Joan Lucinda Webster
25 Years Old

August 19, 1956 to probably November 28, 1981

Joan Webster, of Glen Ridge, New Jersey, was the third child in her family, having an older brother and sister. As a youngster, she tried hard to keep up with them, but as she progressed through high school, she developed her own special interests with strong artistic talents. She was friendly, loving children (was a good baby-sitter) and adored a nearby girls' camp, both as a camper and counselor. Joan graduated from high school with high honors and knew exactly where she want to go to college - Syracuse University to major in interior design. She loved poetry, music, art and Broadway shows, and became "Joni" to all of her friends because she loved Joni Mitchell's music.

Her friendliness led her to pledge Kappa Alpha Theta sorority, to which she was very loyal. During college and high school, if she made one batch of butterscotch brownies (see POMC cookbook) for fundraisers, she must have made a hundred. She worked hard in her major, and in tribute to her, the department chairman said, "Joan is one of the finest and must sensitive students that we have ever had in this department and I was particularly proud when she elected to go on to Harvard."

For two summers she was a mother's helper for a wealthy Southampton family who had one little girl whom Joan adored. They had a Chinese cook who, Joan discovered, didn't know where he was geographically in the U.S., so Joan found a map to orient him, a gesture of her sensitivity to people.

She had good summer jobs with an interior design firm in New York City. While interviewing for jobs after college, she was thrilled to talk with I.M. Pei, who said that he hadn't acknowledged her resumé because he'd been "in China for some time." Joan ended up at Skidmore, Owings & Merrill with some great successes, one designing the Kuwait Embassy in Washington, which her parents were honored to visit after her death.

Joan was an exciting person. When she entered a room, she lit it up. She was loving and sympathetic. New York City stimulated her, and after one year of commuting from her parents' home in New Jersey, she got an apartment with her best high school friend and another girl in the "Big Apple." She joined the Junior League and especially admired in her provisional class the young woman who had founded the Ronald McDonald house in New York City. She attended as many Broadway shows as possible, getting "twofers" on her lunch hour. Her parents joined her to see art exhibits such as the great Picasso show. Her parents learned a lot about the gratifying field of architecture, and Joan was infectious in her enthusiasm for the greats whom she sought out and met at lectures.

After a couple of years in New York, Joan decided that she should get her masters in architecture so she could really "get somewhere" in the field. To qualify, she had to take some night courses, with physics almost being her nemesis. How did she ever pass that final exam? Nevertheless, Harvard accepted her and Joan embarked in September 1980 on a challenging graduate course.

She had lots of boyfriends, some of whom her parents still see. Joan was talented, charming and bright and is terribly missed by her family and friends.


Joan Webster, 25, of Glen Ridge, New Jersey, flew from the Newark, New Jersey airport to Boston after a happy family Thanksgiving weekend. She was a second year architecture student at Harvard University Graduate School of Design. She was last seen at the baggage carrousel at Logan airport in Boston. Three days later, she was listed as missing and evidence of foul play began falling into place; her purse and wallet were found in a marsh at Saugus, Massachusetts, and her suitcase turned up in a Boston bus station locker.

In February 1983, through the combined effort of Assistant District Attorney Timothy Burke of Suffolk County (Boston) and the report of a prison inmate's bragging, it was learned that Joan had been raped and hit over the head. ADA Burke subsequently prosecuted Joan's assailant (who was out on parole for an earlier attempted rape) for another murder. The defendant was convicted and sentenced to life in prison with no opportunity for parole for 33 years. Additional attempted rape and bankruptcy fraud trials added consecutive years to the sentence.

Joan's body was found in April 1990 in a shallow grave in a wooded area in Hamilton, Massachusetts. Her skull showed trauma with a blunt instrument. Her case has never been prosecuted because of scanty (and hostile) witness information and a belief by her family and law enforcement officials that her murderer is already serving a long sentence for other crimes.

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Joan Webster