Got one phone call and expecting another one ...

Last Wednesday at about 8 p.m. I received a phone call from a retired state trooper who investigated one of the most notorious crimes ever committed in the Northwest Corner: the grisly 1973 murder of Barbara Gibbons in her Falls Village home.

The trooper had seen the official Lakeville Journal chronology of the Gibbons murder and its aftermath on my blog at Politely and calmly, the trooper informed me in no uncertain terms that the timeline had “numerous errors of fact†and that it was extraordinarily biased. And, notwithstanding overwhelming evidence to the contrary, the trooper insisted that Gibbons’ son, Peter Reilly, was guilty as charged of the heinous crime.

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For the uninitiated, after Reilly, then 18, discovered his mother on the floor of their home, state police viewed him as the only suspect almost immediately. The subsequent rush to judgment resulted in a shameful saga of forced confession, shoddy police procedure and prosecutorial excess. Few events in state history have done more to harm the reputation of the Connecticut State Police and the Litchfield County state’s attorney’s office.

Reilly, who was eventually exonerated, was initially convicted based on little more than the statements he had made to police. Despite the savage nature of the crime and the short time-frame between his arrival home and the subsequent arrival of police, there was no blood evidence on Reilly. Witnesses say he was wearing the same clothing at his arrest as he was wearing earlier that evening at a youth center in North Canaan. I continue to be amazed that there are still people, like this trooper, who think Reilly is guilty and that they feel compelled to complain about media coverage of this travesty 36 years later. Sadly, the case remains unsolved.

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An article in last Thursday’s Hartford Courant got me to thinking. Two civil liberties organizations are demanding that the town of Enfield move its public high school graduations from a church to a “secular location.â€

School officials say the ceremonies are held in a Bloomfield cathedral more out of convenience than anything else. There simply aren’t many affordable venues that can accommodate the throngs that show up for these events.

But the American Civil Liberties Union, Americans United for Separation of Church and State and a handful of residents think some families in religious minorities “essentially feel uncomfortable and unwelcome at the graduations.â€

And both the ACLU and AUSCS are seeking information about graduation sites from four other Hartford-area school districts that use the cathedral. Could more “demands†be in the offing?

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Let’s try this the other way around. I’m trying to picture myself in a mosque attending my son’s high school graduation. As an agnostic (or perhaps, a Christian-lite), would I feel uncomfortable? Absolutely not — unless there was a jihadist lurking. So I really don’t have a problem with the practice of holding occasional government functions in a church, as long as the transaction is conducted at arm’s length.

My question is: When is the ACLU going to come marching into the Northwest Corner to investigate Salisbury’s practice of holding its largest town meetings in the venerable Congregational Church across Main Street from Town Hall?

After all, someone might feel uncomfortable or intimidated by Christian symbols while voting on such hot-button issues as a new firehouse or transfer station.

Lakeville resident Terry Cowgill is a former editor and senior writer at The Lakeville Journal Company. He can be reached at

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