On the last day of her life, Deanna Cremin was given a class assignment. Part of it asked her to list her five most important goals.
They were what all of our goals were at one point: graduate high school, find a successful job, have a happy family, live a long time and – like any teenager – buy a convertible.
But the next day, on March 30, 1995, Deanna was found dead in the back of a senior housing complex in Somerville, just one block from her home. She had been strangled and was found nearly naked and lying face up. Deanna was just 17 years old.
Eighteen years later, her murder is still unsolved. Deanna’s mom, Kathy Cremin, said time has not healed all of her wounds.
"Eighteen years later, I still feel like I just lost her," Kathy said. "I die a little bit every time when I go down and think about how she died. What were her last moments like? Did she know her killer? Was there more than one? Did she scream, 'Dad …Mom?' Who could do that and walk away? She did nothing wrong."
Kathy Cremin, along with other family, friends and supporters will gather Saturday in Somerville to mark the anniversary of Deanna’s death. They’ll hold a mass, followed by a march down the same street where Deanna was last seen alive. High school friend and event organizer Jesse Clingan said it has been difficult for family and friends to get together every year.
"You know, it takes a toll on everybody and, you know, it’s not something you wanna have to do – to get in front of the media, to talk to people, to organize these events," he said. "It’s very difficult, but it’s also very difficult not to do anything."
The week is made even more difficult by the fact that Deanna’s birthday was also this week – just days before the anniversary of her death.
Clingan recalls learning about Deanna’s killing before heading to school. It was then, he says, that he was faced with a dilemma.
"I didn’t know how to process it when I realized, steps away from my class, that one of her best friends was in my class," Clingan said. "And, um, I couldn’t just sit there next to her and not say anything. I didn’t know where were any teachers. I didn’t know what to do, so I just came out with it."
That friend was Elizabeth Lyda.
"Jesse Clingan was actually the one that first told me about what happened," Lyda said. I was in class. He had asked me to come out of class and I was like, 'All right.' So I came out of class and he’s like, 'Did you hear what happened this morning?' I said, 'No, what happened this morning?' And he’s like, 'Deanna Cremin was murdered.' And I absolutely lost it."
"I just remember her screaming and running down the hall and out of school," Clingan said. "And I was so afraid for her. I didn’t know where she was going."
"I was angry with everyone," Lyda said. "I was angry with God. I was angry – I was just angry. I ended up falling into addiction – and I’m not saying it was because of her death, but it definitely contributed because I was so young that I didn’t know how to handle losing somebody so close."
That loss took an even heavier toll on Kathy Cremin.
She also found herself falling victim to addiction in the wake of her daughter’s death. She described the year following Deanna’s murder as a blur.
"I was a destroyed woman," Kathy said. "I was crumbled, and my grief got the best of me. Today, I let anger work for me, justice work for me. My friends, my family backing me, also being the voice for Deanna."
A $20,000 reward is being offered for information leading to Deanna’s killer. Three men – including Deanna’s boyfriend – were initially listed as persons of interest, but never charged.
The case is one of more than 134 unsolved homicides still being investigated by the Middlesex County District Attorney's Office. According to their office, most of the open cases happened before the rise in DNA testing in the late 1990s.
In a statement, Middlesex District Attorney Gerry Leone said his office remains "confident that these new forensic tools will have an important impact in helping us solve [Deanna's murder]."
"Is there somebody being quiet?," Cremin asked. "Does somebody know something and is not saying anything because they think maybe it’s not enough? Are they not saying anything because they’re afraid of repercussions? Why isn’t anybody talking? Why don’t we know what happened to Deanna in the last moments of her life?"
The last time Elizabeth Lyda saw Deanna alive, she said Deanna asked her something out of the ordinary.
"I was on my way home and she’s like, 'You know I love you,'" Lyda said. "And I was like, 'I love you too.' And she was asking me all these questions and she was like, 'What would you do if I died?' I was like, 'Oh, I’d go crazy.' And I asked her the same question and of course said the same thing."
Lyda says it’s a moment that still baffles her to this day.
"Every time I think about Deanna, I think back to that conversation," she said. "I definitely do, because it wasn’t – that was uncommon. That’s just not something that you ask. I mean, why would a 17-year-old girl ask that?"
"We support her family because they’ve had to go through a lot too," Lyda said. "I mean, they have to go through every single year at this time. You know, having everything come up again and having to go through it all over again. It’s not fair to them that they don’t have closure."
Lyda said the lack of leads isn’t fair to Deanna’s family and makes it harder for them to obtain closure. But closure isn’t something Kathy Cremin said she expects to ever have.
"I’m 18 years into this," Kathy said. "I’ll never be okay. There will never be closure. There isn’t when you lose somebody. There’s no such thing. Closure is, you know, when your house got robbed and you get them. But when someone dies, there’s no closure."