Rita Roy was the matriarch of a close-knit family, according to her grandson Jeff Furlotte.
“She was always there,” Jeff told Dateline. “We spent a lot of weekends with her, just cooking breakfast and sleeping over—typical grandmother stuff. She was a very giving person.”
After retiring from her job at GTE Sylvania in 1984, Rita connected with the Easterseals Foster Grandparents program to volunteer her time, acting as a grandparent-figure for infants and toddlers in foster care.
Rita was so generous with her love and time that on May 20, 1991, she was set to receive an award for her outstanding work as a volunteer in Manchester, New Hampshire. Jeff told Dateline that Rita, 69, was going to attend the recognition ceremony alone; her family planned to celebrate over the weekend.
“She never made a big fuss about too much,” Jeff said. “She wasn’t all about pomp and circumstance.”
Jeff says Rita drove into town that day and searched for parking near the event.
“On that particular day, there were several other shows and events going on, so parking was very, very tight and limited,” Detective Lucas Hobbs of the Manchester Police Department told Dateline. “So she had to go up to the fourth floor to finally find a place to park.”
The fourth floor was the top of the garage, outside. That would have been ideal for Rita, according to Jeff, as his grandmother didn’t like parking garages and preferred the top deck. “She felt safer to be outside,” Jeff said.
That was not the case on this particular day.
An investigation would later discover that around 11:30 a.m., after parking her car, Rita walked from the car to a covered vestibule and approached the elevator, which she planned to take to the ground floor. She never made it to the elevator.
“She’s standing, waiting to get on the elevator when she’s attacked,” Det. Hobbs said. “You have your high-risk victims, your low-risk and your no-risk victim, which make up about two percent of crimes. And she was your no-risk victim, violently murdered.”
Rita was stabbed multiple times, according to Det. Hobbs. “And then, after being stabbed multiple times, she exits the vestibule and tries to get back out on to the upper level of the parking deck,” Det. Hobbs said.
Rita stumbled 20-25 feet away from the elevator, according to police, before collapsing.
Moments after the stabbing, a woman exited the elevator and noticed a heavy trail of blood which led her to Rita. Paramedics and police were notified and dispatched immediately, according to Det. Hobbs. Rita was rushed to the hospital, where she died of her injuries.
“When police got there—I can’t stress the amount of people who were at these events—they interviewed hundreds of people and they all provided a description of someone who seemed suspicious,” Det. Hobbs said. “The description was of a white male, between 35 and 45 years old, 5’8’’to 6’3’’, slim build and wearing glasses.”
Within two days of Rita’s murder, the Manchester Police Department released a sketch of the suspect to local media. Jeff said the initial media attention made him and his family hopeful for a quick resolution.
“It was on the news. The local station came and interviewed us. There was quite a turnout at her funeral. Everybody knew about it,” Jeff said.
The sketch also brought in many tips for police to investigate.
“When you’re not looking for a white male wearing glasses, you don’t see him,” Det. Hobbs told Dateline. “But when that went out on the news, every white male wearing glasses was called and reported to the police.”
Det. Hobbs said the police interviewed every potential person of interest, even traveling around New England to knock on doors. All of the people interviewed were cleared. “Policing back in 1991 was much different than it is now,” Det. Hobbs added. “For the most part, solving a homicide was really just eyewitnesses and confessions.”
Despite continuous police effort for three months, Rita’s case remained unsolved. Many community members, including Jeff and Det. Hobbs, considered the possibility that Rita’s attacker was a transient who got off a nearby bus stop, committed the assault, and got on the next bus out of town. Detective Hobbs said that buses ran frequently through a bus terminal adjacent to the parking garage.
Nothing came of the endless interviews, according to Det. Hobbs. And with no surveillance video, no cell phone to track, no eyewitness and no confessions, Rita’s case ran cold. Twenty-eight years later, no arrests have been made and police say there are no persons of interest at this time. But investigators continue to pursue new leads and say Rita’s case is an open homicide investigation.
“The hope is that with changes in technology, changes in techniques, the invention of Parabon – there’s still a whole lot that can be done,” Det. Hobbs said.
If you have any information on the circumstances surrounding Rita’s death, please call the Manchester Police Department at (603) 668-8711.