As I was trying to decide between Motrin and something stronger, I recalled my strange encounter with Mansfield, Ohio physician-turned-murderer, Dr. John Boyle.
My back was killing me on the flight home from Boca, just like it was during the winter of ’89 when I met the esteemed doctor. I was moving from my tiny apartment in Lexington to my boyfriend’s duplex when I lifted something heavy and felt my back give way. Days turned to weeks and it never really got better.
One blustery morning with pain and tingling I could no longer bear, I recalled the osteopathic physician who was known for successfully treating back problems. We were lucky to get an appointment the very same day, especially since it was Friday.
Seated in the waiting room, other patients began to arrive, most of them in much worse shape than me. A lady being pushed in a wheelchair breathing oxygen from a tank was told that Dr. Boyle had to leave unexpectedly, and she would need to reschedule. Another patient, a man too pale and too thin to be turned away, said he needed a refill for his medication. The receptionist dismissed him, too, and said he should come back Monday.
As I got up to ask the receptionist if I should reschedule, John Boyle opened the door to a short hallway and asked me to come right in. Dressed in khaki pants and dock shoes with a touch of gray hair, he wore a Catawba Island Club sweatshirt bearing the prestigious insignia. His reputation for being handsome was fitting.
My boyfriend, Sam, still seated in his chair as I got up to go in, was fuming. He, too, was handsome and charming, and overprotective where I was concerned. I could tell by the look on his face that he did not approve of John Boyle and was puzzled by any doctor who would turn away one sick person after another and still have time to spend with me. His attire suggested he was heading north to the private Lake Erie yacht club for the weekend, leaving little time to care for his patients.
He was flirtatious and charming, no wonder people adored him. As I expected, he was an expert at diagnosing and treating back problems, and wrote me prescriptions for muscle relaxants, X-rays, and a round of physical therapy. He was more talkative than most doctors, not being in a hurry to see the next patient since there wasn’t one. He spent nearly an hour, mostly just chatting. I know this because Sam was still in the waiting room logging every minute.
Leaving the office, I held my ground. “He was very professional. You can’t fault a man for taking his work seriously.” But Sam said, ”Something is wrong with this picture, he spent too much time with you. I have a bad feeling about Dr. John Boyle and we’re not coming back.” We filled the script, end of discussion. Sam always was a good judge of character.
Comfortable enough to travel a few days after my appointment, I took a muscle relaxant as we headed up I-71 toward Pittsburgh to visit Sam’s dad. It was a clear day in January, and I looked forward to the ride. We were nearing the Ohio/PA line when the radio announcer interrupted the programming with a breaking story. A Mansfield physician was just taken into custody for the alleged murder of his wife.
Noreen Boyle had recently filed for divorce. She was found buried in the concrete basement floor of an Erie, Pennsylvania home, the one Boyle was building to share with his pregnant, much younger girlfriend. Receipts for all the grizzly supplies necessary for carrying out the murder– a rented jackhammer, concrete mix, and two pieces of green indoor-outdoor carpeting that lay over the burial site, all showed transactions with local Mansfield vendors.
Sam had too much class to say, “I told you so.” I knew he was just as shaken as I was to hear these accusations against the man I had been alone with just a few days before.
The drama played out on local TV and is still, to this day, called the trial of the century. The lead witness was Boyle’s 12-year-old son, Collier, who testified about a series of bumps and a thud he heard in the night. It was New Years Eve the night be bludgeoned Noreen to death. When their mom wasn’t at breakfast the next morning, he told Collier and his adopted little sister that she went on vacation. It was well known that the doting mom would have never left her kids.
Opting for the stronger of the two pills, I readjusted the flight attendant’s makeshift ice pack and starred at the glow of my laptop, strangely drawn to revisit the details and newspaper accounts that followed. Strange memories, even for me…
Serving a life sentence for murder and abuse of a corpse, Boyle had been incarcerated 20 years when his parole was denied in 2010. Collier and Elizabeth were adopted shortly after the murder, presumably by relatives. Now 34, Collier is living in California and recently visited his father in prison. For the first time, John Boyle confessed to the crime.
Almost home on our ride from the airport, we followed the winding road down the shoreline and past the CIC where John and Noreen were members, just around the bend from our house. Happier times, indeed.
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Interested in all the details? You can read newspaper accounts and legal documents here.
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