Myr­tle Beach wait­ress was found dead in ditch 40 years ago. Same ques­tions linger

The Sun News (Sunday) - - Front Page - BY ALEX LANG [email protected]­sun­news.com

It has been 40 years since Linda Mazetis last was in Myr­tle Beach, a place to which she promised never to re­turn. Her sis­ter was mur­dered here.

Linda sat in the front seat and her other sis­ter Donna sat in the back seat on their way to visit the area where a mur­derer left Nancy Mazetis beaten and shot.

Linda’s eyes strained on a print­out of The Sun News from June 27, 1978. Tears filled her eyes as she read each para­graph.

“I hadn’t read that be­fore,” said Linda, the most emo­tional of the three sis­ters, holding a Kleenex to her eye. It was the first time Linda read the ini­tial news re­port about how Nancy was bat­tered and how a stranger found her in a ditch. “Just how much suf­fer­ing she went through.”

She quickly passed the ar­ti­cle back to Donna. Half to get it out of her sight, half so Donna could read the ac­count.

Min­utes later the sis­ters were stand­ing where, 40 years be­fore, Nancy died. They were about a half-mile south of the U.S. 501 bridge near the In­tra­coastal Wa­ter­way. The lo­ca­tion is just a best guess based on de­scrip­tions and pho­tographs of Fan­tasy Har­bour in 1978.

The sis­ters talked about Nancy’s per­son­al­ity, grow­ing up in Mas­sachusetts, why she was 5 miles from her usual spots, their fam­ily, and what the past 40 years have been like without an­swers.

It was then that Donna, who keeps an emo­tional dis­tance from most, started to cry as she thought about the story and Nancy’s fi­nal mo­ments.

“It’s the first time I re­ally know how much pain and how much hurt she was go­ing through.”

Linda’s tears parted for just a mo­ment as the re­al­iza­tion of Nancy’s last sec­onds took hold.

“I’m an­gry be­cause I read the story,” Linda grum­bled, livid over the ter­ror Nancy cer­tainly felt. “It had to be some­one who she knew.”

‘IF SHE CAME HOME’

The Mazetis fam­ily is half Lithua­nian and half Ital­ian — with some Bos­ton cul­ture, and ar­eas where they grew up, mixed in for good mea­sure.

Out­wardly, Nancy was all Lithua­nian. She stood 5-foot-4, weighed 120 pounds, with dirty blonde hair cut to a per­fect late-1970s shoul­der length. She had green doe eyes that led to the nick­name “Bambi.”

There was still plenty of Ital-

ian. There is a picture of Nancy with her fin­gers pointed to­gether, her right hand raised giv­ing the pho­tog­ra­pher hell and telling him to “fuhged­daboutit” at the same time.

All arms and legs, Nancy also was ath­letic and strong. Eas­ily able to do a pullup un­like Linda.

Nancy was the mid­dle sis­ter of the Mazetis clan.

Linda is the youngest and self-pro­fessed ugly baby. She also was clos­est with Nancy. Linda is taller than her sis­ters and main­tains some of the Bos­ton ac­cent de­spite leav­ing the area as a young adult.

Whether it was 1978 or 2018, Linda’s curly black hair is one of her most dis­tin­guish­able fea­tures as it grows out­wards, not down.

Her height led to her nick­name, and she and Nancy were known as Big­foot and Bambi in their year on the Grand Strand.

Donna is the old­est and likes to serve as mother hen. She is shorter and has a keep-ev­ery­body-atarms-length de­fense. In 1978, she was a bit es­tranged from her sis­ters.

There was a hint of jeal­ousy be­tween Donna and Nancy. Nancy stole her clothes and shoes and stretched them out, Donna laments. There also was the time Nancy won a writ­ing con­test de­spite not fol­low­ing the reg­u­la­tions. The prize? A bas­set-hound named “Davitt.”

Nancy was the artis­tic one of the three, which led her mind to work dif­fer­ently than most people, as Linda put it.

“She could look at a picture and du­pli­cate it,” Donna bragged. “If she heard the har­mony of a song, she could sing it five min­utes later.”

Mu­sic sta­tions were of­ten set to some off­beat or al­ter­na­tive while in the Bos­ton area. The FM dial reg­u­larly set to WBCN and Linda couldn’t re­mem­ber the AM fa­vorite.

The fam­ily also grew up lis­ten­ing to mu­si­cals, “we used to sing all the time when we were younger,” Linda re­called.

Nancy dropped out of high school in the 10th grade, Linda said, and she thought her sis­ter never fin­ished her ed­u­ca­tion. De­spite her tal­ents, Linda felt her sis­ter had an at­ten­tion-deficit dis­or­der, which no­body di­ag­nosed in the 1970s.

Af­ter drop­ping out, Nancy worked odd jobs and left for Alaska.

As the sis­ters reached their late teens and early 20s, Linda fled the harsh North­east win­ters. Donna re­mained in Mas­sachusetts. Linda first moved to Myr­tle Beach and worked at a two-bit ho­tel in ex­change for rent.

Nancy soon fol­lowed her sis­ter to the Grand Strand. For the pair, Myr­tle Beach morn­ings con­sisted of break­fast at a North Kings High­way KMart and then time at the beach. Af­ter­noons were wait­ing on golfers at the Sea Mist, which at that time was a Doo Wop ho­tel fea­tur­ing a cou­ple of build­ings and a restau­rant near a sprawl­ing beach. Today, it’s a block-long entertainment com­plex in the heart of Myr­tle Beach.

Nights were spent play­ing bil­liards and pin­ball at My Brother’s Tav­ern or other dive bars. The sis­ters lived in an apart­ment along 21st Avenue South, within walk­ing dis­tance of ev­ery­thing in that life.

It was the late 1970s, so hang­ing out and liv­ing care-free was part of the picture. Linda fol­lowed a boy to Louisiana. Nancy stayed be­hind, but talked about re­turn­ing to Mas­sachusetts. Donna dis­cour­aged that idea.

Two weeks later, Nancy was bru­tally mur­dered.

“Af­ter that, I felt guilty for years,” Donna ad­mit­ted. “If she came home, maybe she wouldn’t have been mur­dered.”

‘A LOT OF DE­NIAL’

Some­one knows who killed Nancy Mazetis, but they aren’t talk­ing.

A 67-year-old me­chan­i­cal worker found Nancy on June 26, 1978, around 9:30 a.m. in a dragline ditch. The dragline cre­ated by a large, red ex­ca­va­tor that was present in pictures of the crime scene. Short weeds grew from the sand in the area where Nancy’s body was found. Trees lined the area closer to the In­tra­coastal Wa­ter­way.

Nancy was beaten and shot in the neck.

The next morn­ing Horry County po­lice of­fi­cers, wear­ing white shirts and dark slacks, pro­cessed the scene.

Linda said of­fi­cers stated they found ev­i­dence un­der Nancy’s fin­ger­nails, which led to a be­lief she fought off her at­tacker. There also were bare­foot prints and tire tracks at the scene. Nancy had a $20 bill in her pocket — which Linda was once given, but no longer has — mak­ing it un­likely that it was a rob­bery-gone-wrong.

The sis­ters say Nancy had to know her killer given the ev­i­dence and her back­ground. Nancy had a bad ex­pe­ri­ence as a hitch­hiker years be­fore so she wouldn’t have got­ten into a stranger’s car.

There only are guesses as to how Nancy ended up in that ditch, which is why in 2018 Nancy’s mur­der re­mains un­solved and one of Horry County’s old­est cold cases.

Iden­ti­fy­ing Nancy based on re­mains was an ar­du­ous task in 1978. Po­lice pro­vided her phys­i­cal de­scrip­tion to the news. They also took to down­town streets and placed pho­tos ask­ing for help iden­ti­fy­ing the vic­tim.

Diane Be­vis was a close friend to both Linda and Nancy. She spent her Myr­tle Beach, early-adult days sell­ing jew­elry near the Bow­ery and free time with the sis­ters. She re­mem­bered the posters didn’t have Nancy’s face, only a picture of her hand with a sil­ver ring with Mala­chite stone.

An­other friend, Gene, rec­og­nized the ring and told po­lice it was Nancy, Diane re­called.

No­body knew where she was liv­ing be­fore the mur­der — pos­si­bly a small room some­where. Friends guessed at the mur­derer’s iden­tity.

“I don’t know if we ever got more in­for­ma­tion from po­lice. I didn’t. Maybe Linda’s fam­ily did,” Diane said.

Linda re­mem­bered the call when a friend said Nancy was dead. The caller said, “Diane said, your sis­ter Nancy, is dead.” Linda didn’t hear it cor­rectly and said Diane was a friend, not her sis­ter.

“It took me prob­a­bly sev­eral times be­fore it re­ally registered that it was my sis­ter who died,” Linda said. When it fi­nally did, “Sad? No. I’m ab­so­lutely mor­ti­fied. How else do you feel? A lot of de­nial. Then I don’t know. I must have called my mom.”

Two weeks later, Horry po­lice paid for Linda to fly from Bos­ton, where she was for Nancy’s fu­neral, to Myr­tle Beach to talk about the killing. In­ves­ti­ga­tors kept try­ing to show Linda pictures of Nancy’s mur­dered corpse.

“Look at this one, this one is not so bad,” Linda re­mem­bered po­lice telling her. “No I don’t want to see it, I don’t want to be … I don’t know how at 19 I had the balls to say no I’m not go­ing to look at this.”

She didn’t want those images to be the last mem­o­ries of Nancy.

Po­lice also pushed a the­ory that an es­caped con­vict com­mit­ted the crime, Nancy re­mem­bered. She said she tried to give of­fi­cers in­for­ma­tion, but they weren’t lis­ten­ing.

“I wasn’t any help to them at all be­cause what­ever I said to them they re­ally didn’t take stock in.”

“What­ever I told them, my gut feel­ings … I still be­lieved it was some­one she knew,” Linda said. “She was prob­a­bly go­ing to get high with them. And I think he prob­a­bly made a sex­ual ad­vance and she didn’t like it and I think things es­ca­lated and I still think it was to this day some­one we both knew.”

Re­porter John Monk, who now works at The State news­pa­per in Columbia, worked in Myr­tle Beach in 1978. He didn’t re­mem­ber much of the case, but says there wasn’t pub­lic pres­sure to solve it.

“I never re­ally … I mean I’ve won­dered,” Linda said of who killed her sis­ter, “and when they asked me to come down, I wanted to help. Yes, I wanted to find out who did it. I thought I knew at the time.”

Now, 40 years later, Linda seems re­signed to fate and know­ing it’s im­pos­si­ble to change the in­ves­ti­ga­tion long ago.

“What do you do?”

‘WE’RE STILL COM­ING’

The sis­ters lost their grand­mother and then their fa­ther in the years just be­fore Nancy’s killing. It was Bambi’s death that changed Linda.

“That one cat­a­pulted me at 19 (to think), ‘Hey you know this may be the last time I talk to you, I want to be nice,’ ” Linda ex­plained.

The fam­ily won­dered who killed Nancy, yet it never mor­phed into anger as the case re­mained un­solved.

Nancy’s case weighed on the sis­ter’s mom, An­gela, who was dev­as­tated over bury­ing a child.

Nancy died in the age of disco and Star Wars, not so­cial me­dia. No­body in the com­mu­nity made it their project to keep the case alive through Face­book posts. No in­ves­tiga­tive tele­vi­sion shows. There were no true-crime pod­casts.

Amer­ica’s Most Wanted called An­gela in the 1990s to fea­ture the case, but she didn’t know the pro­gram and de­clined. She later ad­mit­ted she wished she par­tic­i­pated. An­gela died in 2015.

While Nancy’s killing is cold, po­lice plan to take a fresh look at the case.

Horry County Po­lice De­tec­tive Jack John­son de­clined to talk specifics about the Mazetis case. Re­cently, a Sa­muel Lit­tle, 79, ad­mit­ted to dozens of mur­ders span­ning decades across the coun­try. He was con­nected to a 1978 mur­der in the Columbia area, The State re­ported. Horry of­fi­cials say they are look­ing to see if Lit­tle is con­nected to any of their cases, but can’t yet say if he is a sus­pect in any spe­cific crime.

John­son leads a group of 12 vol­un­teers — mostly re­tired cops from other ar­eas — that re­views cold cases in Horry County. There is no spe­cific def­i­ni­tion or wait time be­fore a case be­comes cold, John­son said. Typ­i­cally cases should be re­viewed ev­ery eight to 12 years be­cause tech­nol­ogy and re­la­tion­ships change.

For ex­am­ple, in the 1980s no­body knew about DNA and it be­ing used to solve crimes. People also might have been hes­i­tant

to talk when the crime oc­curred, but it has weighed on their con­science for decades.

The ev­i­dence in each cold case is re­viewed and scored not only solv­abil­ity, but the chance to get a con­vic­tion, John­son said. Many of the times they can see the lead in­ves­ti­ga­tors had, but they didn’t pan out for what­ever rea­son.

Re­view­ing decades-old cases is an ef­fort to give the vic­tim’s fam­ily some an­swers.

“If you think you’re get­ting away with it,” John­son said, “we’re still com­ing af­ter you.”

‘STILL BE MY FRIEND’

Linda first pro­posed re­turn­ing to Myr­tle Beach for the first time in 40 years. She never ex­plained why she vol­un­teered to visit. For Donna the rea­son was ap­par­ent, the self-dubbed “bull­dog” wanted an­swers from Horry County po­lice.

She was un­happy with the one para­graph and two crime scene pho­tographs HCPD pro­vided as a re­sult of a Free­dom of In­for­ma­tion Act Re­quest The Sun News filed to re­search this story.

The sis­ters wanted to see the hand­writ­ten notes, the pho­tographs, the leads, the ev­i­dence from 1978. As part of their trip, they had a morn­ing meet­ing with some of­fi­cials from the de­part­ment — in­clud­ing Det. John­son.

The Sun News wasn’t al­lowed in the meet­ing, but the sis­ters did learn a bit more in­for­ma­tion about the in­ves­ti­ga­tion and the cur­rent sta­tus. They said that case file might have been de­stroyed in Hur­ri­cane Hugo flood­ing of the old stor­age area — a jail cell in the base­ment of the old court­house.

Some­one also looked into the case at the start of the 21st cen­tury, but no in­for­ma­tion about who or why.

Po­lice in­ter­viewed a sus­pect in the 1970s and, ob­vi­ously, no ar­rest fol­lowed. That sus­pect’s where­abouts are not eas­ily tracked down 40 years later.

Af­ter 48 hours in Myr­tle Beach, the sis­ters left no closer to know­ing who killed Nancy. But, they seemed OK af­ter meet­ing with po­lice and some of the in­for­ma­tion learned. Though they still don’t know why some­one looked at the case file in 2001.

If life took a dif­fer­ent turn, Linda be­lieves she and Nancy would have re­mained close. For Nancy, who knows where her path would have led? Maybe she’d be a long time Grand Strand res­i­dent. Maybe she’d move away again.

Linda be­lieves they would still be close and play­ing pool in the base­ment of her subur­ban-At­lanta home, just like at My Brother’s Tav­ern.

“I know she’d still be my friend,” Linda con­fi­dently de­clared.

Af­ter Nancy’s death, Linda had con­stant thoughts about her. Those mem­o­ries dis­si­pated over time, un­til this story brought them back.

Donna re­ported that Linda would fre­quently re­treat to her base­ment and cry af­ter talk­ing with The Sun News. That’s who she was and how she deals with the mem­o­ries. Linda turned on a Bon­nie Raitt al­bum — who the sis­ters had a life-size cutout of in their Myr­tle Beach apart­ment — and pro­cessed.

Bon­nie Raitt is one of sev­eral trig­gers that causes mem­o­ries of Bambi to flood her mind.

“When they hit, they hit just as hard,” Linda says, “It doesn’t get any eas­ier. When it hits, it’s still a tidal wave. It’s not just a lit­tle. It still hurts.”

Pro­vided by the Mazetis fam­ily

Linda, left, and Nancy, right, Mazetis worked as wait­resses at the Sea Mist ho­tel. Nancy was mur­dered in Horry County more than 40 years ago and no­body has been charged in the case.

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