Sometimes a heinous crime can open eyes and make a difference somewhere else and make changes. Take for example that last week there was (yet another) school shooting massacre. Someone mentioned to me not long after the Las Vegas mass shooting last year that we have almost all become desensitized to these types of rampages. They do not seem to outrage us like they used to. Of course they still scare us but we feel helpless and discouraged that anything will change. I may be a bit naive in my thinking but for some reason this latest school shooting in Florida seems different to me. Maybe it is the outrage expressed by so many of the students. Maybe it is the availability they have to social media today. I am not sure but something tells me that this shooting may make a difference somewhere and enact some changes. Only time will tell. What I can say is that the case against Michael Bizanowicz did just that. Did it make enough changes? That I am not sure about but it did make some changes, that is for sure, at least in Massachusetts that is.
On January 7, 2004 Peter and Annette Presti got a phone call from one of their daughter's friends and neighbors in Woburn Massachusetts. Bobbi Jo Miller was concerned because she had not seen Joanne Presti for a few days. Even her home seemed eerily still. At first Bobbi thought it was because Joanne had complained of not feeling well. Then when she was not getting her calls answered at the door or the phone she thought possibly she had done something to Joanne that had cause her to start avoiding her. It seems the last anyone had seen or heard from Joanne was on Sunday night (January 4th) and here it was Wednesday. Presumably the Presti's also attempted to reach their daughter and failed so they went to the duplex Joanne lived in with two of her three children. The home was just across the street and three doors down from Bobbi Jo. Peter and Annette entered the home and were met with a scene they had probably only seen in horror movies. Their daughter, Joanne would be face down in a pool of blood on her couch. She was naked from the waist down. Upstairs the Presti's would find the body of their twelve year old granddaughter, Alyssa. She was on the floor of her bedroom, also in a pool of blood. Her throat had been cut. Thankfully in another room was their two year old grandson, Sean Pollak. The poor boy was in his crib with a very heavily soiled diaper. Three of his fingers were white and wrinkled from him sucking on them either for comfort or hydration. Obviously the Presti's would call the police. It was also obvious that Joanne had not simply been ignoring Bobbi Jo Miller.
Investigators believed fairly quickly based on her position that Joanne had been sexually assaulted. She also had duct tape on her eyes and her wrists and ankles had been bound by rope. The medical examiner would ultimately concur with this when they extracted semen from Joanne's body. DNA would also be found under Alyssa's fingernails. It was obvious the twelve year old had not gone down without a fight. DNA results would take time though and this needed solved. There was a murderer on the loose, one who had obviously already killed two people but with the murder of a child also seemed to have no limitations.
It was quickly learned that Joanne had three children and they each had a different father. Each of those fathers would obviously have to be questioned. First there was Alyssa's father. He was a guy who was locally famous in a way in Woburn. John Carter had grown up in Woburn and had become a professional hockey player. Joanne was said to be his ex-wife but I am unsure they were married. They did have a child together obviously but it was said that Carter had no relationship with her. Then Joanne had a son, who truthful I did not find his name, and I am glad I did not, let him keep his privacy. He had apparently lived with Joanne at some point but within the last few years he had gone to live with his father. The fact that I never even determined his father's name tells me that he was never high on the suspect list and was likely ruled out quickly. Then there was Thomas Pollak. He was Sean's father and he and Joanne had apparently been married as he is referred to as her second husband. Investigators learned quickly that in late 2001 Joanne had gotten a restraining order against him. At some point the couple divorced, Pollak moved to Delaware and the one year on the restraining order had expired in later 2002. There had never been any notices of violations and it seems that Pollak had not contacted or been involved in any way in their lives recently. But, in the restraining order Joanne had accused him of attempting to choke her while Alyssa was nearby and stated that when she attempted to call the police he had pulled the phone out of the wall. The fact that he had shown violence, and in particularly towards Joanne was important to investigators. Investigators were also looking at all of the sex offenders in the area. The problem was that there did not appear to be any forced entry into the home so they were almost certain the perpetrator had to know the victims and was most likely let into the home.
Michael Bizanowicz had been convicted in the rape of a child back in 1989. It is not clear what kind of sentence he had received but I can say that by 1995 he was no longer in prison. He had been required to register as a sex offender and he did so where he lived, or at least maintained an apartment in Lowell, about fifteen miles way from Woburn. He was listed as a “level 3” offender, apparently the “worse of the worse.” A level 3 was considered to be the most dangerous, as well as the most likely to re-offend. Michael had met Bobbi Jo Miller around 1995 and in May of 2002 the couple had a daughter together. In July of that year Bobbi Jo moved into a house in Woburn. Whether Michael lived with her then or later is unknown, but it was said that at some point he lived with her for about ten months. Before and after that he visited often and even stayed overnight. When Bobbi Jo moved into her house Joanne lived directly across the street from her with her three children. At some point Joanne's son had gone to live with his son and she and the other children moved into the duplex. It was located across the street and a few houses down from her previous place. Bobbi Jo and Joanne became really good friends and spoke nearly daily. They did things with each others children and attended parties and the like. Joanne had obviously met Michael Bizanowicz during this time. Whether Joanne, or even Bobbi Jo for that matter, knew Michael's history is not clear.
As the investigation went on it was speculated that the murders had likely occurred sometime in the early hours of January 5th. The last anyone had heard from anyone in the home was the night before around 10pm and the following day Alyssa should have been at school but she did not go. They also believed that Alyssa had been murdered because she had likely come downstairs and saw her mother being attacked. The blood throughout the home told them that the perpetrator had chased Alyssa back upstairs and into her room. In the meantime not only had Thomas Pollak been cleared but so had many others. There had been a rumor that Joanne was having an affair with her landlord, who lived in the other side of the duplex. Whether the rumors that she and Harinder Singh really were having an affair were true or not did not seem to be clear but regardless investigators felt he was not involved.
Then on January 16th DNA results came back. They had a match.... to Michael Bizanowicz. Michael's DNA matched not only the semen found in Joanne but the scrapings taken from under Alyssa's fingernails. They had already developed some film they found in Joanne's home and had seen a picture of Michael at a birthday party of some sort so they knew there was some sort of a relationship there. They made their way to Michael's apartment in Lowell and soon after arrested him. They would search his apartment and his truck. They would find rope in his truck that experts would later say matched the fibers as the rope used to bind Joanne. They also found a suicide note that Michael had written on January 5th, the day they believe the murders occurred. In the note he mentioned the daughter he had with Bobbi Jo Miller and stated that there would be some really bad things said about him. It was not a confession by any means but it was telling.
The community was outraged. First, people wondered why Michael was not still in prison from his 1989 conviction. Next they wanted to know how this man, who was said to be the most dangerous of all sex offenders, had been practically and sometimes literally living in the neighborhood and no one knew. He had registered under his address in Lowell but he had not been required to register a secondary residence in which he spent so much time. I personally was left wondering why more of an eye was not put on him considering he now had a child that he obviously not only saw on a regular basis but apparently near the end had unsupervised visitation with. This case cause lawmakers to hit the drawing board. They eventually enacted a new law that required all sex offenders to also register any address that they stayed at more than fourteen days a year. Change is change I suppose and while it was definitely a step in the right direction, I cannot say that I believe it was enough. Only time will tell though.
Michael Bizanowicz would be charged with two counts of first degree murder and one count of aggravated rape. Michael's trial would begin in March of 2007, some three years after the murders. I am unsure just why it took so long to get him to trial. The trial would last almost three weeks. Of course the biggest thing the prosecution had was the DNA results. They were able to determine obviously though pictures, as well as witnesses, that Michael knew his victims. In fact, he had helped Joanne hook up her cable television when she had moved in late 2003. Beyond that prosecution did not need a lot more. The medical examiner testified that Joanne had been sexually assaulted and suffered up to seven stab wounds to the back of her head. Alyssa's throat had been slashed.. But she fought, and thank goodness that she did. The defense would attempt to argue that Michael and Joanne had consensual sex at least sometime near the time of the murders. While this seems preposterous in and of itself it was not clear just exactly when they would allege this happened because it seems that out the other side of their mouths they were saying he had not been at the home since late 2013 when he did the cable. Of course people can have sex in a variety of places but it does not appear that any specific time or place was given by the defense as they were attempting to keep their client as far away from the victims, at least at the time of their murders, as possible. I cannot even say if the defense claimed this was a one time event or if they proclaimed an ongoing affair between the two. Either way no one seemed to buy that story.
The defense would continue to profess Michael's innocence and blame the investigators for not looking into the supposed affair between Joanne and her landlord. They allegedly had evidence of this but the judge refused to allow it to be entered into the court. This would be one of their issues in a later appeal. It really does not seem that Michael had much of a defense, especially considering his DNA was found under Alyssa's fingernails. In my opinion there should have been charges brought against him pertaining to Joanne's son, Sean. He left a helpless child alone. He was not found for three days and had to go to the hospital because he was suffering from dehydration, not to mention he had not eaten for three days. Had he not been found when he was by Joanne's parents it is entirely possible that he would have died also.
It is not surprising that when it was all said and done the jury convicted him on all counts. The judge would sentence him to two life sentences plus 25-40 years for the aggravated rape. The judge assured the families that Michael Bizanowicz would spend the rest of his natural life in prison. In 2011 the appeals court agreed. While the Massachusetts Department of Correction runs through the site Vinelink to find offender information and provides very little, I discovered something there that troubles me a bit. It shows that he is being held in a medium security prison. Of course this is better than a minimum security prison, but not only is he a murderer and a rapist, even prior to this act he was considered to be the most dangerous. What does he have to lose in trying to escape? Let's just hope that does not happen.