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Theresa Corley

A young woman is found murdered along I-495

  • Last updated: March 9, 2023
  • Bellingham, MA
  • December 5, 1978

Overview of Theresa Corley

Accounts of what happened to Theresa the night she died are horrifying.

Theresa Corley was a determined young woman. Her focus was on her career and where she was going in life. At only 19 years of age, she was in her second year at Holliston Junior College studying to be a medical assistant. She paid her way through school by working part-time at the Penthouse, a factory in Franklin, MA. Theresa came from a big family. She was number 7 of 9 children, all girls, except for one brother. In high school, she played volleyball and was a part of the drama club. She dreamed of becoming a pediatrician.

Before Theresa worked at Penthouse, she worked at Star Market. Bob Ward, a co-worker at Star Market, now a journalist for Boston 25 News, describes an encounter he had with Theresa: “The last time I remember seeing Theresa Corley, I was working my minimum wage, part-time job at Star Market in Franklin, Massachusetts. I was straightening a store shelf in one of the aisles. Theresa smiled and said hi to me as she passed by, probably on her way to the back room to punch-out of her shift at the end of her work day. It’s a fleeting memory of a pretty girl, full of life, who shared a little greeting as she bounced down a supermarket aisle headed to whatever adventure awaited.”

That bright and beautiful young woman that left an indelible mark in Bob Ward’s memories would not get to realize her dreams. A few months after this encounter with Theresa, Bob remembers learning of her death.

“A few months later in December of 1978, near the end of a night shift, I remember another Star Market co-worker asking me if I heard the news. She almost couldn’t bring herself to say it. She whispered, “Remember that girl, Theresa Corley? She was murdered.”

The night Theresa was murdered is something straight out of a horror movie.

The day before she disappeared started out fairly normal - Theresa left work at Penthouse Sales around 7 pm and she stopped in to attend a party that was nearby. Eventually, Theresa leaves the party to go to a bar in Franklin called The Train Stop to hang out with friends. While there, Theresa gets into an argument with a friend and decides to leave. She asks another friend to give her a ride home, but her friend declines, telling Theresa that she wanted to stay. Angry, Theresa decides that she will walk home - a journey of 5 or 6 miles that she would navigate on her own in the very early morning hours.

Along her walk, Theresa encounters four men who take her to an apartment at The Presidential Arms in Franklin, MA. It is unclear whether Theresa went willingly with them or was forced to go there. It is likely that Theresa was sexually assaulted by at least one of the men in the apartment. Theresa is able to eventually escape the apartment and then men who assaulted her and makes her way down to Route 140 to continue her journey home. Theresa is picked up by several drivers along the way, most notably a Garlelick Farms truck driver who drops her off in front of the Bellingham Police Station.

Unfortunately, Theresa does not go into the police station and is later seen in front of a Dairy Queen location, just a 3 or 4-minute walk down the street. Theresa was less than a mile away from home at this point. She was never seen again.

A nude body is reported by a person who used a fake name. Two days after she was last seen, Theresa’s nude body is found on the northbound side of Route 495 in Bellingham, Massachusetts. Her jacket and a pair of jeans were found lying next to her, along with a pair of mismatched shoes. Curiously, the man who found Theresa identified himself to police as John Burlington and told them that he found her after he pulled over to relieve himself.

Police say that Burlington never existed. An autopsy is performed on Theresa and it is determined that she had been sexually assaulted and strangled to death with a thin ligature.

Where the case stands today. It’s been over 40 years since Theresa was murdered and the family still has no answers about who did this to their loved one. DNA has been tested in the past. One test found semen on Theresa's jeans, which did, in fact, match one of the men's DNA that was in The Presidential Arms with her that night - but nothing was done with this, no charges filed or arrests made.

There are currently "items", as the police have labeled them, that can still be MVAC (touch DNA) tested. Theresa's sister is still waiting on authorities to provide her with an update on this testing.

There have been multiple leads in different directions but nothing concrete. More than anything it seems as though the four men from the Presidential Arms know more about what happened that night but have never been arrested or charged with either sexual assault or murder.

If you have any information on the unsolved murder of Theresa Corley, please contact the Bellingham Police tip line at 508-657-2863, or the Franklin Police tip line at 508-440-2780 or tips@franklinpolice.com, or the Norfolk County District Attorney’s tip line at 617-593-8840.


  1. Date Missing:December 4, 1978
  2. Date Found:December 8, 1978
  3. Date of Death:December 5, 1978
  4. Birthday:June 1, 1959
  5. Age at Incident:19
  6. Race:Caucasian / White
  7. Gender:Female
  8. Hair Color:Red


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