WOONSOCKET — The cop who coaxed a confession from serial killer Jeff Mailhot in 2004 has just added another notch on his belt — a seat at the next installment of the FBI National Academy.
Beginning Oct. 3, Detective Capt. Edward J. Lee Jr. will live at the prestigious academy in Quantico, Va., for about ten weeks while taking advanced courses in violent crime, computer forensics and others.
And, oh yeah, Mailhot's going with him, too – or at least his case file.
“Everyone who is enrolled in the academy is asked to bring a case file to share with the other students,” says the commander of the police department's detective division. “I'll be putting together a presentation on Mailhot.”
The 247th installment of the FBI National Academy will include about 250 police officers from around the world. Snagging a spot in the academy is an honor that requires the recommendation of the area section chief of the FBI and is achieved by only about 1 percent of all municipal law enforcement personnel.
Lee said Police Chief Tom Carey, who went to the FBI Academy during his tenure at the St. Petersburg, Fla., police department, also recommended him for the school.
“It'll be tough being away from my family, but it's exciting,” said Lee. “It's the best training in the world for police officers in management positions and I hope to get as much out of it as possible and bring it back to the department.”
Lee, 43, is actually one of two police officers who interrogated Mailhot following the disappearance of three prostitutes in the city. The police didn't have much on Mailhot at the time except a fourth woman who told police she escaped from Mailhot while he was trying to strangle her in his Cato Hill apartment.
Under questioning by Lee and now-retired Detective Lt. Steve Nowak, Mailhot refused to budge, insisting he had nothing to do with missing prostitutes. It went on like that for hours as the detectives continued to coax, prod and cajole, sensing Mailhot was about to break.
Finally, the mild-mannered factory worker with a spotless record of past run-ins with the law fessed up to murdering and dismembering all of the missing women – the most gruesome crime spree in the city's history.
Mailhot later pled guilty and is serving a double-life sentence at the ACI, and then some. Thirty-five years old when he was captured, he'll be eligible for parole when he's about 73.
It shouldn't be much of a problem putting together a presentation on the investigation for his peers at Quantico: Lee actually co-authored a true-crime book for general publication about Mailhot after the killer went to jail. It was called “Ripper” – as in Jack the Ripper.
A 23-year-veteran of the police force, Lee lives in Bellingham, Mass., with his two boys, Wyatt and Tatum, and his wife, Cheri. Law enforcement is a tradition in his family – his father, Edward Lee Sr., is the former police chief of Blackstone, Mass., the youngest person ever to attain that position.
He is the third Woonsocket police veteran to be chosen for a spot at the academy in recent years. Previously, former Capt. Gary Chamberland and former Detective Commander William Mack were academy alumni.
Both went on to become police chiefs in other communities – Chamberland in Sterling, Mass., and Mack in Scituate.