GRAY (AP) – A letter written partly in rhyme has prompted police to take a fresh look at a murder case that’s remained unsolved for nearly 50 years.

The case involves 12-year-old Danny Wood, who disappeared after leaving his home in Gray with his fishing pole, headed to a friend’s house, on a summer day in 1954. Nine days later, his body was found in the Little Androscoggin River.

Wood’s skull was crushed and a shoestring that had been used to bind him was dangling from his wrist. Police could not find a murder weapon or the crime scene. On a later search of the area, they found Wood’s glasses and belt hanging from branches.

Investigators traced dozens of leads, interviewed 900 people, offered a $1,000 reward and questioned child molesters from Michigan to California. But over time, the leads dried up and the case grew cold.

This winter, Wood family members and others in the southern Maine town said they received letters from Ronald Ridge. The Florida man said he was molested as a child by a man who later lived and worked near the Wood homestead on Route 100.

Ridge said the man is a likely culprit in Danny Wood’s murder. A man matching the name mentioned in Ridge’s letter died within the past 10 years.

“I know the experience I went through. I know exactly how scared Danny K. Wood was when it happened,” Ridge said. “I just feel this guy should be brought in for questioning.”

A Maine State Police detective has been assigned to review files on the case and take physical evidence to the state crime laboratory to see if new forensic techniques might yield clues that were undetectable in the 1950s.

“We’ll see if we can give the letter any credence or integrity,” said state police Lt. Brian McDonough, adding that some investigators relish the chance to solve an old case.

The letter, credible or not, resurrected a painful chapter in the Wood family history, bringing hope as well as the possibility of renewed disappointment.

“Even though I don’t have any memory of him, sometimes I just choke – break right down,” said Danny’s younger brother, Richard Wood, now 52, who still lives in the family home. “He was just so young for something so terrible to happen.”

Danny was one of five children in the Wood family, which seldom talked about his death in the years afterward.

“My parents aged so much, you could almost see the life drain out of their bodies,” said Carol Wood Durgin, who was 14 at the time of her brother’s murder and now lives in Florida.

Their mother died nine years after the killing, their father seven years ago.

AP-ES-04-07-03 0806EDT



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