September 25, 2005
'Officer Down': A two-part series
By AMANDA LEHMERT
and GEORGE BRENNAN
John Busby had taken two shots to his face. What was left of his jaw lay resting on his chest and he had lost a lot of blood. But the Falmouth police officer still managed to scrawl a note to his wife and the officers surrounding his Falmouth Hospital bed.
Former Falmouth police officer John Busby, background, was shot in the face while driving to work in August 1979. Although all evidence points to Melvin Reine Sr. ,inset, no arrests were ever made in the case. Before the shooting, Busby had two altercations with Reine relatives, which stirred Melvin Reine's fury.
(Files photos/Cape Cod Times)
''Melvin Reine is responsible,'' he wrote Aug. 31, 1979. ''This is not an accident. Where are the children?''
Although Busby did not see the face of his shotgun-wielding attacker, his suspicions were fueled by run-ins he had with the Reine family prior to the shooting. Other police officers were equally suspicious - including two who heard Reine threaten Busby.
In the minutes after Busby was shot, Falmouth police officers went to the crime scene to guard Busby's home, to scour the town for possible suspects and to check on the safety of other officers. But in those crucial first hours - what investigators
say are the most fertile for collecting evidence - not one investigator questioned Melvin Reine.
In fact, at about 1 a.m., some three hours after the shooting, then-Police Chief John Ferreira and other brass called it a night and left the hospital for home, according to an officer who was there that night.
No arrests were ever made in the case, a fact that haunts Busby, his family and some fellow police officers to this day.
Interest in the cold case was revived in May when Melvin Reine's wife, Shirley, was found murdered in her garage, and after the contents of a 2003 Falmouth police report surfaced in which John Reine confessed to his and his brother Melvin's involvement in the Busby shooting.
Shotgun blasts pierced the windshield and driver's door of John Busby's Volkswagen on Aug. 31, 1979.
During a three-month investigation, the Cape Cod Times spoke with more than 100 sources, two dozen of them former Falmouth or state police officers connected in some way to the Busby shooting and other criminal investigations involving Melvin Reine. By 1979, Reine was a convicted arsonist and a suspect in a murder and two disappearances.
Their stories create a picture of ineptitude, cronyism and, in at least one case, an accusation of corruption within the Falmouth Police Department that stymied the Busby shooting investigation at every turn.
The 2003 police report in which John Reine confessed that he drove the car while his brother Melvin shot Busby, includes an allegation that Falmouth police officer Arthur Monteiro, since deceased, aided Melvin Reine before and after the shooting.
And another Falmouth officer, former patrolman Michael Leighton, quickly came under suspicion of helping Reine. He was even given a polygraph test, which he failed. And he continued to socialize with Reine after the shooting. But to this day, he denies any prior knowledge of the attack.
Other sources pointed at longtime connections between Falmouth police officers and the Reine family as another reason law-enforcement investigators failed to solve the crime before the statute of limitations expired in 1989.
An aerial shot of the Reine family compound on East Falmouth Highway in East Falmouth. On the night John Busby was shot, officers talked about going to Melvin Reine's house, but decided to leave that to detectives. By the next day, no investigator had knocked on Reine's door.
(Staff photo by KEVIN MINGORA)
Finally, officers and investigators said a lack of leadership and inaction on the part of the Falmouth police in the crucial first hours after the shooting was another reason no one was ever charged.
It was a fact not missed by Busby, who kept a journal back then. Just five months after his shooting, Busby predicted he would never see justice.
''The investigation into the shooting has gone from a good-natured bumbling attempt to a flat-out fiasco to pushing it away like it smelled bad,'' Busby wrote on Jan. 20, 1980.
An unsolved murder
Melvin Reine, 66, an East Falmouth native, was committed to Taunton State Hospital in 2001 with a form of dementia called Pick's disease.
But in 1979, he had already served a stretch in the state prison at Walpole and was the prime suspect in the 1971 disappearance of his first wife, Wanda, 25, and the 1977 disappearance of one of his employees, Paul Alwardt, 17. Both are presumed dead.
He is also a suspect in the 1972 execution-style murder of Charles ''Jeff'' Flanagan, 17, who was romantically linked to Reine's then-baby sitter, Shirley Souza, whom Reine later married.
No one was ever charged in any of these cold cases and they were all but forgotten by the public until a few months ago.
In May, Mrs. Reine, 51, was found shot in the head and chest next to her car in her garage at 657 East Falmouth Highway, East Falmouth. No arrests have been made in that case, either. Investigators continue to be tight-lipped about the case. But one of the people that police did talk to in connection with the murder is Busby.
Mrs. Reine's murder not only revived interest in Melvin Reine and the cold cases from the 1970s, but also the Falmouth Police Department that failed to solve those cases.
A chaotic night
On the night he was shot, Busby was driving along Sandwich Road to the police station to work the midnight shift. It was Friday of Labor Day weekend and the numerous loud parties around town captured most patrolmen's attention.
When news hit the station that an officer was down, bedlam ensued.
Officer Terry Hinds replaced the on-duty dispatcher, who had dissolved into tears. ''She was pale as a ghost,'' retired police officer John Ayoub said.
James Fagan, a summer officer, said he knew instantly something was wrong when he came into the station. ''It was total chaos,'' he said.
There was little direction coming from top department officials, so the response was scattered and disorganized, said Fagan and several officers who worked that night. Officers grabbed shotguns. Ayoub and Sgt. Kenneth Smith headed for Sandwich Road.
Patrolman Richard Smith and Sgt. Smith were sent to tell Polly Busby, John's wife.
Former Falmouth patrolman Rufino ''Chuck'' Gonsalves, who was heading toward Falmouth Heights, stopped his cruiser, popped his trunk and his temporary partner, summer officer Paul Ryan, grabbed the shotgun from it. ''When you hear an officer is down, you go, no question,'' Gonsalves said.
He was sent to pick up Chief John Ferreira and Capt. Leonard Martin at their homes. He took them to the crime scene and then to the hospital.
Ayoub and another patrolman talked about going to Reine's house, but decided that should be left to detectives. ''We didn't want to do something that would interfere with the investigation,'' Ayoub said.
Fagan spent the night stopping cars with out-of-state license plates. ''We didn't know what we were looking for.''
At daybreak, Falmouth police officer Paul Carreiro, now retired, went to the crime scene on his own initiative. He found three yellow shotgun casings along Sandwich Road where Busby was shot.
A short time later, Sgt. Donald Price organized a group of men to guard Busby and his family around the clock. By then, Busby was at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston.
And as the sun rose on another day, no investigator had knocked on the one door some say they should have knocked on first - Melvin Reine's.
Investigation off to slow start
Progress in the investigation was also compromised by the holiday weekend, because then-Cape and Islands District Attorney Philip Rollins, who later joined the probe, was away on vacation. So the investigation didn't begin in earnest until Tuesday when he returned, Rollins said in a recent interview.
Barnstable County Sheriff James Cummings, who served under Rollins as a state trooper, said he was amazed at the Falmouth police investigation in the initial days after the shooting.
''Someone should have gone to Melvin's house and waited for him. That's one of the first things we asked. It was a little shocking. The first 24 hours are so important.''
''It's imperative not to let time get wasted,'' said Dean A. Wideman, a forensic scientist for Nucleo Genix LLC, based in Texas, who testifies in criminal cases as an expert in police procedure. ''You need to quickly go to the person or persons suspected in the crime.''
By following proper procedure - processing the crime scene, talking to potential witnesses and tracking possible suspects - Wideman said it's more likely an arrest could have been made.
A tough, no-nonsense cop
Busby was no shrinking violet when it came to arrests. Tensions between him and Reine can be traced to the arrest of one of Reine's sons.
Busby, now 62, was a tough, no-nonsense cop. He was the one they called when they needed muscle to break up a fight. His helmet with face shield and black leather gloves lined with lead in the knuckles inspired people to straighten out, officers said.
He wouldn't hesitate to be physical with uncooperative suspects when it was warranted, said Price, who was a sergeant and Busby's supervisor at the time. But Busby was a fair cop, Price said.
And while many in the town were either fearful of or intimidated by Reine, newcomer Busby didn't cut Reine or his relatives any slack.
''A lot of people were terrified by (Reine),'' retired Falmouth Det. Richard Corey said. ''People were afraid. They were petrified.''
Officers and other townspeople recall Reine, who by then owned the trash hauling company Five Star Enterprises, making thinly veiled threats about burning down houses to manipulate and intimidate.
''He was a bully,'' said W. James O'Neill, a former prosecutor who investigated the Busby shooting and is now a district court judge. ''He had that image and he exploited that image as much as he could.''
Reine's run-ins with police
In the months leading up to the shooting, Busby had two altercations with Reine relatives, which stirred Melvin Reine's fury, his son, Melvin Jr., told police in 2002, according to a 2003 police report.
One of those run-ins came on May 10, 1979, when Busby arrested Melvin Reine's son, Clyde Pina, after a car chase that ended in Reine's front yard at 11:50 p.m., said retired patrolman Ayoub. Busby was waiting to go on duty when he heard officers pursuing Pina in a low-speed chase through Teaticket.
When Pina stopped on a dirt road off Brick Kiln Road, Busby arrived to find officers surrounding Pina's locked car. Pina refused to get out.
Busby broke the window and attempted to pull Pina from the car, said former Falmouth police officer Michael D'Alto. Pina started to drive away, dragging Busby with him.
''He was going about 30 mph when I let go of him,'' Busby said.
The cruisers followed Pina to Reine's front yard. Busby dusted himself off and also gave chase.
At least half a dozen officers - including Falmouth police, a state trooper and then Falmouth Conservation Officer David Cusolito, now Falmouth's police chief - heard the chase over the radio and showed up at Reine's house to provide backup for police.
Reine came out of the house and yelled that he was going to get a shotgun, Ayoub said. Reine went into the house and Cusolito walked toward it with his nightstick out as other officers took cover behind their cruisers, guns drawn.
''It was a charged scene,'' Cusolito said.
When Reine came out, he had a baseball bat. Ayoub was ready to shoot, but Reine dropped the bat.
''Melvin Reine yelled out, 'Busby your head's going to be in your lap. I know what kind of cop you are,' '' Ayoub said.
Cusolito also heard the threat, Ayoub said. Busby doesn't recall the specific threat, but he remembers Reine kept repeating, ''That's my boy, you better not hurt him.''
In his 2002 interview with police, Melvin Reine Jr., said Pina was beaten by police that night. That made Melvin Sr. angry and was one reason his father shot Busby, he said.
The 1979 arrest log for that night states that ''subject passed out at station/superficial injuries.'' It does not say how the suspect was injured.
Busby said Pina probably was hurt when he was pulled out of the car. Pina had tied his belt around a stick shift so police could not get him out, he said. ''When I got into the car with him, I was not too gentle. I probably stepped on him a few times,'' Busby said.
John Reine accused of assault
Two months later, Busby had a run-in with John Reine that ended with an assault charge against Reine. That further fueled Melvin Reine's anger, Melvin Reine Jr. told police.
Busby was directing traffic around a fatal car accident on Route 28 in East Falmouth on July 4. John Reine was driving a Stop & Shop truck that night and when he tried to get by the accident scene, Busby directed him to an alternate route.
John Reine became agitated, Busby said. He moved the truck forward, knocking Busby's clipboard and spinning the officer around. Busby said he went to Reine's house later that night and issued a summons for assault.
John Reine, who refused nine interview requests by telephone and through intermediaries, told investigators in 2003 that he was waved along by another officer. He said Busby was yelling at him and threw his clipboard at the truck.
A few days before John Reine was to appear in court on the assault charge, Busby was shot.
''All I have to do is drop a dime''
There were other reasons to suspect Melvin Reine, Ayoub said. A few days before the Busby shooting, he said Cusolito told him a story about an encounter he had with Reine at Kenyon's Market in East Falmouth.
Cusolito confronted Reine about the May 10 confrontation with Busby, Ayoub said. Cusolito challenged what he saw as Reine's false bravado used to intimidate people and in the heat of the argument noted that Reine hadn't followed through on his threats aimed at Busby.
''All I have to do is drop a dime and it's done,'' Reine allegedly told Cusolito, according to Ayoub.
Cusolito, a longtime friend of Busby's, felt bad about the encounter, even before the shooting, Ayoub said.
Cusolito did not deny the exchange took place, but he wouldn't talk about it during a recent interview. ''I'm not going to comment on that. It's an ongoing investigation,'' he said.
On the night Busby was shot, patrolman Leighton called in sick. He said in a recent interview that he had been to a cookout and was too intoxicated to go to work.
Leighton was partners with patrolman Gonsalves on the weekend midnight shifts. The pair usually rode through Falmouth Heights, Maravista and Pinecrest busting up loud parties that were a mainstay of the town's summer months.
With Leighton out, Gonsalves and his temporary partner, Ryan, patrolled the Heights. Just after 10 p.m., the pair stopped by Gonsalves' Sandwich Road home for apple pie and coffee.
It was a routine Gonsalves repeated every time he worked a weekend overtime shift. Leighton was one of the few people who knew it.
Reine, who was friendly with Leighton, knew it, too. In the week before the shooting, Gonsalves said Leighton arranged a meeting between him and Reine at Dunkin' Donuts. Reine told Gonsalves not to go home during his shift because the selectmen were watching him and taking pictures of the police cruiser parked in his driveway.
Former Falmouth Selectmen Heather McMurtrie Paine and Eric Turkington, who were on the board at the time, said no such action against Gonsalves was ever considered.
Just the same, Gonsalves ignored the warning that August night. After a 20-minute coffee break, he and Ryan headed back to the Heights. By the time they got to the intersection of Route 28 and Falmouth Heights Road, they heard the call.
It wasn't until after the shooting that it occurred to Gonsalves that Reine may not have wanted him on Sandwich Road that night. Gonsalves' house is just a quarter mile from the scene of the shooting.
''It was to get me out of this area. I know it was. It bothered me. It still bothers me,'' Gonsalves said.
He told then-state police Det. Lt. Bernie Flynn about the incident after Flynn joined the investigation, but Gonsalves said he never was asked to testify at the 1980 grand jury that investigated the shooting. Flynn has since died.
There were other things that made investigators suspicious of Leighton, now retired and living in Bourne. On the morning after the shooting, as officers met to plan their strategy, several of them witnessed Leighton climb into Melvin Reine's trash truck when he came to pick up the department's garbage.
In recent interviews, Leighton said he didn't know Busby had been shot when he chatted with Reine. And he vehemently denies he gave Reine information about Busby. ''One would be stupid to do that,'' he said.
But he was quickly labeled a rat within the department and was harassed by fellow officers. Investigators frequently questioned him about his relationship with Reine. He took and failed a polygraph test and testified before the 1980 grand jury that heard evidence in the shooting. And he continued to visit Reine's East Falmouth home.
''We'd get a report that he was over at Melvin's again and we'd call him in and ask, 'Why are you going over there?' '' Cummings said.
Leighton said he was under a lot of pressure when he failed the lie detector test. At the time, he was recently divorced and had custody of his three children. He said the failed test proved nothing.
''They can do all the fishing they want, they aren't going to find nothing in this pond.''
''You shot Busby''
As investigators focused on Leighton, patrolman Arthur Monteiro, who died in 1990, apparently avoided notice until John Reine's confession in 2003.
Monteiro, known as ''Monty,'' was the brother-in-law of Paulino Rodriques, who would serve as chief from 1984-1993.
Melvin Reine Jr. told police in 2002 it was Monteiro who gave his father Busby's work schedule, according to the 2003 report that contains John Reine's confession.
In that same report, John Reine recalled a scene where Monteiro showed up at the family's East Falmouth Highway compound after the shooting.
''Monteiro had come down to the Reine property right after the shooting and was laughing with Melvin, 'You shot Busby,' '' John Reine told investigators, according to the report.
''Reine stated that Monteiro was giving Melvin information regarding who was working on the case and what they were doing,'' the report stated.
Monteiro was a bear of a man, many former colleagues describe his hands as being twice the size of the average man's. He was also one of the last in a breed of cops who was willing to use physical violence to stop a suspect, fellow officers said.
But there was no love lost between Busby and Monteiro.
''Monty's friends and relatives were untouchable. Most of the locals were untouchable. You were supposed to bother the bums from South Boston,'' Busby said.
Chief Ferreira quickly resigns
That attitude apparently carried the day early in the shooting probe. Some investigators thought the assailant was from off Cape.
But that theory did not inspire Ferreira to vastly expand the number of investigators on the case. State police Det. Lt. Jack O'Donovan offered Chief Ferreira 50 to 100 state police troopers and detectives to assist in the case, Cummings said. But the chief refused all offers of outside help, except that offered by Rollins, he said.
State Police Det. Flynn, one of a handful of detectives and troopers working under Rollins, was put in charge of the case. He worked closely with Falmouth police detectives.
Ferreira's reasons for rejecting offers of help are not clear. The retired chief, in failing health that includes partial blindness, declined to be interviewed. Reporters visited his home twice and sent him written questions in the mail.
Last spring, the Times filed a request with Falmouth police to inspect records from the investigation. That request was denied at the direction of Cape and Islands District Attorney Michael O'Keefe using the investigative exemption of the state public records law.
Officials in Secretary of State William Galvin's office upheld the denial, after consulting with Chief Cusolito, despite the fact that the statute of limitations expired in the Busby shooting in 1989 so no arrests can be made, even though John Reine confessed to his involvement in the shooting.
Back in 1979, pressure from officials outside the department led Ferreira, who had been police chief for nearly two decades, to resign six weeks after the shooting.
A short time after that, Ferreira filed for a disability pension citing heart problems. The town's retirement board granted the pension, according to news accounts at the time.
Some officers say Ferreira was the problem behind the ineffective investigation. They say he ignored what was happening within the walls of the station before the shooting - from ticket fixing to allowing Reine to sit in the station with his feet up on a desk, according to former officer R. Michael Mangum.
Turkington, now a state representative, said Ferreira wasn't fired but he left the job under pressure. Selectmen welcomed the change, he said. They wanted Busby's shooting solved.
So did many of Busby's fellow officers who were still protecting the fallen colleague. But while Sgt. Price and others were busy making sure Busby was safe, they didn't know until later how slowly the probe was moving. ''I assumed the investigation was going along,'' Price said.
Tension slowed investigation
It's unclear if Melvin Reine was ever questioned by Falmouth or state police before he testified before the 1980 grand jury that investigated the shooting. None of the sources for this story, including Cusolito, Cummings, Rollins and Judge O'Neill could remember.
The fact that Reine may not have been questioned comes as no surprise to Busby and several former officers who worked in the department in the late 1970s.
They contend that certain Falmouth police officers surpressed charges or slowed investigations against their friends or associates outside the department. There was a pervasive culture of ticket fixing, squelching drunk driving charges, and deciding who to arrest when the law was broken, according to Mangum and other officers from that era.
A fault line within the Falmouth Police Department at the time separated those who grew up in Falmouth from the newcomers, many of whom had served in the military at Otis Air Base and decided to stay when their stint was over. Busby was one of the newcomers.
There was tension between the two groups, said Price and other officers. And some of the officers on the force when Busby was shot said those tensions slowed the investigation.
Falmouth had been a much smaller place when retired Falmouth Det. Daniel Cunha grew up in East Falmouth, just a few doors from the Reine household. Det. Corey, also another Falmouth native, said he was a friend of Reine's older brother Manuel. But both were adamant that their relationships with Reine family members never influenced their police work.
Both detectives worked on the Busby investigation. But they admit that the investigation dropped down the list of priorities not long after the shooting. Cunha said the detectives chased leads in the Busby case, but had other cases to solve, including a high volume of break-ins.
No one interviewed for this story remembered whether John Reine was called in for questioning or if he was ever considered a suspect.
In 2003, he told police that shortly after the shooting he went into the police station to tell then-Det. Paul Gonsalves that he and his brother had nothing to do with it.
But after further questioning during the 2003 meeting, John Reine changed his story. In addition to confessing his culpability, Reine revealed that a key piece of evidence in the shooting - the shotgun used to shoot Busby - remained in East Falmouth with Melvin Reine for two weeks after the crime.
John Reine said he borrowed the shotgun from an off-Cape co-worker. Reine told the man he planned to use the gun to go hunting with his brother Melvin.
Reine charges dismissed
While Busby recovered in Boston from his wounds and surgery, neither Ferreira nor any other top administrators from the department came to visit. Ferreira did visit Polly Busby when she returned from Boston 10 days after the shooting, but he provided little comfort.
''The chief came over to talk to me and said, 'I know how this is for you. Somebody burned a car in my yard and I'm pretty sure it was Melvin,' '' Polly Busby recalled recently. ''And I said, 'Stop right there. If you're comparing you having a car burned in your yard to my husband having the lower part of his face shot off, get out of my house.' ''
About two weeks later, John Busby returned home. Doctors had rebuilt his jaw with bone fragments from his hip in the first of a series of reconstructive surgeries.
In December, the town stopped paying fellow officers to watch his home 24 hours a day, walk his children to the bus stop, and take Busby on quiet strolls in the woods. It had cost the town $80,000 in overtime. The town built a security fence and bought the family an attack dog.
Busby's three children were harassed at school.
The final insult came, Busby said, when the assault case against John Reine involving the Stop & Shop truck was dismissed because of lack of evidence in the case. Much of that evidence would have come from Busby's testimony, but he said nobody asked him to testify.
And nobody told Busby the charges were dismissed. He said he read about that in the newspaper. The news was jarring, especially in light of the seemingly impotent shooting investigation.
Feeling their safety was in jeopardy, the Busbys left town the following July 1980 after Polly Busby received her nursing certificate. They were careful to cover their tracks so they couldn't be found.
With John Busby out of town, the case lingered. The 1980 investigative grand jury interviewed several people about the case, including Melvin Reine and Leighton. Busby was not called to testify.
No indictments were issued.
Amanda Lehmert can be reached at
firstname.lastname@example.org. George Brennan can be reached at gbrennan@
(Published: September 25, 2005)