar."
Cynthia S. Serafini, a senior assistant state's attorney for the Waterbury judicial district, who is prosecuting Connecticut's two cases against Mr. Regan, said, "I'm not aware of any evidence that links him to any other crimes."
While speculation has swirled that Mr. Regan could be involved in additional crimes, currently he has been charged with kidnapping, unlawful restraint and stalking.
"The terrible danger in the way this has been publicized is that you have people coming forward and making false accusations," said E. Stewart Jones, Mr. Regan's lawyer in the Saratoga Springs case.
© 2005 New York Times. All rights reserved.