Finally, some closure for loved ones of Joanne “Jo” Ringer, who disappeared exactly one year ago, and whose remains were found and identified Thursday night.
“I love her and miss her so much,” Ringer’s daughter Savanah wrote in a Facebook post hours after finding out that remains police found in the woods in Hatfield had been confirmed through dental records to be her mother’s.
Savanah’s post continued, “Every day I’ve wanted her to walk through the door and hug me and tell me she loved and missed me but today I know for certain that will not happen."
Jo Ringer disappeared on March 2, 2017. The 39-year-old was set to start a new job as a driver at Aaron’s Paradise Transportation in Easthampton. She was scheduled to work the overnight shift.
According to court documents obtained by Western Mass News, it was on that very same day, Ringer’s husband, Chad Reidy, 42, took a long drive across Western Massachusetts with his ex-girlfriend, Laura Reilly, 42, of Easthampton.
The court documents reveal that Reilly told investigators that Reidy sent her a text message that day, March 2, 2017, telling her to meet him in downtown Northampton to give him a ride to his car.
Two days later, on March 4, 2017, Reidy reported Ringer missing. Ringer and Reidy had only been married for a few months.
Then, on March 6, 2017, Ringer’s dark green Volkswagen Jetta sedan with Connecticut plates was found abandoned on Exeter Street in Easthampton, roughly a one minute drive from Reilly’s house and just a five minute drive from Aaron’s Paradise Transportation.
About a month later, on April 7, 2017, Reidy was found dead in his detached garage, next to the house where he and Jo lived in Clarksburg. Police called the death an apparent suicide.
Two weeks later, on April 20, 2017, Reilly was arrested on three counts of misleading a police officer in the investigation. She allegedly lied about her actions on the day Ringer disappeared.
The next day, on April 21, 2017, Reilly pleaded not guilty on those charges. Moments later, Berkshire County District Attorney David Capeless told reporters and Ringer’s loved ones that Ringer’s disappearance would be considered a homicide investigation, with Reidy as the sole suspect.
“From the beginning, we suspected foul play,” Capeless had said. “Reidy’s apparent suicide has not changed that view.”
The announcement marked a significant development in the missing person’s case.
As all of this was going on, in the weeks and months after the disappearance, Savanah gained access to her mother’s Facebook account. After reading through messages, she quickly learned about a history of domestic violence between Ringer and Reidy.
Ringer reportedly told someone she didn’t feel safe with Reidy and that if anything were to happen to her, “Chad did it.”
Months wore on as family and friends continued holding vigils and organizing fundraisers for domestic violence organizations to get Jo Ringer’s name and face out there. In Northampton’s Hot Chocolate Run in December 2017, the group raised money for Safe Passage, a local domestic violence organization.
By February 2018, family and friends were getting ready for a vigil marking one year since Ringer had disappeared.
And then, on the morning of Wednesday, February 28, 2018, police said they found unidentified human remains in the woods in Hatfield.
Upon learning of the news, Plantier called Western Mass News and said, “meet me on Mountain Road in Hatfield.”
“Chad Reidy used to spend time in the woods back there,” said Plantier in an emotional phone call. “It’s a dirt road. You’ll see a Christmas tree farm, a big oak tree and a red shed.”
Minutes later, Western Mass News arrived on the road trailed by a handful of Massachusetts State Police cruisers and Plantier.
Friends and family arrived to the scene, all telling Western Mass News that there was a consensus among them: they had a gut feeling those human remains were their dear friend Jo.
Late that afternoon, after police had been conducting an investigation in the Hatfield woods for hours, Capeless released a vague email to the media.
“Berkshire County District Attorney David F. Capeless will make a 'major announcement' at a media briefing in the Berkshire District Attorney’s Office Thursday March 1st at 11 a.m.,” the press release reads.
Plantier told Western Mass News the victim advocate for the D.A.’s office told Savanah the press briefing was not about her mother, but would not tell her what it would be about. A spokesperson for the office would not release any further information.
“I have this feeling in the pit of my gut,” Plantier wrote in a text message to a reporter.
Loved ones, including Plantier, drove to the D.A.’s office, anyways.
At 11 a.m., Capeless said, “I am announcing today that I am stepping down as Berkshire District Attorney.”
Ringer’s friends and family had eyes filled with tears.
“I know that some of you may have some questions about another matter involving the Ringer case. I will answer questions,” Capeless said. “But I would appreciate if we could address just this topic right now of my retirement.”
After the press conference, Plantier exited the building with friends.
“It kind of feels like they used the media to get the word out about his retirement and that’s really not okay,” said Plantier.
Another longtime friend of Ringer’s, and boyfriend to Plantier, Ted Seymour, mimicked that message.
“We were falsely led on this and I felt it was wrong on the prosecution,” said Seymour.
A mere eight hours later, Capeless released a statement to the media, confirming that the remains found in the Hatfield woods were proven by dental records to be Jo Ringer’s.
“This is not the end,” Savanah wrote on Facebook. “We all miss and love her and will not let what happened be forgotten.”
The group plans to gather at the American Legion Post 344 in Hatfield on Sunday, March 4, 2018 at 6 p.m. to light candles and release paper lanterns in Ringer’s honor. Candles will be provided on a first come, first served basis so they ask anyone who can to bring their own, as well.
Reilly still faces three counts of misleading a police officer in the investigation and has a pre-trial hearing scheduled for August 14. Her attorney, Jesse Adams, declined to comment on the possibility of any additional charges that may be brought against her.
The D.A.’s office said the investigation is still ongoing and active.
Copyright 2018 Western Mass News (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.