To the editor:

I am a relatively recent (four-year) resident of Gloucester. The hallmarks of Gloucester and Cape Ann generally that attracted me were many, but most notable were its authenticity, its cordial residents and its sense of community and safety. With the disappearance of Abbie Flynn last Sunday, followed by the revival in my memory of the similar disappearance of Theresa Coen some two years ago, the latter — the sense of safety in Gloucester — is shaken. And in this sense of uncertainty and apprehension, I am not alone.

The handling of the case by the Gloucester police to date and its open communications have been a comfort in this uncertain environment. Regrettably, this is not the case with the Rockport police. Thursday, in an interview, Chief Edward Conley III, Gloucester police chief, reported that Theresa Coen was known to be dead, and that some of her remains had been found in Chatham, and DNA matched. There was also perhaps an indication that that Rockport Police Chief John Horvath knew of this, and knew further that “there was no foul play.” Oh really? Since when? And Friday in the Gloucester Daily Times, Chief Horvath refused to address or confirm anything, saying only that “out of respect for the Coen family we will not be making any further statement about the investigation.”

In order for citizens to make judgments, citizens need accurate information to assess risk and opportunity. In the case of two similar disappearances, Abbie Flynn and Theresa Coen, we, the citizens of Rockport and Gloucester, have a need and a right to have accurate, honest, up-to-date information to decide on where to walk, whether to live fearfully, whether to carry pepper spray, etc.

A disappearance is a public event. Perhaps the Rockport police chief thought that whatever information he had he could be kept secret, favoring the interests of the Coen family over the public. While I would have disagreed with that decision, before the disappearance of Abbie Flynn, it could have been defended.

However, that balance tipped with the disappearance of Abbey Flynn. The uncertain environment requires that the the public need to know take precedence over the privacy considerations of a family. I would feel that if it were my family. Relevant information like whether there was a DNA match that determined that Ms. Coen was deceased, and if so, how did the Rockport police decide that “there was not foul play” and, if there was “no foul play,” why is the case still open, must be disclosed to the public.

We the public have the right to immediate complete disclosure from Rockport Police Chief Horvath to allow us to make choices about our personal safety. I appeal to Chief Horvath to disclose all relevant information that he has to us now.

Deborah Schwarz


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