You have heard it before. Life is short, enjoy each day. Live every day like it is your last. Everything in life can change quickly. In a brief moment your life can be turned upside down. None of us know when we will die or when someone close to us will.

This is my story about the suspicious deaths of two people, a cover-up, police corruption, and how it effected the lives of a normal suburban family. It happened on a cold Tuesday night in March of 1981. My sister Michelle and her husband Bill went to a dinner party. Both worked all day, supper was made for their three children and they went to a friends house for the evening. Their 16 year old son was watching his 13 year old brother and 8 year old sister. It was a school night and Bill and Michelle did not expect to be too late. In fact, they both had to get up early the next day for work. Instead, they never came home that night. Bill’s body was found the following morning in a nearby boatyard and Michelle’s body was found two days later in the bottom of a creek about 30 feet from where Bill was found. This is still an unsolved mystery that occurred in the small town of Mattituck on the eastern end of Long Island, New York.

“Pain will change you more profoundly than success or good fortune.”
- Pastor David Crosby

In life, you don’t get to choose certain events that come your way. Along with them there are sorrows that can interrupt your life. They can catch you off guard and unprepared. One finds themselves saying, “why did this happen?” In your weak condition you wonder how are you going to manage? Suffering is common to everyone. I once read that the average person has about 88 problems in their life at any one time. When one is solved another usually comes up to replace it. Most are small problems, but everyday you read about or see on television another horrific event or awful experience families go through. Is life fair? Why do these things happen? Of course they usually happen on TV and we see so much hardship daily that we become almost immune to it. In fact, we almost expect it as we read a paper, watch the news or go online. But this only happens to someone else, you feel it isn’t real because it is someone else, not me.

Many of you reading this have been though or are going through terrible problems and tragedies in your life. Many times others have no idea what you are experiencing, it’s a personal matter. We have all experienced the death of family and friends - both young and old. Sometimes we expect it with the elderly or terminally ill. In fact, you may even welcome it and be able to justify that the person is not suffering anymore and is in a better place. The normal life cycle is that elderly parents die first. Their children have children and grow up to have their children and the cycle continues to repeat over and over again. In a perfect world a child is not supposed to die before the parent.

In life, most people tend to focus on their problems and forget about the pain others are going through. You have moments when you say to yourself, “this isn’t fair.” or “why did this happen to me?” Suffering, is a personal thing and common to all of us at different levels. It shapes your perception of life. It enforces your values and priorities, and helps set new goals and dreams.Your pain is changing you.

Bill was 42 years old and was a New York State Department Environmental Conservation officer. Michelle, my only sibling, was 36 and owned and operated a local beauty salon. They had a nice house and had three children. A typical upper middle class family in the 1980s. So young and had so much to live for. Why were their lives cut short, living behind their three children.

Our family stayed strong. Everyone seemed to step up to the plate to do what had to be done. My parents, at age 59, became parents again and immediately moved out to Mattituck. Bill and Michelle both came from close families so relatives from both sides were willing to help as needed. Living in a small community, it seemed everyone was willing to help out by preparing meals or being supportive and offering help as much as possible.

Unfortunately, this was not a normal tragedy where two people died, were buried and there was closure. Bill and Michelle died under very suspicious circumstances. I do not believe it was a double accidental drowning that the local and county police tried to immediately tell our family and the community. In fact, there was a lot going on in the quiet rural community. Was it just coincidental that there were other suspicious deaths or murders around that time? Is it also a coincidence that one of the largest international drug smugglers lived in the small community from 1976-1984? Were Bill and Michelle victims of a bigger picture during this time, a time that old timers refer to as the “wild west?”

Were their deaths pre-meditated to silence them because Bill found out something? Or was it a protective husband and a jealous act of rage by a man known to be infatuated with Michelle. Or was it simply an accident of one falling in the water and the other dying trying to save the first one? (very unlikely) Either way the local police botched the investigation right from the beginning which is why their deaths still haunt us over 35 years later.

My wife Carol and I were very suspicious shortly after we arrived in Mattituck on that dark grey afternoon on March 11, 1981. We had so many emotions and thoughts going through our heads, knowing my brother-in-law Bill was dead and my sister Michelle missing. What happened? I kept asking. Where is my sister? Where are the children? Knowing the children were safe and with friends, we tried to make sense of what was happening along with the shock we were experiencing.

This is my personal story and I have decided to begin writing and talking about it. I hope by sharing this I can find closure and also help others who have been dealing with personal tragedies. I also feel your pain and want you to know you are not alone. I welcome your thoughts and comments below.

Author's Bio: 

Michael Malkush has spent most of his adult life helping people. As an author, motivational speaker, success coach and entrepreneur, he continues to work with people to help them be healthy, happy and successful. Michael has a Masters Degree in education and is a licensed New York State teacher.

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