The discovery of Maryann Measles’ body in Lake Lillinonah nine months after she disappeared shocked the town of New Milford, Connecticut, which wasn’t used to such heinous crimes. New Milford police said they’d spent 700 hours searching for Measles, conducted numerous interviews, and tracked many leads to locate her.
Measles was abducted on 19th October 1997 as she waited for her mother, Cindi Measles, in a supermarket parking lot. She was kidnapped by five women and three men, who were arrested and charged with various crimes, including murder.
This piece looks at Maryann Measles’ story.
Maryann was a popular girl who hung out with a much older crowd
Maryann Measles was a popular girl who, according to the Hartford Courant, ‘had a reputation of being too independent for someone so young’. Maryann and the older crowd she hung out with smoked marijuana and cigarettes at a secluded spot in New Milford.
Jennifer Johnson, Maryann’ younger sister, told The Daily Beast that Maryann had an infectious laugh. “It was so obnoxious,” said Johnson. “It was a stupid, loud laugh that made everyone else laugh.”
The last time Johnson saw Maryann was on 17th October 1997, two days before she disappeared. Jennifer said that she was shocked Maryann hugged her as she headed out to meet her friends:
“She changed and before she went back out again, she hugged me and said ‘I love you baby sis.’ Maryann had changed over the last few months before she disappeared, and we weren’t as close as we had been, so I remember being shocked by the hug.”
Maryann stayed with her friends for two days before calling Cindi to pick her up. “I didn’t know this at the time, but my mother apparently heard the group yelling nasty things at my sister in the background,” Johnson said. “My aunt stayed on the phone with Maryann while my mom went to get her.”
Maryann Measles was abducted by her friends to prevent her from filing statutory rape charges
According to court testimony, Maryann’ friend group had coupled off: Maggie Mae Bennett was seeing A.J. Walter; Keith Foster and Dorothy Hallas were dating; June Bates Sager and Jeffrey Boyette were in a relationship.
By October 1997, Foster and Walter, both legal adults, had allegedly had sex with the 13-year-old Maryann many times. When Cindi learned of the sexual encounters, she accompanied Maryann to the police station, where the teenager made statutory rape complaints against Foster and Walter.
Hours before Maryann linked up with the group on 17th October 1997, she was at the police station providing testimony. The group members were angry with Maryann for differing reasons: the boys were mad that she was filing statutory charges against them; the girls were incensed that Maryann was sleeping with their boyfriends.
“I talked to Maryann and told her everyone was mad at her because she was trying to step on everyone’s territory,” June Segar said in her statement. Walter said in his statement: “A couple of days before Maryann was killed I found out from Dean Dupas that Maryann had filed rape charges against me.”
Maggie Mae Bennett said the friends hatched a plan to silence Maryann. After Cindi collected Maryann on 19th October 1997, she stopped at the grocery store to get gas and some supplies.
Jennifer Johnson, Maryann’s sister, believes two men snatched her as soon as Cindi stepped into the supermarket. Bennett testified that as the group headed to their weed spot, Dorothy Hallas started hitting Maryann, ‘calling her a liar, calling her a bitch, saying the guys never raped her’.
Hallas told police that the group taunted Maryann, calling her a whore and telling her that her days were numbered.
Maryann’ friends raped and killed her before disposing of her body in a lake
The last few hours of Maryann’s life were harrowing, to say the least. Boyette, Foster, and their friend, Deaneric Dupas, took turns raping Maryann, Bennett testified. “She was trying to break loose from when they were holding her,” Maggie added.
Later, Walter and Dupas dragged Maryann to the water and drowned her for five minutes. Bennett revealed:
“She’s trying to struggle, but they’re both a lot bigger than her. At one point, when Dean picked her up, she wasn’t coughing anymore. Keith yelled down and asked if she was dead yet.”
“I noticed I didn’t see any more bubbles in the water, and that really, like, scared me,” Walter told the police. Bennett alleged that the boys began laughing when Maryann’s body started floating. Walter admitted to having sex with Maryann’ corpse.
The group secured a blanket around Maryann’ body using a tow chain and padlock, which Walter had placed in the van days before the murder. They attached a cinder block to the body, supposedly to weigh it down before pushing it into the water.
As the search for Maryann intensified, her murderers resumed their everyday lives. They consoled the Maryann family and made up stories about Maryann’s vanishing. Jennifer Johnson told The Daily Beast:
“My mother saw Maggie one time at Burger King. She apologized for my mother’s loss and said that if she ever needed someone to watch me and my sisters, she was available. Can you imagine?”
Maryann’s killers received prison sentences of varying lengths
It took years for authorities to connect Maryann’s friends to her murder. When they did, a mixture of relief and euphoria engulfed the Measles family. Johnson explained:
“Our family had gotten their hands on a police scanner, which in 2002, they were really hard to get. And as the police were catching them, they were on the scanner yelling ‘We fucking got them!’ as my family and neighbors were all together cheering. It was like a block party.”
Maggie Mae Bennett was the first to sign a plea deal – she received 19 years in exchange for testimony against her friends. Bennett pleaded guilty to kidnapping, conspiracy to commit kidnapping, tampering with evidence, witness tampering, and risk of injury to a minor.
“I know I have done the unthinkable and I deserve to be punished,” Bennett wrote in a letter to the sentencing judge, “but I have also helped in some ways with the conviction of one of my co-defendants and helping the truth come out. I’m begging for mercy, for the least amount of time allowed by my plea agreement.”
Cindi Measles addressed the court during Bennett’s sentencing and requested the judge to hand down the maximum possible sentence, which he did.
A.J. Walter, the operation’s leader, pleaded guilty to murder, earning a sentence of at least 60 years in prison. Dorothy Hallas, who also turned state witness, was sentenced to a minimum of 25 years in prison. “I just want to say I’m sorry,” Hallas said during her sentencing trial.
Ronald Rajcok, the driver on the day of the murder, received a 36-year prison sentence. On review, a three-judge bench increased his prison term by six years. Deaneric Dupas unsuccessfully tried to have his 47-year sentence reduced. The judge said the sentence was ‘fair, just, and reasonable’.
Jeffrey Boyette received a 50-year sentence after pleading guilty to murder. Keith Foster, the only defendant who went to trial, will spend the next century in prison. “Prisons are for people like you,” Judge Thomas O’Keefe said.
June Bates Seger, the first person to lead authorities to the crime scene, received a 30-year sentence after pleading guilty to felony murder.
Measles’ family has objected to the early release from prison of some of the convicts
The lives of the Measles family turned into a nightmare after their daughter’s disappearance. Looking for Maryanne became their primary occupation. “My mother sent me and my two little sisters to my aunt and uncle’s house for a few months so they could focus on looking for Maryann full-time,” Jennifer Johnson said.
Despite being young, Maryann’s younger sisters understood what was happening and were deeply affected by the disappearance. Jennifer Mankus, Maryann’s sister, recently wrote on a Facebook page dedicated to her:
“I just remember sitting up in our bedroom sobbing listening to this and wondering when my sister was going to come home. I just wanted the news that she was found safe and I wanted to pack up our stuff and go home to Mommy. I missed Mommy and Maryann and ached in ways 11 year olds shouldn’t have to.”
The family’s ordeal continued after the discovery of Maryann’s body, as the search for justice dragged on for years without seemingly making any progress. The pain they endured makes news about the release of Maryann’s murderers unbearable.
“It’s sickening,” Johnson said weeks before Maggie Mae Bennett’s release. “I am having chest pain, kidney pain, depression about all of this. It’s literally making me physically sick to know she will be out soon.”
Maggie Mae Bennett was released in October 2019, a year after her request for early release was denied. In April 2020, the parole board denied June Bates Seger’s petition for release on parole. Per The Hartford Courant, Seger told the parole board:
“There has not been a day in the last 23 years that I haven’t thought about this tragedy and how my actions or lack of actions caused this to happen. I take 100 percent responsibility for my part in this heinous crime. My lack of memory does not make me less culpable.”
Turmoil has erupted among Maryann’s siblings regarding the facts about Maryann’s story
In early 2023, Jennifer Mankus accused her sister Victoria of telling lies about Maryann’s disappearance and death. Jennifer urged people to follow her TikTok account to get the true story. She wrote on Facebook:
“No more lies from my mother’s 3rd offspring who is lying for attention and God knows what other reasons. Please follow me and watch me set some things straight and get the real truths out there. My younger sister is on there… sharing bullshit lies and it’s got to be addressed.”
Mankus insisted she had no interest in online fame – her objective was to get Maryann’s story told accurately. She blasted her sister for allegedly telling lies about Measles and her mother:
“My sister Victoria is one of the ones telling it wrong. How pitiful and pathetic is that!?! I don’t have time or energy for this. Maryann’s story will be told… lies will be weeded out, and this blame my sister is putting on my mom will be laid to rest because that right there is bullshit.”