By Susan Morse

The Hampton Union – Herald Sunday, Sunday, November 17, 2002

Retired Lt. William Lally finally has time to sit
back and relax outside his Hampton home.
[Staff photo by Jackie Ricciardi]

HAMPTON – Hampton Police Department veteran William Lally got his first taste of police work at cop boot camp in June 1974.

Cop boot camp is Lally’s name for the patrol of Hampton Beach during the 12 weeks of summer. Those who work the beach as special officers handle every kind of case there is, Lally says, from domestic violence, to rape, to dealing with drunks.

After 12 weeks, he says, those who still want to be a cop should go ahead and sign up.

Lally did sign up and, after 28 years of service to the town, retired with the rank of lieutenant on Oct. 31. He spent 14 of those years as a detective, a job he loved.

“Someone commits a felony and is put in jail …,” he says, “it’s great, nothing like it.”

Weird connections

A lot of crime has this weird Hampton connection, Lally says: the Pam Smart case; the baby found behind the cottage at Hampton Beach this summer; and John Salvi, the man who murdered three people at an abortion clinic in Brookline, Mass., on Dec. 30, 1994.

Lally has a mind for dates, something that comes in handy when you’re testifying in court. In this case, he remembered the incident happened the “day before the Red Sox got Jose Canseco in trade.”

Lally heard about the murders on the news and said to his wife, “Watch, that case will have a Hampton connection.”

When he went in to work, Lally opened the door to the detective’s office to find a huge meeting in progress.

“What happened, did Canseco fail the physical?” he asked.

It didn’t even get a laugh.

Salvi lived in Hampton.

“You just had this feeling,” Lally says.

Weird humor also comes with the job.

Being a cop, “does change your view,” Lally says. “You gotta leave it down there.”

Laughing helps relieve the tension.

“You see guys in worse situations,” Lally says, “and someone will crack a joke, something to break the tension.”

One night, some juveniles had a laugh at the police department’s expense.

On Halloween, about 15 years ago, Lally got a call in the middle of the night from Detective Sgt. Skip Bateman. There was a dead body in a phone booth in front of the Hampton town office.

Lally drove up to the scene and saw a group of officers; some were laughing.

Two juveniles had stolen the body of a Civil War soldier from a crypt in Greenland and propped him up in the phone booth. The soldier, named Marsh, still had skin and hair and was wearing his uniform.

The Greenland police found the two kids who were responsible. They were charged with abuse of a corpse, Lally recalls.

The police department started getting calls from the national media – the National Enquirer and a radio station from California.

The Enquirer gave the soldier the nickname of “Johnny Reb,” even though Marsh had been on the Union side. It wrote in its headline, Lally says, “People find Johnny Reb waiting for a phone call.”

Bateman then called the guy Johnny Reb to a local reporter.

People were outraged and sent letters to the newspapers.

“He kind of got in trouble for that,” Lally says.

Most bothersome case

“The case I remember the most still bothers me,” Lally says.

The Hampton police got a call of an attempted murder and rape. A young woman, a nurse from Lawrence (Mass.) General Hospital, was driving home when a black male in a pick-up truck forced her off the road in Tewksbury, Mass., on May 20, 1988.

The guy had driven her around from midnight to 4:30 a.m., raping her at various stops, Lally says.

Lally got the call at home at 5 a.m. The victim was at Exeter Hospital.

The man had driven up Interstate 95, gotten off at the Hampton tolls and stopped by the side of the road. He stabbed the woman in her abdomen and chest repeatedly, and left her in an embankment to die.

The woman heard him leave and crawled up the embankment. A young guy in his 20s leaving work was driving back to Exeter when he saw what he thought was a wounded animal on the side of the road.

Hampton put out a bulletin to other police departments. Tewksbury told them they had found a car running on River Road with a purse inside. This matched the story the police had gotten from the victim at Exeter Hospital.

“The case never, never had a lead on it, Lally says, “bits and pieces here and there. That still bothers me, that guy never got caught.”

Years later, someone watching the Maury Povitch show saw that a black male in Colorado had been arrested for crimes against three women. The crimes sounded similar to the Hampton case. The man had connections in Massachusetts.

“We thought, ‘So similar, we got him,'” Lally says.

The police did a background check and found there was no way the Colorado man could be the same suspect. The man had been working in Florida in 1988 when the crime happened.

“After 10 days it died down because the town had its first homicide in 40 years,” Lally says.

Working homicide

The case involved police officer Robert McLaughlin Sr., a patrolman who had one more year to go before retirement, and his neighbor Robert Cushing Sr., a well-known figure in town.

The murder occurred on June 1, 1988, Lally says, without hesitation. On that day, McLaughlin, who was off-duty, went to Cushing’s house. Cushing answered the door and McLaughlin fired two fatal shotgun blasts.

No one saw what happened or who did it, Lally says. There was no evidence at the scene.

“(At) ninety-nine percent of crime scenes there’s evidence,” he says.

Police had nothing to go on. There seemed to be no motive.

“Most of the particulars are still unknown,” Lally says. There apparently had been bad blood for years.

McLaughlin was “never suspected,” Lally says, “no reason to. And the guy’s working with us everyday.”

Finally, McLaughlin confessed to a family member who lived in Seabrook. The relative told the Seabrook Police Department.

McLaughlin confessed to the police on Aug. 26, 1988. He was sentenced to life without parole.

‘Four and Go’

Growing up in Lowell, Mass., Lally says he and his friends always knew not to mess with Hampton cops when they went to Hampton Beach.

A lot of Hampton’s tough cop image came out of the Labor Day riots of 1964, 1965 and 1966, Lally says.

The beach rallies started out as protest demonstrations, but escalated. Stores had windows smashed, cars were burned and the National Guard was called in, Lally recalls. One officer lost his front teeth after being hit with a Coke bottle filled with sand.

“Hampton police decided this s– wasn’t going to happen anymore,” Lally says. “They clamped down.”

He believes that Hampton’s “four and go law” came out of these riots.

Under the “four and go” law, an officer could arrest someone for anything, without explanation, Lally says, and hold them for four hours.

Hundreds and hundreds of people got arrested, he says. On weekend nights during the summer, the jail cells were packed.

“Go in June, July, August, there’d be 30 guys in there, for anything,” he says.

The law was repealed years ago.

Quiet no more

Despite the riots, Hampton still has a reputation for being this quiet seashore town after Labor Day, Lally says.

Co-workers at his new job as director of police training in Lowell, Mass., tell him that things must be pretty quiet up here by now, he says.

This was pretty much true until construction started on Seabrook Station in 1976, Lally says.

To house the workers, landlords winterized their beach cottages and rented them out to an estimated 5,000 tenants.

From summer to fall, the police department went from having an additional 22 officers on staff to three patrolmen, a sergeant and a lieutenant.

During the economic boom of the 1980s the town scurried to keep up with the changes brought on by rapid development.

In the late 1980s, Lally and others heard that one police officer was making $30,000 a year at the department.

“That was a milestone,” he says.

When contracts came up, negotiations with the town were always about money, says Lally, who was president of the police union in 1982, ’83 and ’88. Health benefits had always been good, but getting that 3 percent increase was a struggle, he says.

By the late 1980s, Hampton had six full-timers to handle the additional work, an “unheard of” number of officers, Lally says.

Moving on

Lally was an English major in college who decided to test for a job as a special officer at Hampton Beach after hearing how great it was from a friend. He and two other friends went to Hampton together in the mid-1970s, took the test, then forgot about it.

He was called, and became a full-time officer with the department in 1980. In 1998 he was promoted to the rank of lieutenant.

“I’ll miss the job, the guys, but won’t miss the building,” he says, “horrible.”

Hampton is expected to begin construction on a new police station this spring.

Lally started his new job as director of training with the Lowell Police Department on Nov. 12.

It’s a date he probably won’t forget.