Today marks the seventeenth anniversary of the murder of Deanna Cremin. On the morning of March 30, 1995, seventeen-year-old Deanna Cremin’s body was discovered a few blocks from her Somerville home. Her murderer strangled her, then proceeded to dump her body behind a building in a nearby alley off of Jaques Street. While most Somervillians who remember the case have their own theories, the crime remains unsolved.
Unlike most of the tales I post, this is a sad one, but one that must be told. There can’t always be a middle ground.
Deanna Cremin was my cousin. She was beautiful, intelligent, hilarious, a cat lover, and fierce. While the rest of my extended family lived in the suburbs, my mom and my uncle brought their kids up in their hometown. The year before her death, my siblings, Deanna, and myself, all worked on a puppet film for Somerville Community Access Television. It was so much fun. Deanna was both a badass and puppet master – no easy feat. Even though she was a teenager and I was her younger cousin, Deanna never treated me like an annoying little kid or excluded me. She would tell me I was wicked smart and funny. She helped me fix my hair into one of those 1990 high buns on the top of my head. I remember this one occasion when we were working on some project at S.C.A.T. (hilarious acronym), a music video for K.D. Lang randomly appeared on several of the station monitors. Everyone was confused, but I simply said, “Oh, Constant Craving!! I love this song.” I remember Deanna cracking up for the rest of the night because I knew the name of the song. I love that even when I was being weird, Deanna still liked me. Again, no easy feat.
It’s scary to think that so much time has elapsed since her death. Time is the great confuser and we are ever its slaves. Each year that passes, our memories change, blurring events and creating voids. I have never forgotten Deanna and I never want to. I think that’s why I force myself to remember both the beautiful and painful moments I associate with her life and death. Sure, we tell our own versions of events, but it’s better to preserve our versions and perceptions then to let them fall by the wayside. Anytime someone is murdered it impacts the way we remember that person. Moreover, when a murder remains unsolved, there is no resolution or solace. Perhaps it keeps our memories all the more vivid? I’m not really sure.
My memories of working with Deanna at S.C.A.T. are entirely joyous and make me miss her a lot. Venturing to her old Winter Hill neighborhood also brought back several happy memories, but the location is also synonymous with her death.
The last time I ever saw Deanna alive was earlier the same week she died. I think it was one or two days before, but I can’t be sure. She was in front of City Hall/ Somerville High. She was with friends and she was smoking a cigarette, like all of the other kids in front of Somerville High (those were the times!). My mom was driving us somewhere and I waved at Deanna, but she didn’t see me.
Deanna’s body was discovered behind an elderly housing complex at the other end of Jaques Street the next morning. There was an alley behind the building that people would use to get to the old Healey School and also to the Mystic Projects. Two children Deanna had babysat discovered her body along the fence in the alley as they walked to school.
As I walked through the alley, I found a small dish of dry cat food (I know cat food) and a dish of water. There are no other remnants, markers, or memorials in the alley. I think it’s quite fitting that someone feeds a stray cat here because Deanna loved cats so much. Like me, she was obsessed with all things kitty. It sounds weird, but I think she would be happy knowing a kitty visits the spot every night.
Visiting the alley was obviously the most difficult part of the pilgrimage today. Some places carry an aura of past events, and this is one of those places. Seeing it brings it all back. I forced myself to let it in.
Here is what I remember from March 30, 1995:
I am ten years old. My older brother and I wake up for school around 7AM. One of my older sisters is getting us dressed in our uniforms (we go to St. Anthony School in Somerville) and ready for school. Someone calls the house, I think it’s my Uncle Mike saying Deanna is missing. She didn’t come home last night. I wonder where she is. Maybe she is in trouble, but everyone seems more worried than angry. Uncle Mike is looking for my mom, but she’s not home yet because she had the night shift. Right before we leave for school, my mom’s other brother calls, also looking for my mom. My uncle tells my sister he was listening to the radio and heard that a body was found in Somerville. There is no way that some random body in an alley could be my cousin, Deanna. Everyone is looking for my mom because she is the problem-solver. Why isn’t my mother back yet? She will find Deanna. I really don’t want to go to school. Now that my sister has us ready for school, my other sister walks us down Somerville Ave to St. Anthony’s. It’s some time around 8AM. My brother goes to the seventh grade classroom and I go to my fourth grade class. I distinctly remember feeling anxious and nervous. I figure my mom must be home and maybe she’s already found Deanna at some friend’s house?
It’s still morning because we haven’t had lunch or recess yet. I am just sitting in class waiting for something. An eighth grader comes to my class and hands my teacher a note. My teacher tells the neighboring second grade teacher to look in on us and then she leaves. I have the feeling that something is happening. A little while later my teacher comes back and calls me to her desk. I need to gather my belongings and head to the principal’s office.
I know without a doubt that the body on the radio is Deanna.
My teacher takes me to Sister Margaret’s office where my brother is waiting for me. He looks like something bad has happened, but he is not crying. I’m not sure whether it was my brother, Sister Margaret, or my teacher that tells me Deanna is dead. I remember starting to cry, but I don’t fully break down. That doesn’t happen for a few days. Someone picks us up from school, I think by foot. I can’t really remember, but maybe it was my oldest brother. My mom is gone when we get home. She has to identify the body. I don’t think I see my mom the first 48 hours after Deanna is found. I don’t really understand how Deanna could be dead. I had just seen her that week at the bus stop in front of Somerville High. Before the 30th is over, I am told that Deanna didn’t just die, but that someone murdered her.
At some point in those first two days, I am in a room with my six-year-old cousin, Deanna’s brother, and he keeps asking why she won’t come home. He just wants her to come home.
I don’t remember anything else about the first 48 hours. Everything that follows: the wake, the funeral, the investigation, etc. is etched in my memory though, but today I am most reminded of that first morning.
Even though I was just a kid when Deanna was murdered, I can honestly say that the event significantly impacted the course of my life. All too often, adults don’t give children enough credit for being complicated little individuals capable of introspection. Sometimes I think I find myself in the Somerville Middle Ground because of everything that followed Deanna’s death, but that’s a tale for another day.
Finally, I must admit this post was difficult for me to write and entirely out of my comfort zone. I really appreciate everyone reading it.
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