Prison inmate arraigned in 1986 killing in Mass.

Posted Jan. 10, 2012, at 10:34 p.m.

WORCESTER, Mass. — Peggy Sue Calvillo has been dead now for more years than she lived. But 25 years after authorities found her body in a remote area of central Massachusetts, prosecutors say they’ve charged her killer.

Christopher Fletcher, who’s serving a life sentence for another killing, pleaded not guilty Tuesday to Calvillo’s kidnapping, rape and murder.

The charges come 17 years after Fletcher told authorities he’d hit Calvillo with his car, then raped her and left her to die. Authorities said they were only now able to bring charges in the 24-year-old Fitchburg woman’s death because of advances in DNA testing.

Fletcher, 50, appeared in Worcester Superior Court wearing a red inmate’s uniform and handcuffs.

“Detectives should be praised for keeping this decades-old case alive and helping to provide justice and closure to the family of a young mother whose only mistake was being in the wrong place at the wrong time,” said Worcester District Attorney Joseph D. Early Jr.

Authorities found Calvillo’s body in Lancaster in December 1986. In 1995, Fletcher told authorities he accidentally hit Calvillo with his car while she walked along a road in Sterling. He said he grabbed her and drove the badly injured woman to Lancaster, where he raped and left her.

When Fletcher first confessed, authorities performed DNA tests on biological evidence from a rape kit, but it didn’t match him. Detectives decided to resubmit the material in 2009. Using today’s more advanced techniques, authorities said that this time the evidence matched Fletcher. A grand jury indicted Fletcher last month.

The prosecutor said Calvillo had been waiting for a ride home from work, then decided to start walking, before Fletcher hit her with his car. The mother of two suffered injuries to her head and torso and pleaded with Fletcher to take her to the hospital, Early said. Calvillo died from injuries suffered in the accident, but might have lived if she’d gotten medical treatment, according to the district attorney.

Members of Calvillo’s family, including her mother, stepfather, husband and daughter, attended the arraignment. They declined comment later.

“The pain, as you can see, is still etched on their faces, just like it was 25 years ago,” Early said.

Fletcher has told authorities he was involved in a dozen killings.

The prosecutor said Tuesday that Fletcher was a “person of interest” in several other homicides, but he declined to be more specific.

Fletcher is serving a life sentence in the 1995 death of Lunenberg woman Elizabeth Jane Salsbury. Prosecutors say he ambushed Salsbury and slit her throat after she returned home from work at a bar where Fletcher had been drinking.

 

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