Jeffrey Curley Murder
Like every other 10-year-old, Jeffrey Curley wanted to be a fireman when he grew up, and he couldn’t get enough of this place. He’d clamber over the fire trucks as his father worked on them. Or he’d sit at the dispatch desk, waiting for alarms and the clomp-clomp of firemen’s boots down the wooden stairs. Sometimes, if the call wasn’t too far away, he’d catch up with the trucks on his bike, and watch his dad work the pressure controls. He had a good life, Jeffrey Curley, hanging around at the station. Every kid’s dream.
Sarchioni’s Variety Store, a tiny red establishment carved out of the side of a rambling white wooden house, is the heart of what used to be Jeffrey Curley’s universe. On Frisoli’s Corner, near Kendall Square, it is halfway between the tidy olive-green townhouse where Jeffrey lived and the Charles G. Harrington school, where he was a fifth-grader. On a recent Friday afternoon, a kid, maybe eight or nine, drops his bike on the ground outside and comes into the dinky, too-crowded store for a soda, just as Jeffrey must have done a thousand times. In a corner, a short blond woman sits on a stool, bellowing into a pay phone.
“What did ya do? You’ve been drinking again, that’s what.” A pause. “Yeah? Well, I want my money! I want my fuckin’ money!” Another five seconds. “I’ll see you when you come home. Or aren’t you coming home? I said, aren’t you coming home?”
Nobody bats an eye. It isn’t that kind of neighborhood. This part of East Cambridge is a tight but tough place, where parents work late at Bradlees and Home Depot, and a lot of kids look after themselves. Kids here are more likely to take up trades than college, and to settle their own scores. The Curley boys — Jeffrey and his older brothers Shaun, 17, and Bobby, 20, both solid, strong-looking young men — could always hold their own.
Jeffrey stopped in at Sarchioni’s every day, sometimes on the way to school with his mother, sometimes on the way home by himself. Always for a small Italian sub, “no hots.”
He was the kind of little kid who owned his neighborhood of wooden houses and narrow streets. The freckle-faced 10-year-old with the impish grin was a constant near his Hampshire Street home, zipping around on his bike, popping wheelies, getting into mild mischief. He played baseball, hockey, and basketball in the neighborhood, so he knew just about everybody. He’d hang out with other kids, and sometimes with his older brothers, at the Gore Street ice rink, or Donnelly Field, by the school, where he played baseball. Sometimes Jeffrey stayed out late, but nobody ever worried much.
The Sarchionis had seen Shaun and Bobby grow up, and they were also keeping an eye on Jeffrey. Everybody watches everybody here, they say — the older kids make sure the younger ones are okay, too. Jeffrey had friends of all ages; he wasn’t very discriminating. Sometimes he even hung out with Salvatore Sicari, a 21-year-old from around the corner whom nobody in the neighborhood liked much, and Sicari’s friend Charles Jaynes, 22, from Brockton. The Sarchionis say they always thought Sicari and Jaynes were strange. “Peculiar,” says Robert Sarchioni. “Not talkative enough. They came in all the time. Just for soda.” They seemed okay to Jeffrey. A couple of times, they drove him around in Jaynes’s old gray Cadillac, and they bought the 10-year-old food.
Bob and Barbara Curley had separated in 1996, but Bob lived near Barbara and the boys, and they remained close. Theirs was not the perfect family: the boys sometimes got into trouble, but Curley was no less proud of them for that. “This is East Cambridge here, you know,” he says. “There are some very prominent families in this state whose children have their scrapes, too. We’re just the average American family trying to pay the bills.”
Bob Curley is an athletic 43-year-old, with a weather-beaten face, bright blue eyes, and sandy hair that sticks straight up in places because he rakes a hand through it whenever he’s fumbling for words, which is often. He is grim-faced these days, his brow deeply furrowed, the outer corners of his eyes and lips downturned. He rarely smiles or looks you in the eye for long. He doesn’t remember many of the worst details of last year, or won’t speak of them out loud if he does. Ask him questions about his son’s death and he will invariably push them away at first, preferring instead to talk about more public matters — especially the blight of sexual predators and the state’s sluggishness in stopping them. He dispenses details about Jeffrey’s death sparingly, edging toward the murder in tiny increments, as if to avoid tumbling off some ledge.
The last time Bob Curley saw his son Jeffrey was on September 30, 1997. Curley was in the driveway by the house on Hampshire Street, helping Shaun fix an old blue Ford he’d just bought. Jeffrey, who loved anything mechanical, was hanging around as usual. Bob sent Jeffrey into the house for a cup so that he could pour gasoline into the carburetor to get the car going. Jeffrey did as his father asked, the car started, and Bob went back to the fire station.
The next afternoon, Shaun was going out with his friends to get a part for the new car, and Jeffrey asked if he could tag along. Shaun said no. Bobby Curley then sent his little brother to his grandmother’s house, nearby, to wash the family’s rottweiler. She was the last person to see him before he disappeared. He came into her house sometime between 3 and 3:30 p.m. and said, “Nana, I have to go do something. I’ll be back in 10 minutes.”
Bob Curley doesn’t remember exactly when he got word that his youngest son hadn’t come home on October 1. The police were notified sometime before midnight. Curley had gone over to Hampshire Street, had called all the hospitals and Jeffrey’s friends. Prayed he’d overlooked some possibility.
“You’re just hoping that he stayed over someone’s house,” Curley says. “And the next morning he’s gonna come home. But six o’clock, seven o’clock, nine o’clock the next morning — it’s not good.”
The news crews arrived. Life ended. Jeffrey’s Little League portrait appeared all over the city. Bob and Barbara Curley appealed to television audiences — heads bowed — for their son’s safe return.
On the third day, police arrived, with a priest. They had a confession. Jeffrey had been murdered. There were two people in custody — Salvatore Sicari and Charles Jaynes. Police had some idea where the body had been dumped, but they were still trying to find it. Not till the next morning did the family discover that police believed the killers had molested Jeffrey’s body.
“It was devastating,” Curley says. “And then to find out what happened [after they killed him]. I cried. I prayed to God: ‘Give me strength, help me get through this.’ You just can’t comprehend. I mean, what kind of people are out there? Where do they come from?”
Those first few days are a blur for Curley. He doesn’t remember eating, or sleeping for more than an hour at a time. He received visitors and talked to the press. A shrine took shape outside the Hampshire Street house, where strangers laid flowers and baseballs and stuffed toys in memory of Jeffrey. A local woman started a petition to reinstate the death penalty. Curley waited, watching his new hell unfold on television.
MONSTROUS, blared the Herald. Newspapers as far away as Buffalo, Toronto, and Sacramento followed the story. The shrine grew as hundreds came to show their sympathy. As people gathered outside the Curley home, dread gathered within it. Another day passed, then another, and still Jeffrey’s body hadn’t been found. Cameras followed the search crews up the New Hampshire coast, to fast-moving rivers and treacherous inlets. Bob Curley followed them all on television, seeing his son’s happy face flash up on the screen, his body seemingly farther and farther away.
“I thought they’d have no problem finding him,” he says. “But when I saw on the TV where they were looking for him, I thought, oh, my God — there’s so many rivers up there, and the currents, with the tides and everything. That was the lowest point, when I didn’t think they were going to find him. I just broke down.”
Through the fog of those first days, Curley had already resolved to do something to make sure other families didn’t have to go through what he was enduring. He repeated that wish over and over, to his family and to the television reporters. But first, he wanted his son home.
On October 7, divers found a 50-gallon Rubbermaid plastic container in the Great Works River in South Berwick, Maine. Inside it, surrounded by concrete, was Jeffrey Curley’s body.
The day after Jeffrey Curley was murdered, Salvatore “Salvi” Sicari just couldn’t stay away from Hampshire Street. The slight, 21-year-old unemployed painter with the curly dark hair lived near the Curleys with his mother, two sisters, and brother, and had often played football and street hockey with neighborhood kids. But Bob Curley says he never liked him. Nor, by many accounts, did Bobby or Shaun. After the crime, Sicari’s neighbors were eager to tell reporters that he’d never been any good, that he was the kind of kid who brings down the whole neighborhood. He’d reportedly been convicted of selling cocaine in a school zone the year before and had a slew of other offenses to his name, for assault and battery mostly, including beating up on the mother of his then-one-year-old daughter.
Still, Sicari said he wanted to help, and he spent the morning of October 2 handing out fliers. All day Sicari eagerly dropped bizarre and vital facts around himself like flares.
According to court documents, he told anybody who would listen that he’d seen Jeffrey about the time he disappeared. The 10-year-old had threatened to sic the rottweiler on him, he said, and he’d told the boy to call off the dog or he would kill it. Later, he told police he’d seen Jeffrey in Charles Jaynes’s 1985 gray Cadillac Fleetwood recently and that Jaynes had offered Jeffrey a new bike. Sicari also told police that he’d urged Jeffrey not to hang out with older guys and that he’d warned Jaynes he shouldn’t be with younger boys. It didn’t look good, he says he told his friend.
Charles Jaynes, 22, comes from a relatively affluent Brockton family. His father owned an auto-reconditioning business, where Jaynes worked. He also worked part-time as a detailer at a Honda dealership overlooking the Mass Pike, in Newton. His employer there said the heavyset Jaynes had always been affable and polite. But one of his former schoolteachers told a television reporter he had frightened her even when he was a sixth grader. Jaynes, too, had collected some arrests, even more than Sicari — for assault and battery, passing bad checks, and stealing baseball cards from a child, to name a few.
Sicari and Jaynes met through a mutual friend, two years before Jeffrey’s murder. Though both of them had girlfriends, they also were reportedly lovers. Both men had worked for Jaynes’s father’s business for a time, but Sicari was fired for incompetence. He and Jaynes, though, continued to spend time together. And now Sicari was dropping bald hints that Jaynes had something to do with Jeffrey’s disappearance.
At about 5 p.m. on October 2, Jeffrey’s brother Bobby and some friends of the Curleys had Sicari take them to the Honda dealership, where Jaynes was working at the time. If they had vigilantism on their minds, they were thwarted when Jaynes’s boss, sensing trouble, called Newton police. Jaynes, wanted on dozens of outstanding warrants, was taken into custody. By now Cambridge police, who suspected Jaynes’s involvement in Jeffrey’s disappearance, had also arrived at the dealership.
Sicari, still apparently eager to help even after his friend had been collared, accompanied police officers back to Cambridge. Under questioning, he volunteered that Jaynes had rented an apartment in New Hampshire under an assumed name (he’d used the name and Social Security number of Anthony Scaccia, a 13-year-old who’d been killed in a very high-profile drunk-driving accident on October 3, 1987), and that it was decorated with kids’ posters, from The Lion King and such. Then, according to court documents, Sicari began melting down: crying uncontrollably, gasping for air, jumping around, and saying he thought something awful had happened to Jeffrey in Newton.
Police then presented Sicari with a store receipt they’d found on Jaynes: it listed concrete, lime, and a Rubbermaid plastic container. “Fuck it. Fuck it. Lock me up,” Sicari said. He wouldn’t say much else at first. He slumped in his chair in the interrogation room, pulled his sweatshirt up over his nose and chin, and waited 45 minutes. Then this: “I’m guilty, but I didn’t kill Jeffrey Curley.”
According to Sicari’s confession, he and Jaynes picked Jeffrey up on Hampshire Street between 3 and 3:30 on October 1, promising to buy him a new bike in Newton. They stopped to buy some gas, and Sicari says Jaynes soaked a rag with it and demanded sex from Jeffrey in the back of the car. The child refused. Jaynes placed the rag over Jeffrey’s mouth and the boy struggled, furiously. Sicari says the 85-pound 10-year-old fought the 250-pound Jaynes for a long time before he died. Then Sicari says Jaynes put Jeffrey in the trunk and drove to the Honda dealership in Newton. There, they worked on a car for a few hours, while Jeffrey lay dead in the Cadillac. The two then stopped for the cement, the plastic container, and some alcohol and drove to Jaynes’s apartment in Manchester.
Jaynes, according to Sicari’s confession, wrapped Jeffrey’s body in a blue tarp and took it into the apartment, then undressed it. He cut a button and a label from the child’s trousers to keep as souvenirs. He laid Jeffrey’s body on a plastic bag on the kitchen floor and sodomized him. Sicari claims Jaynes told him to molest the body too, but that he refused.
At 2:30 a.m., Sicari said, they mixed the concrete in the Rubbermaid container and placed Jeffrey’s body in it on its side. They put lime on his eyes and mouth to speed decomposition, then drove to South Berwick and flung the container off a bridge into the Great Works River.