STURBRIDGE, MA (WGGB/WSHM) -- Holly Piirainen's life was taken from her at just ten years old, 27 years ago. Her murderer still has never been found, and her case remains unsolved, but investigators are still actively searching for answers.
Recent revelations have been made after a body was dug up, in connection to Piirainen's case last month.
“I prayed every night just that she would come home, we'd get her back and everything would be okay,” Piirainen’s cousin Leah Jolin said.
Piirainen was at her grandparents’ home in Sturbridge, on August 5, 1993, but what started as a regular summer day quickly turned into a nightmare.
“My heart just dropped because I knew right then, that it was bad,” Jolin recalled.
Jolin was just three years older than Piirainen; they had been at summer camp together just the week before.
“We were very close,” Jolin said.
In an exclusive interview with Western Mass News, Jolin recalled the day Piirainen went missing.
Piirainen who was just ten years old had been walking to a neighbor's with her brother to see some new puppies, but not long after it was just her younger brother Zachary who came back to their grandma's cottage.
“When Zack came back by himself he came in the house and started playing with his Legos, and Uncle Ricky was like hey where's your sister?” Jolin said.
Piirainen’s dad Richard, concerned about her whereabouts, sent her older brother Andrew to go look for her. He also returned alone.
“The puppies had gotten out of their enclosure and they were trying to get them out of the road and put them behind the fence,” Jolin said. “And a man had stopped and tried to talk to them.”
By the time Piirainen's dad and two brothers drove to that neighbor's house, there was no sign of her but one of her shoes left by the side of the road.
“Who did this to her, who could have done this, and why?” Jolin questioned.
Zachary, who was just five at the time, didn't remember what exactly happened, being so young, but he did tell the family that Piirainen had told him to go, and he listened to his big sister.
“As years have gone by I think all of us have wondered maybe he saw something and that's why she said run away, get away, go,” Jolin explained.
A little more than two months later, on October 23, Piirainen's skeletal remains were found by hunters in Brimfield.
Jolin and her family went to the police station that day.
“They just looked at us and said you know they found her clothes,” Jolin recalled.
Piirainen's exact cause of death has not been told to the family.
In 2012, investigators found forensic evidence that linked Piirainen to a dead man, David Edmund Pouliot of Springfield.
“They found an item they never told us what near the scene of where her body and they were able to link it to this man,” Jolin explained.
However he was not formally named as a suspect, and the details of the evidence have never been shared.
“Whether it's that particular piece of evidence or others where there are various technological limitations, we're hopeful technology keeps up on the pace it's been on,” Hampden District Attorney Anthony Gulluni said.
Gulluni said he has a team of state troopers very actively working on this case
Their efforts have led to recent developments just last month giving Piirainen's family another glimpse of hope.
“When we had that meeting with the D.A. and the detectives, we hoped we'd get some life-changing news,” Jolin said.
In October 2020, Jolin said investigators exhumed the body of a young man at a cemetery in Hampden County in search of a letter that had been placed in his coffin with potential information that could be useful in her case.
“There had been a letter placed in his coffin when he passed, and someone contacted them and told them something in that letter of interest,” Jolin explained.
She said that man would have been 18 at the time Piirainen went missing, but right now investigators can't use that information to determine who killed her.
“20 something years in the ground, it had a lot of water damage, so basically we have been told they're not really sure they're going to find anything useful,” Jolin said.
So her family continues to wait and hope, as does Gulluni, who said he has high hopes for this case and new technology.
“We're really hopeful with this case and we're going to stay at the cutting edge in terms of technology, and will work hard,” Gulluni said. “No one involved in this case going back to 1993 will ever forget about Holly or her family or what they've suffered.”
Both hope for possibly someone's change of heart.
“Put yourself in our shoes, and my grandma's shoes, and my aunt and uncle's shoes, and imagine this was your family going through this,” Jolin said.
“We encourage anyone and everyone who has any information on this case to contact the Massachusetts State Police,” Gulluni said.
The state police can be reached at (413) 505-5946
Piirainen's family is still offering a $40,000 reward for information that would lead to an arrest.