Murder, She Wrought

By Michele R. McPhee | Boston Magazine |

The first bullet smashed into Shirley Reine's chest as she climbed out of her Nissan Maxima. It knocked her to the concrete floor of her garage, where the bloodstain on her yellow blouse blossomed into the shape and color of a pomegranate. The second pierced the right side of her head.

For hours, Shirley Reine's body lay splayed in the same spot, undiscovered. Her back was slumped against the driver's-side door of her car, her head on the floor next to the gas and brake pedals. “Someone was in there waiting for her,” says her sister, Loretta Gilfoy. “They followed her in, slipped underneath the door. Somebody knew her exact schedule. I'm just praying to God that she went instantly. And I hope to God she didn't see who did it, that she didn't suffer that feeling of fear, looking at her killer.”

There were certainly plenty of people who didn't like Shirley Reine. Stepsons who charge that Reine cheated them out of their father's profitable trash-hauling business. The brother of her husband's missing first wife who has been hunting for his sister for years. A businessman from whom she was apparently demanding the repayment of a loan. A cop disfigured in an attempt on his life during which she allegedly served as a lookout. Prominent Cape Codders she videotaped having sex with her.

It was an employee with whom she was purportedly having an affair, Michael Domingues, who discovered Reine's body when he showed up with two cups of Dunkin' Donuts coffee at the home of his boss and reputed mistress around 5:30 the morning after she was shot. When Reine didn't come to the door, he says, he stood on his toes, peered through the window of the garage, and spotted her. He says he saw no signs of forced entry. He kicked the side door off its hinges and called 911.

Within minutes, the Reine compound at 657 East Falmouth Highway in Falmouth was swarming with police, state troopers from the crime scene and ballistics units, and investigators from the Cape and Islands District Attorney's Office. Members of the extended Reine family stared out from the windows of the other houses on the property.

The assassination of 51-year-old Shirley Reine on May 10 last year had all the makings of a professional hit. No ballistic evidence or fingerprints were found. None of the occupants of the cluster of houses making up the Reine compound heard either of the two shots.

There was a certain intentness to the cops' movements. They knew Shirley Reine's slaying was no random home invasion or run-of-the-mill domestic violence case. The victim had sat at the helm of a $5 million trash-hauling company. Her husband, Melvin Reine Sr., was locked away in an insane asylum. Three and a half years earlier, police had raided the very same house, where they found a .357 magnum hidden in a diaper bag in Shirley Reine's bedroom; the gun had been reported stolen. The raid had been urged by her stepsons, Melvin Jr. and Todd, who were cooperating with investigators trying to determine the fate of their missing biological mother. And in 10 days, the victim had been slated to face the Reine brothers as the defendant in a lawsuit titled Reine v. Reine, over control of the trash business and other family assets.

The brothers claimed their stepmother duped their father into putting his lucrative estate in her name while he suffered from dementia, and that she had stolen property that was rightfully theirs. Shirley Reine countered that she'd run the company, Five Star Enterprises, without her stepsons for years. Besides, she “helped raise the plaintiffs and was their de facto mother since they were about the ages of five and six,” she said in an affidavit. It was an argument she would never get a chance to make in court.

Many of the troopers who responded to Shirley Reine's home were sensitive to the intense public scrutiny—and relentless media attention—that accompanies the slaying of a wealthy white woman on the Cape and Islands, which have experienced a strange spike in those kinds of killings. In the fall of 2004, Nantucket saw its first murder in 20 years: the stabbing of 44-year-old Elizabeth Lochtefeld, a former businesswoman who had fled an abusive boyfriend in Manhattan only to have him follow her to a rented bungalow, where he allegedly slaughtered her with a fishing knife. Troopers continue to investigate the death of Kelly Ford, a 23-year-old South Boston woman whose body was discovered buried on Scusset Beach in Sandwich two months after she disappeared on her way to a job interview in Marblehead. And just about every investigator on the Cape has worked the Christa Worthington homicide at one time or another. (A suspect has now been charged in the brutal murder in Truro of the New York City fashion writer.)

Well-informed sources expect an indictment in the Reine case this month. Cape and Islands District Attorney Michael O'Keefe will say only that “the Shirley Reine matter is under investigation. We spend our time working these cases, not talking about them.”

AS INVESTIGATORS pored over the Shirley Reine crime scene, Michael Domingues sat scowling on a curb outside the house. People who were there that day say he pounded his fist into his hand over and over and repeated the same line so many times, it became a mantra. “Todd and Melvin did this. Todd and Melvin did this. Todd and Melvin did this.” (Domingues denies saying this.) It would become a common refrain in Falmouth. “The Boys,” as the Reine brothers are known in town, were quickly fingered as the likely culprits, the men with the motive, and the means, to do their stepmother harm. Her attorney, William Enright, went so far as to publicly accuse them. During one meeting, he recalls, Shirley suddenly spun around, stared into his eyes, and blurted, “If anything happens to me, tell the whole world Todd and Melvin did me in.” Enright says, “She was afraid of her stepsons.”

But blaming the Reine boys is almost too easy in a case with a legion of possible motives. There was that 2002 police raid on Shirley Reine's home, for example, that turned up not only the .357 magnum but also a box of sex tapes featuring the victim with prominent Cape Cod men. (Charges against her relating to the stolen gun were dismissed because of a problem with the warrant.) There was the cop who suffered three shotgun blasts to the face, an unsolved case of attempted murder in which Reine had recently been accused as an alleged accomplice. There was the land Reine and her husband used as an illegal dump. There was the disappearance of Melvin Reine Sr.'s first wife, Wanda, whose brother is a Falmouth police captain, Roman “Skip” Medeiros. He was one of the first officers on the scene of Shirley Reine's murder, but was forced to remove himself from the case after he was questioned as a suspect. There was the mysterious murder of a teenager who had a crush on Reine, and the disappearance of another Five Star Enterprises employee.

“Everyone wants to blame the Reine boys,” says John Boyle, who also works in the trash business on Cape Cod. “Shirley was nice, but she was no Cinderella. I think there are a lot of reasons why someone might want her dead.”

ATTACHED TO the roof of the garage at Five Star Enterprises is a gilded statue of a fox. Even now, the sight of it makes Todd Reine smile. It was put there, he says, by his father. “Melvin was known as the 'Falmouth Fox' because the cops could never catch him,” Todd Reine, now 39, remembers. It's one of the only things he'll say. He refuses to talk about the murder of his stepmother, other than to insist that he had nothing to do with it.

Shirley Souza had been connected with the Reine family ever since she was a teenager baby-sitting the boys for Melvin and his first wife, Wanda. She cut a striking figure. “My sister was hot to trot; she was gorgeous. She had a nice little body and long brown hair, and wore her little miniskirts,” Loretta Gilfoy says. A lot of people noticed the teenage Shirley, including her employer, Melvin Reine Sr. To this day, investigators believe lust for the babysitter allegedly drove him to make his first wife disappear. Todd was four and his brother was five when their parents left them with Shirley and drove off in Melvin Sr.'s blue pickup on March 12, 1971. Wanda Reine was never seen again. Melvin didn't report her missing for five days, and promised his children that their mother would be back soon.

Reine told police that he had dropped his wife off at a bus depot; she was headed for a cousin's home in Wareham, he said, but she never arrived there. In fact, his wife of six years did not have relatives in Wareham, and even if she did, there was no bus to Wareham during the time that Reine said she'd left. From the start, the Medeiros family was convinced that Wanda had met with foul play.

In 1997, Melvin Reine filed for divorce on the grounds of desertion. When a Barnstable County deputy sheriff tried to serve Wanda with divorce papers at 657 East Falmouth Highway on the day before Christmas Eve that year, Shirley met him in the office and said that Wanda had not been seen since March 1971. Shirley knew it all too well: She had moved in with Melvin as his girlfriend and began to raise the boys as their “de facto mother” soon after Wanda vanished.

“I do recall, when my sister was going out with [Melvin], my father telling her to stay away from him,” Gilfoy says. “He was the Falmouth Fox. But as the years went on, they just accepted him. He was an all-right guy. I just think he has been sick for a real long time.” The couple married in 1999 in a simple ceremony at their home. “Melvin wanted Shirley to be taken care of,” Gilfoy says.
Yet Melvin Reine was considered a violent man. “Reine portrayed himself to be the wiseguy from Falmouth,” says an investigator working on the Shirley Reine case. “If someone crossed him, he would burn their house down or take a shot at them.” Despite his reputation, he has been convicted of only one crime: an arson charge in 1968. But police say he is suspected in many others.

In 1972 the body of 16-year-old Charles Flanagan, who worked for Melvin Reine, was found floating in a pond near the cranberry bog across the street from the Reine compound. He had been shot once in the head and once in the back. Flanagan reportedly had had a crush on Shirley. Melvin Reine was the last person to see him alive. A few years later, a 17-year-old named Paul Alwardt vanished the night before he was scheduled to testify against Reine in an arson case. A Falmouth police officer had put Alwardt on the ferry bound for Martha's Vineyard, but the young man never arrived. His body has never been found.

Then, on a late-August night in 1979, Falmouth policeman John Busby was on his way to work the overnight shift. As he made his way down Sandwich Road near the home he shared with his wife and three children, two shotgun blasts exploded his driver's-side window, hitting him in the neck. A third hit him square in the face. He drove into a neighbor's driveway with blood pouring from his wounds. “I've been shot. Help me! I'm a police officer,” he mumbled, his tongue wrecked by the blast. His injuries were critical enough that he was transferred from Falmouth Hospital to Mass General, where he underwent nine hours of surgery to repair his shattered jaw. To this day, Busby carries the scars of the attack in the form of a mangled face and a speech impediment.

In 2003, Melvin Reine's older brother, John, told police he had been driving the car from which Busby was ambushed that night. His brother Melvin, he said, fired the shots. His sister-in-law Shirley was in the passenger seat. His nephew Todd was at home, manning a police scanner. But because the 10-year statute of limitations on the crime had expired 14 years before, no one was charged. Busby is now working with legislators to eliminate the statute of limitations for assaults on police officers, telling lawmakers at a State House hearing in November that his life was ruined on that night in 1979.

“I will live the rest of my life with a portion of my face, jaw, teeth, and tongue missing,” the former police officer said, his face distorted by the injury he suffered 26 years ago. The deeper wound, Busby said, was that he and his wife have been forced into hiding in several different states. “There is no justice for us. I just don't want any other police officer to go through what I went through.” But a Reine family member and others say Busby was a bully, patrolling Falmouth in a face shield and lead-lined gloves. “Busby needs to stop crying. He took on the local gunslinger and he lost,” says the relative, who asked not to be identified.

Even if the law is changed, Melvin Reine, now 66, will never be charged. He is too mentally ill to be prosecuted for the crimes he is suspected of. He was committed to Taunton State Hospital in 2001 after he had a meltdown in a courtroom while answering charges that he threatened to murder a woman in a convenience store parking lot. By then his behavior had become erratic. He would dump a load of trash onto someone's lawn for no apparent reason, for example. A psychologist at the mental hospital finally found Reine not competent to stand trial.

In the past year Reine has started acting even more strangely, urinating in his room and in other patients' beds, another doctor reported. This doctor went on to note that the hospital had been ordered not to resuscitate Reine if he went into cardiac or respiratory arrest. The order came from Shirley.

MELVIN REINE'S care is not the only thing in limbo as investigators continue to probe his wife's murder. Shirley Reine's will left everything to her husband. What remained of the trash company—assets including eight trucks and hundreds of trash containers—was sold to John Boyle for an undisclosed price that was $100,000 more than any other bid, according to court records. The case her stepsons brought against her, Reine v. Reine, remains on hold. “No one thinks they actually killed her, but it's very possible they hired someone to do it,” says the investigator. A grand jury has been hearing evidence against John Rams, a convicted killer caught trying to sell a ring that belonged to Shirley Reine. While incarcerated, Rams had an interesting visitor listed on the prison log: Todd Reine. A Falmouth cop told the Falmouth and state police he saw Rams and Todd Reine dining together at the Ninety-Nine Restaurant and Pub in Falmouth days before the slaying. (Reine admits he knows Rams, but says he hasn't talked to him in years.)

As for Loretta Gilfoy, she says she doesn't want anything from her sister's estate save for some personal items. “My sister died for that property. It's evil land,” she says, adding, “My sister's murder is showing people that Falmouth is not the sweet little town everyone thinks it is.”

  • Letscheck

    Good to know that the criminals have gotten back what they gave out.

    It is amazing to me that we still have so many corrupt East Coast mafia types.

    Apparently it is still the same in Chicago also.

    Now criminals have not only police covering for them, but unions also, and the highest lawyer of the land, Eric Holder.

    I know for a fact that the police and criminals have been working together for over 100 years, so why can we not get clear of that.

    Maybe the citizens need to look closer at the people we elect.