From Maimoni’s appeal: Brian Brailsford, captain for a cruise company that ran between Boston and Provincetown, arrived at his house in the Willows, a peninsular section of Salem, after dark, Friday July 12, 1991. His wife Martha was not there, and the house gave evidence that she had not been at home for some hours — her artwork had not been brought in from outdoors. Brian waited and became alarmed. At 1 A.M., Saturday, he called the Salem police but was told to stay put. He began walking the neighborhood by flashlight, and made a second tour at dawn. Recalling that Martha had had some early morning walks with Thomas Maimoni (the defendant), Brian went at 7 A.M. to the defendant’s nearby apartment and, finding no one there, went to the Palmer’s Cove Yacht Club, where he saw the defendant’s “Cal” twenty-eight foot sailboat “Counterpoint” in its slip, but the defendant was not on hand. Finally, around 8 A.M., he found the defendant at the apartment.
Brian introduced himself as Martha’s husband and said Martha was missing. He said he understood the defendant had walked with her the previous morning. The defendant said that was so, but she had parted from him and walked on with friends. Brian asked whether Martha had sailed with him. The defendant said no, he had not sailed at all on Friday, he would not sail alone with Martha but would invite Brian to come along and might bring a girlfriend on his own. He said he would pray for Martha.
Salem Detective Conrad Prosniewski interviewed the defendant later that Saturday morning. The defendant said he had last seen Martha at 7 A.M. Friday, had not sailed with her, and wouldn’t sail alone with her because he was married and it wouldn’t look good.
The police soon established that Martha had boarded Counterpoint around 1 P.M. Friday at Willows pier.
The defendant was away in Rhode Island during the weekend. On Monday, July 15, Prosniewski got in touch with the defendant and that evening the defendant met with that officer and Detective Urbanowicz. They gave him his Miranda warnings. Prosniewski said, if the defendant wanted to say Martha didn’t get on the boat at Willows pier, he could just walk out; if he wanted to tell the truth, he could sit down and tell it. The defendant after a pause said, “She was supposed to bring her husband.” He said Martha was to meet him on the boat at 1 P.M. at Willows pier to talk about her resume; he brought the boat from Palmer’s Cove to Willows pier, but it was crowded and he could not tie up; so Martha had just jumped aboard, and he motored the short distance to a landing at Winter Island (part of Willows), where she went ashore at a place on her regular walking route. He had gone on and moored near the Yacht Club. He had been at the Club until 6 P.M. when he went home.
The police through the harbormaster attempted to find people who had been at the Winter Island landing at the assumed time, and on Tuesday afternoon, July 16, Prosniewski reached Dr. Ronald Plotka, a dentist, who as it happened had had Martha as a patient over the past ten years. Plotka said he had been at the landing from noon to 2 P.M. and had not seen Martha.
At this stage, the State police were notified for assistance. Prosniewski invited the defendant to come in for another interview and he arrived at the station accompanied by his father-in-law, Charles Stochl. State Trooper Mark Lynch was also in attendance. The defendant repeated in effect his previous story. With Stochl out of the room, the officers mentioned Dr. Plotka, and told the defendant flatly they didn’t believe the story he was telling them.
Now the defendant offered a third version of the events of Friday. He said he had sailed with Martha as far out as Gloucester. It was approaching sunset. Starting to jibe for the trip back to Salem, he powered and brought down the mainsail. The headsail became fouled. Martha was trying to help. Then a rogue wave or two struck. Her face hit the mast. She grabbed for the headsail and went overboard. [Note 1] She was down and drowned before he could spot her. He “froze” and didn’t call the Coast Guard. The defendant marked on a chart for the police the place where Martha had drowned; it was about nine miles from Children’s Island (also called Cat Island). He said he would take the police to the spot. He regretted not telling the story earlier: he feared that Patricia, his wife — who was in Kansas visiting her mother — would find out about his having a woman aboard.
The police deferred motoring to the designated location.
On Thursday about noon, the defendant and his wife, who had flown in from her Kansas visit, were in Beverly with friends, the McCarthys. The four heard the news report that a body had been found. The defendant said he was going to see his lawyer and drove off alone. The following Saturday, July 20, he was arrested in northern Maine near the Canadian border for breaking into a cabin. A backpack of camping goods was found in the car together with maps and a compass. He had left his wedding ring with a note indicating how Patricia could be reached.
Early that Thursday morning William Hooper Goodwin began bringing up his lobster traps near the southeast end of Children’s Island. As the last trap in one line of traps came to the surface, Goodwin saw an anchor tangled into the trap. Trailing from the anchor was a twelve-foot rope tied by knots to the ankle of a body, naked, so scavenged as to amount almost to a skeleton. A buckled diver’s weight belt was around the figure between the pelvic bones and the rib cage. The remains were identified as Martha’s.
Martha had had excellent (“perfect”) teeth as of Plotka’s examination three months before the death. Postmortem examination showed a chip on the inside surface of a lower left molar, an injury that the person would feel immediately, also a loosened lower left front tooth. There was professional testimony that the fracture of the molar was caused by a force from below the jaw and the loosening of the front tooth by a direct force or a force from below the chin. The head top and front, had suffered three impacts, the most serious on the top of the forehead (with bleeding under the scalp) was probably inflicted shortly before death. The two other injuries involved little force. None of the three could have caused death, but each would be felt and could have dazed the person. There was expert testimony that Martha had died of drowning (see note 13, infra). The defendant testified at trial to a fourth story. They had sailed well out. There was no sexual involvement or quarrel or altercation. Around sunset as they were making to come home, rogue waves (perhaps the wake of trawlers in the distance) struck the boat. Martha coming from the foredeck to the cockpit, struck her face on the mast. Another wave struck, and she was cast overboard. He saw her in the water swimming toward the boat. He could not make eye contact with her and so did not throw a flotation device. Instead, he tried to maneuver the boat with its swim ladder toward her. She did not seize it. Quickly, he donned the top part of his wet suit, stepped down the ladder and grabbed hold of Martha. With much effort he worked her on to the deck. She appeared to him to be unconscious. He tried to revive her, applying CPR and mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. He worked against hypothermia by removing her wet clothes and wrapping her in towels. He realized she was dead when her body released urine. He was in a panic. He could not abide the body on the boat. In the end, he motored to Children’s Island, brought up an anchor and a diver’s belt from below, weighed the body down with anchor and belt, and threw the mass into the water. He said he was incapable throughout of a better response, such as using the radio for help. He got to shore and home well after midnight.
Woman’s body found; Sailboat owner sought
Man charged in sailing slaying deceived many, prosecutor says
Commonwealth v Thomas Maimoni 1996
Killer seeks parole in murder at sea
Record of Decision: Parole Denied
Murderer denied parole
A Scream on the Water: A True Story of Murder in Salem
City Confidential: Secrets and Superstition in Salem
Your Worst Nightmare: Water Foul
Offender Name: THOMAS MAIMONI
Date of Birth:
Custody Status: In Custody
Location of Offender:MCI Norfolk (Medium Security)
Filed under: crime, high profile, murder, murder in the 20th Century | Tagged: 1991, homicide, Martha Brailsford, Massachusetts, Thomas Maimoni | Leave a comment »