Milford homicide remains unsolved after 15 years

MILFORD – It’s been 15 years since the body of Paul Herlihy, 50, was discovered in the old house on Nashua Street that he had been turning into an antiques shop.

Investigators said death was caused by “blunt force trauma” to the head, but no weapon was ever identified.

Herlihy’s teenage son, Douglas was named by police as a “person of interest” but not named as a suspect. He was arrested in Stoneham, Mass. on motor vehicle and drug charges the day after the body was found. He had been driving his father’s 1995 Lincoln, which he had previously been charged with stealing.

Herlihy, a Massachusetts native, was divorced from Douglas’ mother and had recently moved to Milford from Melrose, Massachusetts. Friends from Melrose had called him a devoted father who wanted to get his son out of Massachusetts and away from his drug connections.

In 2011, Bill Herlihy, Paul’s brother, told The Cabinet that the family was not given the date of death or any more specifics about the cause. All they know is that the body was discovered on Aug. 27 2003.

Douglas and his father had a stormy relationship – Melrose, Massachusetts, police had said they responded to the Herlihy home 39 times over a three-year period — and the teen seemed to be the chief suspect, but Bill did not believe his nephew was connected to the homicide.

Douglas, who was 17 at the time, took the car without permission less than two weeks before his father’s body was discovered. Police found him in Saugus, Mass. with more than four pounds of marijuana and a quarter pound of psychedelic mushrooms, according to news reports.

Later, in Milford District Court, Paul Herlihy was “soft spoken and distressed,” The Cabinet reported, while the son seemed eager to leave and “showed little respect” for the proceeding or the judge.

Bill, who died last year, had said he was the last member of his family to see Paul alive, when he dropped the teenager, who had been staying with him for four days, off with his father at a D’Angelos Restaurant in Massachusetts.

Paul Herlihy’s death is one of 130 cases being investigated by the the New Hampshire Cold Case Unit, a division of the department of justice in the state attorney general’s office.

Senior Assistant Attorney General Susan Morrell said she can’t comment on the Herlihy case or any pending case because they are ongoing criminal investigations, but the team is continually looking at new leads, new forensic techniques and new witnesses.

The unit was initially signed into law in 2009 to much fanfare. It was the first time New Hampshire had a dedicated team to investigate and prosecute unsolved homicides, missing person, and suspicious death cases.

The unit was funded by a federal grant and had a team composed of members of the state police and the attorney general’s office.

Morrell stepped in as the unit’s new prosecutor in 2016 after nine years as prosecutor with the attorney general’s office.

Morrell said grants are always limited and they were given with “the anticipation that the state will carry on and continue funding.”

But for four years until 2016 the unit’s work was hampered by the lack of a lead prosecutor.

“For whatever reason,” Morrell said, “the general funding of the attorney general’s office did not include money for a cold case prosecutor.”

At the same time, she said, the number of people in the criminal justice department dwindled. People working on active cases were also working on cold cases and the two priorities are difficult to juggle.

After Gordon MacDonald became the new attorney general last year he agreed to have Morrell “almost full time” on the unit, she said. MacDonald also budgeted for at least two prosecutors, but that request will have to go to the governor’s office and be approved by the state Legislature.

The unit has a tip line and anyone with new information is asked to call 271-2663 or email coldcaseunit@doj.nh.gov.

Kathy Cleveland can be reached at 673-3100 or kcleveland@nashuatelegraph.com.