Investigators link dead Mass. man to site where body of 10-year-old Holly Piirainen was found

David Pouliot (left), Holly Piirainen (right).
CBS Boston

(CBS) BOSTON, Mass. - Investigators announced a "significant" new lead at a press conference Tuesday in the unsolved 1993 kidnapping and murder of 10-year-old Holly Piirainen.

Western Massachusetts authorities say recent forensic tests link evidence found near the body of the victim to a deceased Springfield man.

CBS Boston reports the evidence was able to definitively link David Pouliot to the area around the time of Piirainen's disappearance.

The Hampden County District Attorney said they are looking for more information on Pouliot, who died in 2003, at age 49.

District Attorney Mark Mastroianni said the new evidence was "a turning point in the investigation," but stressed that Pouliot was not considered a suspect at this time, saying "there is not enough information to designate him as a suspect."

Law enforcement officials say they have been able to confirm Pouliot hunted and fished in the area, and suggested the possibility that he was not alone there.

"The nature of the item suggests that either Mr. Pouliot or people associated with him were in this immediate area at a time relevant to Holly's disappearance and the finding of her remains," Mastroianni said.

Authorities are asking anyone who may have known Pouliot and can provide information about him to contact law enforcement officials. Mastroianni said they are considering it very relevant to the investigation, and that the case remains "an ongoing investigation."

The Boston Globe reports this is the first time in over a decade that the police have announced a lead in the case.

"We hope the new evidence may spark someone's memory, or someone's conscience,'' said David Procopio, spokesman for the Massachusetts State Police. "Holly's family has waited for justice for almost two decades.''

The victim's family is hopeful, but wary. "I'm cautiously optimistic and I'm waiting for further results," Holly's grandmother Maureen Lemieux said.

In the past, there have been people of interest in the case, Lemieux said. She described the last 18 years as an emotional roller coaster.

The body of Holly Piirainen was found in Brimfield on Oct. 23, 1993, nearly two months after she was reported missing.

Piirainen was last seen in August 1993 near her grandparents' summer cottage, as she and her brother went to see a litter of puppies down the street. Only her brother returned.