Two Connecticut families seek answers about loved ones’ cold cases

Diana Ferris was five months pregnant when she was strangled in her Hartford apartment in 1996. Janice Tolland disappeared in 1973

CONNECTICUT, USA — Early days matter the most when police investigate violent crimes. Many families get answers and closure, but many others don’t.

Families like those of seven-year-old Janice Pocket de Tolland, who died in 1973, and 35-year-old Diana Ferris Hartfordkilled in 1996.

“It’s one of my fondest memories of my sister,” said Janice Pockett’s sister, Mary Engelbrecht.

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Six years of memories are all Engelbrecht has with his sister Janice Pockett.

“I was only six, so I don’t remember much, but I have pretty vivid memories of that day,” Engelbrecht said.

The day Janice was last seen was July 26, 1973.

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“It was the first time my mom let her go somewhere on her own,” Engelbrecht said.

Janice disappeared after jumping on her bike and heading to Anthony Road in Tolland to chase a butterfly.

“We were always with my mom and I feel like my mom carried that guilt for the rest of her life about it,” Engelbrecht said.

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“Not knowing what happened… Not knowing where she is, who did this.” That’s the worst,” Engelbrecht said.

Another woman from this town, someone who was a complete stranger to Mary until this month, shares a similar story.

“My grandfather had actually learned that my mother had been murdered,” said Diana Ferris’ daughter, Meranda Vandeventer.

Diana Ferris was five months pregnant when she was strangled in her Garden Street flat in Hartford in 1996.

Her daughter, Meranda, who now lives in Tolland, was just 16.

“I’ve been seeking therapy for years to work through these images in my mind and what’s happening to my mother and an innocent baby in her womb,” Vandeventer said.

She said her mother was not a perfect person.

“She was a single mother who struggled with drug addiction. Ultimately, she was a mother and a loving mother,” Vandeventer said.

It’s because of her mother’s love that she feels passionate about finding answers, even 26 years later.

“If my mother was a pillar in the community. If she was a doctor, a teacher, a lawyer. I feel like the police and the community might have cared a bit more,” Vandeventer said.

Detective Andrew Jacobson has been working on his case for five years.

“There is DNA in this case. We are actively reviewing it. We have identified a few people connected to Diana’s case and are excited to be making progress,” said Hartford Police Department Detective Andrew Jacobson.

“I really hope that in my children’s lifetime, his case will be resolved,” Vandeventer said.

Until then, complete strangers, two women both linked to Rolland who did not know each other until FOX 61’s DeAndria Turner began researching these cases, are linked by tragedy.

“That common ground of the unknown, I think, unites you when you meet another person who’s been through a tragedy,” Vandeventer said.

The family is heartbroken.

“You never know what it is unless you’ve experienced it,” Engelbrecht said.

Hope still lives on for justice in her mother’s case.

“Don’t lose hope in justice. Even if the cases of our loved ones are not resolved here, God holds the final judgment and justice will be served one day,” Vandeventer said.

The Tolland County Cold Case Squad was formed in October 2014 to jointly investigate the cases of three children, including Janice Pockett, who disappeared between 1968 and 1974.

Diana’s cold case is still open too. If you have information, call the hotline at 1-866-623-8058 or email [email protected] Every tip, no matter how small, helps.

DeAndria Turner is a multimedia reporter at FOX61 News. She can be reached at [email protected]

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