By K.B. Sherman, Contributing Writer
Grafton – At 64.9 crimes per 100,000 residents, Grafton finds itself second only to Shrewsbury at 46.9 as one of the safest places to live in the area, according to the website City-Date.com. Grafton was compared to Shrewsbury, Millbury, Upton, Sutton, Northbridge, Auburn, Douglas and Worcester, which ranks lowest on the list at 417.3 crimes per 100,000 people. The crimes considered include murder, rape, robbery, assault, burglary, theft, auto theft and arson.
The latest list covers the years 2000 to 2012. Grafton’s crime rate is about 22 percent of that of the U.S. as a whole and about 15 percent of Worcester’s.
This good record is not to say that over the years Grafton has not experienced its infrequent share of violent crime.
The American Archives Library recorded a daring bank robbery from 1870: “The First National Bank of Grafton was robbed of everything contained in its safe on Tuesday night, October 25, 1870, by burglars, who left ample evidence that they were professionals. They were tracked to Worcester, to which city they went, in a team [of horses] which they stole from Mr. Farwell, in New England Village. Everything showed that it was a deliberately planned affair It was the most daring and extensive robbery that ever occurred in this section. The greatest excitement prevailed among the citizens, and throughout the day and evening following the robbery crowds of them gathered about the door of the Bank to talk over the robbery that seriously affected many of them after a two days’ trial the court found [three of the four men] guilty ”
In 1898, “The Boston Globe” told the tale of the desperados who tried to rob the North Grafton Post Office: “Leaden Hail! Four Brave North Grafton Men Fought Six Burglars; Twenty-five Shots Exchanged and One of the Crooks Killed!”
The newspaper read: “Four Citizens, three of them armed, bested six burglars in an Exciting Encounter with receivers early this morning, the crooks having been caught at work on the safe in the post office ‘French Louis,’ believed to be James Kenny, was killed dying in a neighboring back yard after receiving a bullet to the chin ”
In February 1949, “The Worcester Telegram & Gazette” reported that the Grafton Savings Bank was robbed of approximately $4,000 by two masked gunmen: “Held-up were H.A. Simmons, treasurer of the bank, and Miss Mary Kelly of Grafton and Miss Ruth Cooley of Upton The men entered the bank and ordered the victims to hold-up their hands they then went to the tellers’ cages and scooped-up the bills .Still covering the trio, they fled out the door and into a car, which sped away ” No further details are available.
Armed robbery seems infrequent in town. “The Telegram & Gazette” in 2003 reported that two teenagers were charged with armed robbery at Swirls and Scoops and pleaded not guilty in Westborough District Court of the theft of $2,000 from a female employee. In May, 2005, a Worcester Superior Court jury found a 39-year-old man guilty of six counts of conspiracy to commit larceny in the robbery of more than $93,000 from five credit unions and a bank, again according to the “Telegram and Gazette.”
Murder, while rare, is not a complete stranger to Grafton. In 1969, Joseph P. Rembiszewski Jr., a Worcester school teacher, was convicted of the first-degree murder of his wife, Joan. This conviction was upheld on appeal in 1973. In this strange case, Rembiszewski was found crawling on hands and knees near his car on a remote stretch of Route 146. He had a superficial head wound and claimed his wife had also been attacked. The couple who found him located the car and discovered Joan, dead and very badly beaten with a hammer which was located nearby. Rembiszewski claimed they had been attacked by two masked men on the couple’s return from a dinner out. The jury did not believe him; he was convicted and sentenced to life in prison.
In 2007, an even more bizarre case occurred when David Hall, the quiet-spoken owner of a local car body workshop, walked into the Grafton Police Station one morning and announced to no one in particular: “I killed my wife.” The 65-year-old mechanic was arrested and charged with murder and with assault and battery. He had apparently tried to drown himself after the murder, but failed, and had with him a briefcase containing approximately $90,000 in cash “for his daughter.” He was arraigned in Westborough District Court before Judge Paul Waickowski and held without bail. Police alleged that Hall strangled his wife, Judith N. Hall, 62, in the bedroom of their home early the preceding morning. Subsequently, Hall was committed to state custody to determine if he was competent to stand trial.
Police Chief Normand A. Crepeau Jr. noted that the “officers and staff of the Grafton Police Department are dedicated to ensuring the safety, security and high quality of life that Grafton residents and visitors expect and deserve.”
“Working together with citizens, businesses, schools and civic organizations, the Grafton Police Department shall continue in its mission of ‘Building Partnerships for a Safer Community,’” he added.