Saturday, December 15, 2007

Billy Smolinski: Ex-girlfriend sues family

I'm not sure how recent of a development this is. This was posted on the columnist's blog, The Brass File, on December 9, and obviously it must have happened this year, but I am not sure exactly when. Anyway, the article is definitely worth reading, especially if you were not already familiar with Billy's story. However, I thought I was fairly familiar with Billy's story, but this included a lot of details I did not know or did not remember. At the original site there are also several photos to accompany the article.
Posted at

Sunday, December 9, 2007
December 2007 - A Punch In The Face
In A Bizarre Twist, Billy Smolinski's
ex-girlfriend, Madeleine Gleason, sues the Smolinski family, and The Waterbury
Column By John Murray
How much abuse can Janice and Bill Smolinski take?
The Waterbury Police Department failed them, the political process is
messing with their heads, and now they find themselves trapped in a lawsuit
filed by their son’s ex-girlfriend that amounts to legalized extortion.
This extraordinary story began three years ago when Janice and Bill’s
31-year-old son disappeared in Waterbury. The Smolinskis were unable to get
local authorities to treat the situation seriously, and their own efforts to
find Billy have been thwarted by sloppy police work, bungled science, and a
national missing person network with holes large enough for a herd of elephants
to stampede through.
Everywhere they turned for help they crashed into a wall of incompetence.
Their faith in the system is shattered.
“ Everything that could go wrong in this case has gone wrong,” Janice
Smolinski said. “Everything.”
The Smolinskis are convinced their son was murdered three years ago. At the
time of his disappearance Billy Smolinski was involved in a love triangle with
enough haunting circumstances to launch a Stephen King novel. Billy was dating
an older woman, Madeleine Gleason, who was 16 years his senior. After dating for
more than a year, Billy discovered Madeleine was also involved with a married
Woodbridge politician named Chris Sorensen.
Billy and Madeleine argued, and broke up. Billy left a threatening message
on Sorensen’s answering machine telling him “to watch his back”, and a few hours
later Billy vanished off the face of the earth.
Janice and Bill Smolinski don’t know the details of what happened to their
son on August 24th, 2004, but they believe he was murdered and his body buried
somewhere in the lower Naugatuck Valley.
A tip called into CrimeStoppers, and subsequently released by the Freedom
of Information Commission, fingers Madeleine Gleason’s son, Shaun Karpuik, as
the murderer. The information given to CrimeStoppers was highly detailed and
alleged that Karpuik, with help from at least one friend, strangled Billy inside
Madeleine’s apartment.
Karpuik was a former grave digger in Seymour, and at the time of Billy’s
disappearance Karpuik was working for a landscaping company and had ready access
to heavy earth moving equipment.
Three months after Billy Smolinski vanished, Shaun Karpuik died of a drug
overdose in Waterbury. The FBI seized control of the investigation in August
2006, and earlier this year they excavated several sites in Shelton in an
unsuccessful effort to unearth the remains of Billy Smolinski. The federal
investigation is ongoing.
Several days after Billy disappeared the Smolinski family, unable to get
the attention of Waterbury police, launched their own search. They scoured the
banks of the Naugatuck River and combed through all the spots they knew Billy
The Smolinskis hung missing person posters throughout western Connecticut,
and followed up on every lead that came their way. A month later reports started
filtering in from several towns that someone was tearing down Billy’s missing
person posters. Janice and Bill drove around Ansonia, Seymour and Woodbridge,
and discovered that dozens of posters had been removed.
Eventually a witness in Amity caught a woman standing on the bumper of her
car tearing down a poster and jotted down the license plate number. The vandal
turned out to be Madeleine Gleason, Billy’s ex-girlfriend.
‘That’s when the chaos started.” Janice Smolinski said. “We brought the
information to the Waterbury police department and the Woodbridge police
department and they were both totally disinterested.”
So the Smolinskis set up a surveillance operation and videotaped Madeleine
tearing down the posters. The family would hang them up, and at night Madeleine
and one of her friends would tear them down. In addition to ripping posters off
telephone poles Gleason eventually began slashing Billy’s face on the poster and
spray painting “Who cares?”.
“We couldn’t understand why she was doing this,” Janice Smolinski said.
“Our son was missing and instead of helping us find him, she drove around
slashing his photograph. Why would anybody do that?”
Unable to get any police assistance, the Smolinskis continued the cat and
mouse game for months, convinced that Madeleine knew something about Billy’s
disappearance. The game grew so bold that Janice would hang a poster on a
telephone pole and Madeleine would walk up and rip it down right in Janice’s
In a world turned upside down, the confrontation ended when Janice
Smolinski was arrested by Woodbridge police for harassment. Gleason lived in
Woodbridge and was a school bus driver in town. Sorensen, the other part of the
love triangle, was an elected official in Woodbridge, and a prominent
businessman involved in running a long distance trucking company. Janice had
dared to enter the lion’s den in search of her son, and she was bitten. The
charges against Janice were eventually dropped, but not before the soft-spoken
woman was booked and fingerprinted. She was told to stay out of
In March 2006 the Observer published a five page investigative piece on the
case entitled “Gone”, airing out explosive details of the love triangle, and
exposing the inept police investigation into Billy’s disappearance. There were
impossibly strong leads to follow in the case, yet Waterbury detectives said
their investigation had stalled. Deputy Chief Jimmy Egan had the nerve to say
that “Billy was probably having a beer somewhere in Europe.”
Three months after the story was published Madeleine Gleason and B and B
Transportation (her employer) filed a lawsuit against Janice Smolinski, Paula
Bell (Billy’s sister) and The Waterbury Observer for harassment and invasion of
privacy. One month later the FBI took over the investigation into Billy’s
disappearance and the lawsuit went silent for 14 months, until a few weeks
A judge called the lawyers together on November 15th in a move my lawyer,
Atty. Mark Lee, said was a simple procedure to see where the lawsuit stood.
Atty. Lee and the Smolinski’s lawyer both said we didn’t have to be present, and
I went out of town on a previously scheduled trip to Ohio. I missed the
unexpected fireworks.
Despite our lawyers statements that we didn’t need to be present, Bill and
Janice Smolinski, and their daughter, Paula Bell, went to Superior Court in New
Haven to see what would happen. Madeleine Gleason showed up with high powered
lawyer John Williams, who decades earlier had built a reputation by challenging
police corruption, and defending the Black Panthers in New Haven.
As the proceedings began the judge unexpectedly tried to settle the case on
the spot. Instead of dismissing an outrageous and baseless lawsuit, the judge
asked Atty. Williams what his client needed to settle the case.
The response was $115,000 from the Smolinskis, and $115,000 from the
Observer. After some wrangling Atty. Williams set his clients final demand at
$25,000 for Gleason and $5000 for B and B Transportation. The offer was quickly
The charges against Janice Smolinski and Paula Bell is a “he said - she
said” story. Gleason accuses the two women of systematic harassment that led to
emotional distress. She has no proof to back up her allegations and Janice and
Paula state the charges are “total lies”.
The charges against the Observer are more specific and easier to decipher.
The paper is accused of invasion of privacy for publishing the sordid details of
Gleason’s life - which are all true - and for publishing photographs of her
tearing down missing person flyers in public.
The charges are ludicrous. For nine months Madeleine Gleason destroyed
hundreds of missing person posters of Billy Smolinski in broad daylight - in
public - having the nerve to tear them down in the face of a grieving and
distraught mother. The Smolinskis have videotape of Gleason stopping her school
bus to tear down flyers. A Woodbridge police report names Gleason as a suspect
in the disappearance of Billy Smolinski. The report said she would remain a
suspect until she took a polygraph test. She has never taken the test, so she
remains a suspect. A document released by the FOI Commission alleges that Billy
Smolinski was murdered in Madeleine Gleason’s apartment.
And Madeleine Gleason is the one filing a lawsuit?
reminds me of a case a lawyer friend had back in 1992. She had just been hired
by a local firm that specialized in personal injury law and her first client was
a real slug. Her client had been intoxicated, sped through a red light and
crashed into another car. He claimed damages and wanted to file a lawsuit. My
friend was shocked, but her boss told her to file the lawsuit. The insurance
company eventually settled for $10,000 rather than pay expensive legal fees to
fight the case. It made no sense to her, or to me.
And that’s the situation the Smolinskis find themselves in now. There is no
way Madeleine Gleason could ever win her lawsuit against the Smolinskis, or the
Observer, but that doesn’t matter.
If we fight the ridiculous charges in a full blown trial we are going to
spend tens of thousands of dollars on depositions and legal fees. Several
lawyers estimate that a trial could cost the Smolinskis $50,000 to $100,000. No
lawyer I’ve spoken to believes Madeleine Gleason has a shot of winning a verdict
at trial, but who has an extra $50,000 laying around to pay for that
And that’s why I describe this process as legalized extortion. Fighting
this absurd charge will cost you $100,000, but if you pay us $25,000 right now
we’ll settle the lawsuit. Either way you lose. It doesn’t matter about being
right or wrong, about printing the truth or publishing lies. The system forces
people to accept a punch in the face to try and get out of the court system with
their vital organs still intact.
While the lawyers were in the judge’s chamber going over the case, four
people sat quietly in a hallway; Bill Smolinski, Janice Smolinski, Paula Bell,
and not far away – Madeleine Gleason. And when their lawyer came out and told
them they could settle the case for $115,000, Bill Smolinski said he wouldn’t
give Madeleine Gleason one dollar. Their lawyer advised them that if they went
to trial they would spend tens of thousands in legal fees, and if they lost,
they could lose their house and their life savings.
“I was crushed,” Janice Smolinski said. “I always thought we could depend
on the authorities and society to help us out. But the whole system completely
failed us.”
The Smolinskis have already shelled out more than $10,000 in legal fees,
and now trapped in a legal vice, they eventually offered $2500 to settle the
case. That offer was refused by Gleason and B and B Transportation. The Observer
has shelled out $5000 in legal fees, offered $500 to settle, and that offer was
also refused.
Neither the Smolinskis or The Waterbury Observer will offer another dollar
to settle the case. Let the chips fall where they may.
“We are not going to give anyone a dime for false accusations,” Janice
Smolinski said. “We were caught off guard that day in court, but we’ll go to
trial if we have to.”
In the three years since Billy disappeared the Smolinskis belief in the
system has crumbled around them. They not only lost a son, they have lost faith
in the concept of justice in America. “If we weren’t going through this I
wouldn’t believe that all this could happen,” Janice Smolinski said. “We used to
believe that if someone got arrested it meant they had done something wrong. We
used to believe that if somebody was sued they had done something wrong. Nothing
makes sense anymore. I feel like we are in an episode of the Twilight
(For more informationon on the case check out

If you have any information on the disappearance of William Smolinski, please call the New Haven FBI at (203) 777-6311. You can also email tips to or "snail mail" them to
P.O. Box 123, Cheshire, CT 06410.

Billy's website:
You can download and print a poster of Billy at, or print one from if you do not have PDF capabilities.

Photo of Billy from his NCMA poster.

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