The dark and unsolved deeds in Falmouth's not so distant past
By Samantha Pearsall
Almost two weeks ago human bones were found by workers installing irrigation in the Backus River Bog off of Old Meetinghouse Rd. in East Falmouth. Though these remains have since been identified as the body of 29-year-old Sean Minahan, an East Falmouth man who went missing June 8, 2008, initial speculation from community members surfaced of whether these skeletal remains could open up one of the three cold cases in the Melvin Reine Saga during the 1970s.
Minahan had been living with his family at 12 Viber Lane in East Falmouth, just several hundred yards from where his bones were discovered and minutes from Reine’s compound off of East Falmouth Highway. No correlation was deduced and results issued by the medical examiner’s office did not indicate any foul play, but Minahan’s death is still being investigated. Nevertheless, it got Falmouth residents and other Cape Codders familiar with the Reine mysteries wondering again about those missing persons of the 1970s.
Mind his "bad side"
The only charge on Reine, during his lifetime of suspected but hardly investigated crime in Falmouth, came in 1968 when he was convicted in connection with several arsons in Falmouth. Dozens of fires demolished buildings across town, as well as some vehicles, including police chief John Ferreira’s in 1968. Residents were fearful of Reine and some claim he would threaten people who got on his “bad side” by holding up a match or a lighter to suggest that maybe their home or car might be next.
Mystery after mystery
In 1971 when Reine’s first wife, Wanda Medeiros Reine, was just 25-years-old she went missing. He claimed to see her last as he dropped her off at a bus stop. Reine’s home at 657 East Falmouth Highway, known today as Reine’s Corner, was investigated and searched, but her body never turned up in almost 40 years. She is presumed to be dead so many resident’s suspected the remains found in the bog near Reine’s home two weeks ago were Wanda’s.
1971: Wanda Medeiros Reine goes missing, presumed dead 1972: Charles Flanagan murdered
1977: Paul Alwardt goes missing, presumed dead
1979: Shot repeatedly in the face, shooter never found/tried
Another Reine mystery dates back to 1972 and involved 17-year-old Charles “Jeff” Flanagan who was employed by Reine. Flanagan was involved in a romantic relationship with Shirley Souza, Reine’s babysitter at the time who he later married. Flanagan’s murdered body was discovered in a cranberry bog, yet, Reine was never convicted although he was the last person to see the boy.
Then five years later, another 17-year-old employee, Paul R. Alwardt, went missing the night before he was supposed to testify against his boss, Reine. His body was never found and Reine, again, was never linked to the missing person who is also presumed dead.
Crooked Cape Codders?
Reine owned a rubbish removal business called Five Star Enterprises which operated out of East Falmouth (dumpsters can be seen on the Google Map illustrating the present day Reine’s Corner). He worked with many Cape towns, including Falmouth, where he seemed to have many cooperatively corrupt relationships with certain officers in the department. Some of those officers at the Falmouth Police Department included Police Chief John Ferreira (1962 – 1979); Police Chief Paulino Rodriques (1984 – 1993); a former officers, Michael Leighton and Richard Corey; a former detective Daniel Cunha; and others who were also suspected of having behind the seen dealings and relationships with the Reine family. Many on the force lived nearby or were actually Reine’s neighbors.
Busby, the hard-nosed cop
Perhaps the most haunting piece to the Reine puzzle during the 1970s was his involvement in the shooting of Falmouth police officer, John Busby. Unlike many officers during Reine’s reign in the 60s and 70s, Busby was hard-nosed and worked tirelessly to get Reine and his accomplices convicted. He was not a townie like many on the force, he was from Dedham. Just two weeks before Busby was to testify against Reine’s brother, John, for a prior case where he tried to run down Busby on Brick Kiln Rd., Busby was on his way to work at approximately 10:40 pm on August 31, 1979.
He was working the midnight shift 11 pm to 8 am. He was headed down Sandwich Rd. leaving his home when a light blue station wagon raced up behind him, crossed the solid line into the other side of the road, drove alongside Busby, and from the back of the car three shots were fired. Busby said he could make out two males in the car and possibly a woman. The first two bullets blasted Busby in the left side of his face, knocking out part of his jaw and most teeth. After the first shot penetrated his jaw, Busby saw pieces of his own teeth and jaw bone collected in a pool of blood on the passenger seat. The second shot blew off more of his face. Busby then jammed on the breaks, somehow still conscious, and a third and final shot blew through the front of his windshield. Busby screeched into the yard of a nearby house on Sandwich Rd. and ran to the front door where the resident then called for police and EMTs.
Made for TV drama on Cape Cod
Emergency personnel came and quickly began working on Busby. While he still had his wits about him, he asked for pen and paper since he obviously could not speak. He wrote: “Not an accident. Who’s with the kids?” He then wrote Melvin Reine’s name down in the notebook. An excerpt from his book, The Year We Disappeared, that was published last year reads: “I shoved the notebook at him [an EMT] so he could see what I had written…This is the only person I could think of that would want me dead. And I knew why. I also knew what this guy was capable of and how much he hated me. He was a convicted arsonist, and a suspect in several murders and ‘disappearances,’ and if I was right he was going to try to burn down my house and kill my family tonight, while the police department was distracted taking care of me. The last thing I wrote was ‘Polly and the kids not safe.’”
Busby was in the hospital for months, undergoing various reconstructive surgeries. And reportedly, Reine somewhat disappeared for a while after the shooting. Evidence was misplaced and the investigation into the attempted murder was not thoroughly carried out by Falmouth officials. He was never connected to the shooting. Busby’s family was then under constant watch 24/7, which was funded by the town. Busby’s wife, Polly and three children lived in fear in Falmouth for almost a year until July of 1980 when they went into hiding. In 2001, District Court Judge Don Carpenter declared Reine was unable to stand trial for assault charges that were being brought against him and committed him to Taunton State Hospital.
In 2003, after the expiration of the statute of limitations on the Busby case, Reine’s brother, John, admitted he and Shirley Souza Reine (his present wife) rode in the vehicle as his brother shot Busby. He also told police that his brother was responsible for the death of Flanagan. Two years later, Shirley was murdered in her garage at the Reine Compound on East Falmouth Highway. No one was ever convicted of her murder either.
Unsolvable cold case?
In 2005 the Busby family reappeared for the first time and disclosed that they had been living in Cookeville, Tennessee. Busby was hoping to get access to John Reine’s confession, but police officials denied his request. He went on to write a book with his daughter, Cylin, about the shooting and how it transformed their lives. Busby, now 66, is retired and lives with his wife. He is working to extend the statute of limitations of assault on a police officer. Reine, now almost 70, has still never been charged in any of these cases and suffers from a rare type of dementia called Pick’s Disease in the Taunton State Hospital.
Town assessor's map showing the Reine Compound here.