Local author raises funds for memorial bench for murdered Maplewood teen

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MAPLEWOOD, NJ — After dark on Nov. 3, 1966, Carol Ann Farino, age 17, was walking back to her home on Jefferson Avenue in Maplewood, where her parents and 11-year-old sister were waiting for her. But Carol never arrived home. The vibrant and popular teenager had been abducted after she left work and murdered. Her body was found on Sommer Avenue in Maplewood.

It has been nearly 56 years since Carol’s murder, yet no one has ever been charged with the horrific crime. Carol’s death remains the sole unsolved murder in Maplewood’s history.

But Carol’s beautiful life and tragic death have not been forgotten. Her sister, Cynthia Farino, has remained an advocate for justice for her sister, having teamed up a few years ago with local award-winning journalist Joe Strupp, who investigated the case and wrote the book “A Long Walk Home,” detailing the crime, the effect the murder had on the Farino family and the frustrating lack of answers from law enforcement.

“A Long Walk Home” provides a snapshot of Maplewood in the ’60s, while delving into various possible suspects and other crimes that happened in the area decades ago. While Strupp’s investigation could not conclusively state who murdered Carol, it does offer some convincing theories.

Now, in addition to requesting that the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office and Maplewood Police Department reopen the case, Strupp has begun a fundraising campaign to install a bench in Maplewood in Carol’s memory. The fundraiser, which, as of press time, has already raised more than $1,000 of the $1,220 needed, can be supported at gofund.me/4780a299

“Carol’s unsolved killing remains an important case for the township, but one that many still do not know about. With a memorial bench, her life and death will be a permanent part of the history of Maplewood and a constant reminder that an innocent, kind young woman, who gave much to family and friends, had her life struck down too soon,” Strupp told the News-Record. “She was also a valuable part of the community and spent important years at Columbia High School and working in Maplewood Village. 

“Sadly, her case has also been forgotten or ignored by both the Maplewood police and the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office, who continue to refuse to give access to the investigation to her sister, and have yet to reopen it and seek to solve the township’s only unsolved murder,” he continued. 

For Strupp, who has published other books in the past and formerly ran the Maplewoodian news site, Carol’s murder had been on his radar for some time.

“I lived in Maplewood for more than 20 years and heard about the case on several occasions when I was covering other crimes in town and speaking with people who knew about the case,” Strupp said. “Every time there was a murder, it was always solved eventually, and police or reporters would mention that the only unsolved murder in township history was Carol’s. As a father of two children, both CHS graduates, it always gnawed at me that one such student lost her life and it is still not clear why.”

Strupp said researching and writing “A Long Walk Home” was “very gratifying,” especially being able to connect with Cynthia Farino, who was open to discussing her sister’s murder and her family with Strupp.

“She offered great inside information and recollections of the trauma the murder took on her and her family. I was also able to track down many former classmates and friends who gave great thoughts and views on Carol and the township back in 1966,” Strupp said. “The one frustration has been and remains the lack of cooperation from Maplewood police and Essex County Prosecutor’s Office. The police were originally willing to let me view what they say is an inch-thick file on the case. But the prosecutor’s office, which has oversight of such areas, blocked that request and has continued to do so. The Township Committee has also been unwilling to help push for a reopening or even urge the county to reexamine the case.”

According to Strupp, both he and Cynthia Farino have filed Open Public Record Act requisitions with police and county investigators for the files on Carol’s murder, but were denied. 

“I find that unfair since Cynthia is the lone surviving relative and should be able to get access even if I cannot. We have consulted an attorney about legal action,” Strupp said, adding that his message for the ECPO and MPD is simple: “Allow access to this cold case that appears to have been ignored for more than 50 years. The public and especially the victim’s only surviving relative have a right to see what has been done, or more likely not been done, on the case and how they apparently mishandled it.”

Since publishing “A Long Walk Home” in 2021, Strupp has maintained a relationship with Cynthia Farino as they continue their quest for closure on this case. In addition to the book, Strupp has released additional information on a podcast and is still seeking information. This latest effort to raise the funds for a memorial bench for Carol is both a means of raising public awareness of this unsolved crime and a way to celebrate the life of the Maplewood teenager. 

“The response to the memorial fund has been wonderful,” Strupp said, adding that Cynthia Farino “is adamant that we not stop seeking for the case to be reopened and all efforts be made to solve it and keep Carol’s memory alive.”

Photos of Carol Ann Farino were provided by Joe Strupp. The photo of Joe Strupp was taken by Joy Yagid.