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Sunday, September 5, 1999

09/05/99 Mother still hopes for arrest

Site where body Found stirs vivid memories

By J.A. Johnson Jr.

Inching down the steep incline, parting low-hanging branches along the way,Maryann Margolies stopped and pointed at bicycle handlebars on the ground.

"They're still there," she said. "I can't believe after all these years they're still there."

For Margolies, the badly rusted metal bars jutting from the earth are a landmark, a headstone of sorts. They mark the spot that had been the shallow grave in which her son, Matthew, had been unceremoniously interred a decade and a half ago.

On Friday morning, Maryann returned to this secluded place on the wooded outskirts of the Glenville neighborhood where Matthew lived his 13 years - that is at the same time unholy and hallowed. She was overwhelmed with the grief she has carried since the youngest of her two children was savagely murdered on August 31, 1984.

"All I want to understand is why. Why did this happen to him? Matthew deserved much better than this," the 59-year-old woman said, her eyes welling with tears. "He was a human being, and he had so much potential to be a contributing person to society. He already was contributing because he made people happy, and if that was all he ever did the rest of his life - making people happy - that would have been outstanding."

It was exactly 15 years ago today (September 5th) that Matthew's body was found by a local volunteer fighter on this wooded hillside below Greenway Drive and overlooking Pemberwick Road.

He had disappeared five days earlier, on August 31, 1984, after having left his grandmother's house less than a mile away to go fishing. Police said they believed the boy was killed that same day by someone who strangled and repeatedly stabbed him.

The 13-year-old's partially clothed body was found in the hastily prepared grave, covered with leaves and stones. The murder weapon, a boning knife, was found beneath the body.

In between the time Matthew was murdered and his body found, the crime scene had been all but destroyed by the elements. Five days of intense heat and steady rain had combined to wash away any trace evidence the killer had left and speed up decomposition of the body.

Detectives started out by identifying some 20 potential suspects, then whittled the number to five, some of whom remain suspects and continue to either live in town, or nearby.

A profiler from the FBI's Behavioral Science Unit told police the killer likely was a white male familiar with Glenville as well as the victim, and who knew of the boy's love of fishing. In a 1986 consultants critique of the investigation, the murderer was further characterized as a sadist who lured Matthew to the secluded hillside where the body was found.

If Matthew had been lured to this death, the hillside overlooking Pemberwick Road would have certainly been a place to tempt an, adventurous boy his age. In the area of the makeshift grave, the rugged terrain flattens a bit at the foot of rock outcroppings that scream to be climbed on. Investigating the nooks and crannies could easily delight a young boy fancying himself an explorer. The area is littered with rusted beer cans and similar debris that make it seem it had been a place to hang out in the days before aluminum containers, the absence of which could indicate that at some point visitors abruptly stopped coming. One could almost envision teens passing long summer days seated amid the rocks, perhaps drinking and smoking, spying on traffic that rolled past below. Charred stones seemed to speak of fires around which young males swapped tales and cemented bonds.

"When we would drive past, Matthew would ask me, 'What's up there?' and I'd tell him that I didn't want him going there," Maryann recalled. "He was very curious about this place for some reason."

One of the suspects, none of whom have been publicly named by police, is said to have been a young troublemaker who got kicks rolling logs from atop the ravine onto the roadway below. Another is rumored to have harbored a grudge against Matthew because he believed the boy somehow responsible for his getting caught growing marijuana in the woods nearby. Yet another suspect, tagged by other children as a neighborhood bully lived up the hill from where Matthew's body was found.

On her somber return to the site, Maryann wore a gold "love knot" on a chain around her neck, explaining, "It's the last thing Matthew gave me!" She reminisced about how 15 years ago, as a recently divorced mother of two, she often worked double shifts to make ends meet. One of those long work days was on August 30, 1984, and Matthew, as usual, was spending the night at his grandmother's house Morgan Avenue, a few blocks from his own house on Pilgrim Drive. "When I was working doubles, I would always call Matthew before bedtime to say good night," Maryann said."When I called him that night, my last words to him were 'I love you,' and that one thing has helped to sustain me. "At least he left this world knowing that his mother loved him."

Matthew was last seen the following day at about 5 p.m., leaving his grandmother's, and was believed headed for a favored angling spot along nearby Byram River. As the boy walked toward his destiny, he carried his prized possession, a fly rod given to him by his grandfather, George Miazga, who died two weeks before. One year later, the tightly knit Glenville community paid tribute to Matthew, dedicating a plaque on the Glenville Road bridge spanning the Byram River.

Below a depiction of a fly rod on the plaque, an inscription reads: "An excellent angler!; and now with God. Matthew Margolies, 1971-1984."

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