Getting Answers: unsolved murder of Holly Piirainen

In just a few short months, it will be the 30th anniversary of the abduction of Holly Piirainen. She was kidnapped, assaulted, and murdered and her killer has s
Published: May. 15, 2023 at 5:55 PM EDT|Updated: May. 18, 2023 at 4:57 PM EDT
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SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WGGB/WSHM) - In just a few short months, it will be the 30th anniversary of the abduction of Holly Piirainen. She was kidnapped, assaulted, and murdered and her killer has still yet to be found.

Leah Jolin was only 13 years old when her 10-year-old cousin, Holly Piirainen, was abducted on August 5, 1993. Their grandmother called Jolin’s family to tell them.

“Holly is gone. We can’t find her,” Jolin said.

Piirainen went for a walk with her five-year-old brother to visit neighbor’s puppies, while at her grandparent’s Summer Cottage on South Pond in Sturbridge, but her brother returned home and Piirainen never did. Piirainen’s father went looking for her, but found only her sneaker left behind.

LEARN MORE: Information sought on piece of evidence in Holly Piirainen homicide case

“She must have been screaming and what this person or people must’ve done to her, how scared she must’ve been in the car being driven to God knows where,” Jolin added.

Seventy-nine days later, Piirainen’s skeletal remains were found by hunters in a forest in Brimfield. Investigators determined she had been abducted.

“How on earth could someone do something like this? Like driving down the road, ‘Hey, I think I’m just going to grab a kid and kill her’…like who does that?” Jolin explained.

As we approach the 30-year anniversary of Piirainen’s abduction, Jolin said she and her family are still suffering every day as her killer has still not been caught.

“Holly has missed out on so much. We all miss her so much,” Jolin noted.

However, investigators never stop looking. Hampden District Attorney Anthony Gulluni sat down with Western Mass News to discuss the history of this case. In 2012, they identified a dead man, David Pouliot from Springfield, as a person of interest in this case after DNA evidence tied to him was found near where Piirainen was found. In 2020, investigators received a tip that led them to the grave of another man who would have been 18 at the time of Piirainen’s murder. His remains were exhumed in search of a letter that may be tied to this case.

“Frankly, there’s no shortage of persons of interest. Just given the time the case has been investigated, 30-plus years now, and the community engagement of this case, going back to 1993…At this point now, we’ve organized all that and made contact with hundreds of individuals, even in just the last couple of years,” Gulluni explained.

Most recently, the D.A.’s office announced a small breakthrough in the case: a tank top that found at the crime scene. They asked the public to help identify where the shirt came from or who it may have belonged to.

“We are interested in determining who owned the shirt, its origin, or places where it was known to be sold, anything about its manufacturer, or any information regarding its association with the area where Holly was found in the Five Bridges Road area of Brimfield,” Gulluni added.

Since that update back in February, Gulluni said his office has received dozens of calls from the public.

“The public came forward. We have a dedicated tip line and, at this point, have gotten dozens of phone calls. We’re following through on those things, but nothing has changed to the point where we are going to make an announcement,” Gulluni said.

However, there are still no answers as to who killed Piirainen 30 years ago, but Gulluni said his office will never stop trying.

“We’re optimistic. We’re very optimistic about the case and we’re hopeful that, in the near future, we are going to bring someone to justice,” Gulluni noted.

Jolin said she and her family will never stop hoping.

“Every crime show gets solved in the end and ours isn’t. I struggle with that and with trying to make peace,” Jolin said.

Anyone with information is asked to call the State Police detective unit assigned to the D.A.’s office at (413) 505-5993, ‘Text-A-Tip’ to CRIMES (274637) and type ‘SOLVE Holly Piirainen’ and your tip in the message, or email Trooper Thomas Sullivan.