MANSFIELD, Ohio (AP) — Collier Landry seems to be at peace.
Considering his connection to the most notorious murder in Mansfield’s history, that’s quite an accomplishment.
Dr. John Boyle, a prominent osteopath, was convicted of killing his wife, Noreen, in the local trial of the century. Police believe the murder happened Dec. 31, 1989.
Landry, the couple’s son, was only 11 at the time.
Boyle struck Noreen in the head, then suffocated her by putting a plastic bag over her head. Authorities obtained search warrants partially based on the word of the couple’s children.
Collier reported hearing his parents argue. He told police he heard a scream, then a thump, like a body hitting a wall.
Elizabeth, only 3 at the time, may have witnessed the murder. She told Mansfield police Lt. Dave Messmore, the lead investigator in the case, that she saw her daddy hit her mommy in the head.
“Daddy put Mommy on the floor and wrapped her up like a snowman,” she told Messmore.
Authorities recovered Noreen’s body on Jan. 25, 1990, under the basement floor of Boyle’s new home in Erie, Pennsylvania.
Landry is back in town for a documentary on the infamous case. He said he is not allowed to talk about specifics of the project, which should be out in the middle of next year.
Now 38, Landry is a cinematographer and director based in Los Angeles. He said he has recovered from the childhood trauma.
“It’s understandable that things like this are present in your life, but you don’t let them dominate,” Landry said. “I like to think I took it in stride.”
Landry was a key witness in the trial. Then 12, he took the witness stand, stared down his father and helped secure a conviction.
“It was a surreal experience,” Landry said. “It was something I wanted to do. I wanted to be part of justice for my mother and justice for my family.
“I’m an honest person. I relished the chance to tell the truth.”
Landry said he comes back to town every couple of years. He always stays at the Ontario home of George and Susan Zeigler, the family who adopted him. Landry credits the Zeiglers with providing a loving, stable home at a time he needed it. He will always be grateful to them.
“They were very supportive,” Landry said. “That was all I could ask for.”
Still, it’s not that easy to come back home.
“It’s a place that I left a long time ago,” Landry said. “There are challenges. There are memories here — some wonderful, some not so wonderful, some really horrible.”
Boyle’s trial took on an almost circus-like atmosphere. In a 1990 column, former News Journal editor Tom Brennan compared the proceedings to a soap opera that no one wanted to miss.
Boyle, now 73, was sentenced to 20 years to life in prison for aggravated murder and 18 months for abuse of a corpse.
Noreen Boyle filed for divorce in November 1989 after 22 years of marriage, charging extreme mental cruelty and gross neglect.
“He was a very violent guy,” Landry said of his father. “My mother and I were fearful of him.”
Landry said Boyle’s demeanor changed after the murder. He did not want his son talking to police.
But talk he did. Landry said he spent parts of three days testifying.
“If TMZ were around back then, you would have been seeing my face everywhere,” he said. “I’m glad they weren’t.”
The Boyles had lived in Mansfield since 1983, having moved from Virginia, where John worked at a Navy clinic. Boyle was planning to move to Erie to practice occupational medicine and review industrial injury claims.
Boyle reportedly carried on many affairs. A mistress, Sherri Lee Campbell, gave birth to a daughter in January 1990, less than two weeks after Noreen disappeared.
A key to the trial was a jackhammer Boyle leased on Dec. 29 and reportedly used to tear up the floor to bury Noreen.
Boyle said he got the equipment for ice on the brick sidewalk of his local home.
The doctor has long maintained his innocence. He took the stand on his own behalf, testifying for nine hours over two days. Former Richland County Prosecutor James Mayer Jr. called Boyle “probably the biggest liar I’ve ever seen.”
One theory was the body found in Erie was not Noreen.
In 1995, Noreen’s body was exhumed in Baltimore. A blood sample matched Noreen’s sister and put to rest any lingering questions.
In the meantime, Landry was living with the Zeiglers and attending school in Ontario.
Despite living in a small town, Landry said he didn’t have to deal with his tragic backstory too often.
“It was fairly understood that it was not a topic my classmates would bring up,” he said.
Those same classmates thought so much of Landry, they elected him class president his junior and senior years. Landry graduated in 1996.
He went to Ohio University to study vocal performance, but dropped out after two years to move to southern California and seek a career in the entertainment industry.
Landry has done well for himself.
“I direct a lot of music videos and commercials,” he said. “I’m partners in two different production companies and have my own as well.”
He says he is blessed and credits his strong work ethic for finding success in a challenging field.
For entertainment industry purposes, Landry dropped the name Zeigler and used his middle name as his new surname.
“My mom used to call me that when I was in trouble,” he said. “She was a wonderful woman; she was a good mother.
“She didn’t deserve to be killed.”
Landry said he has often thought about using art to tell his story.
He also wants to document how the story has impacted others.
“I’m surprised at how many people have been affected by it,” Landry said. “One of the benefits of doing a project like this is using my artistic abilities as a form of catharsis.”
He offered advice for those who have faced their own demons.
“Never give up hope and find your true north,” Landry said. “Find what motivates you.”
One of his goals with the documentary is reconnecting with his baby sister. Elizabeth would be approaching 30. She and Landry were adopted by different families and lost touch.
“I haven’t seen her in 26 years,” Landry said. “I was hoping to be able to reach her, if only to see how she’s doing.
“I hope she’s OK.”
As for Boyle, he was turned down in his first bid for parole in December 2010. An inmate at Marion Correctional Institution, Boyle will next be up for parole in October 2020. He will be 77.
Landry declined to talk about his father until the documentary is released. It’s currently in production.
He insists he is fine.
“Despite what anybody thinks, I am the most fortunate person I know,” Landry said.
Information from: News Journal, http://www.mansfieldnewsjournal.com
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