Real Name: Martha Laurel Conant Brailsford
Nicknames: No known nicknames
Location: Salem, Massachusetts
Date: July 12, 1991
Details: On July 12, 1991, a thirty-seven-year-old Salem, Massachusetts artist and interior designer named Martha Brailsford went sailing in Massachusetts Bay with her forty-six-year-old neighbor, Thomas "Tom" Maimoni. They went aboard his sailboat Counterpoint and left the Salem Willows pier that afternoon. The next morning, however, he returned alone. Around that same time, Martha's husband, Brian, reported her missing. Maimoni initially denied taking Martha on his boat. However, on July 15, he changed his story after the proprietor of a boat shop said he saw Maimoni and Martha getting on a boat together. Maimoni said he took Martha to Winter Island Pier, where she got off the boat.
Soon after, Maimoni changed his story again, telling Detective Conrad Prosniewski that Martha was standing up in front of the boat when a rogue wave hit it. She lost her balance, hit her head, fell off the side, and disappeared into the water off Gloucester. He claimed that he searched for her all night but never found her. For six days, police boats crisscrossed the bay but found no sign of her.
Police were suspicious of Maimoni's story. They did not understand why he failed to radio authorities if Martha accidentally fell overboard. They also did not understand why he did not immediately contact police after he returned to shore. He claimed that he did not do so because he "panicked". Almost on a whim, Salem Police Captain Paul Murphy called local psychic and witch Laurie Cabot. She asked for the person’s name, where they lived, and their date of birth. After she got that information, she went into a relaxed frame of mind known as an “alpha state”. According to her, while she is in this state, events from the past come to her in stark clarity.
In Laurie’s vision, she saw Martha on a sailboat with a man. She said that Martha was quite naïve. As she tried to enjoy the moment, he tried making advances on her. The two got into an argument, during which he became angry and “basically turned into a beast.” She asked him to take him back to shore. He continued to grab her and fight with her. He picked up an item on the boat and struck her in the back of the head with it. As she lay unconscious, he tied a small anchor to her ankle. Then, he weighted her down at the waist. Finally, he dumped her overboard.
Laurie told police that Martha’s body was still anchored underwater near a small offshore island with a lighthouse in view. On July 18, within hours of Laurie’s vision, lobster fisherman Hooper Goodwin happened to check his traps in Massachusetts Bay off Marblehead. As one of the traps returned to the surface, he noticed an anchor attached to it. When he looked closer, he noticed some rope and fishing line dangling from it. The line dangled down the side of the trap and into the water. He then noticed what appeared to be a body attached to the line.
Martha had been found. As Laurie predicted, an anchor was tied to her foot and a lead diving belt encircled her waist. Her body was nude. An autopsy determined she had drowned. She also received several blunt trauma wounds to her head. The location of the body was also as Laurie had foreseen: near a small offshore island with a lighthouse in view.
Suspects: Tom Maimoni
- The case first aired on the October 25, 1996 episode, which focused on Laurie's psychic abilities.
- It was also profiled on City Confidential and Your Worst Nightmare.
- It was also featured in a well-received book by Salem author Margaret Press, titled, A Scream on the Water: A True Story of Murder in Salem. Interestingly, Press is now a genealogist and cofounder of the DNA Doe Project.
- It was excluded from the FilmRise release of the Robert Stack episodes.
Results: Solved. By the time the afternoon headlines broke regarding the discovery of Martha's body, Tom Maimoni was on the run. An arrest warrant was issued for him. Once again, Captain Murphy called Laurie. During this vision, she saw Maimoni looking in a mirror and shaving off his mustache. She said he was frantic and unsure where to go next. He first thought of going south or west. However, he changed his mind and decided to go north to Canada. Laurie offered to conjure up a spell to derail Maimoni’s plans. She used a straw doll and named it “Tom Maimoni”. She wrapped it with white cord. She then went into “alpha” and projected that he do something stupid to be caught.
Three days later, on July 20, a policeman in the town of Waite in northern Maine, near the Canadian border and well north of Salem, answered a call from vigilant locals. They had spotted an unfamiliar car outside a cabin that was supposed to be vacant. The officer discovered signs of forced entry. The intruder, found sleeping on the couch, was none other than Maimoni. Just as Laurie predicted, he had shaved off his mustache and was making a run for Canada. Instead, he ended up in a Massachusetts courtroom.
Captain Murphy notes that it is hard to tell whether Laurie’s spell actually worked. However, he points out that Maimoni did do some “stupid things”: he broke into a cabin in an area where people notice whether or not something is out of the ordinary, and he stayed there. After his arrest, Maimoni said, "I killed a woman in Massachusetts." However, at his trial in 1993, he proclaimed his innocence.
Maimoni maintained his story that she was knocked overboard by a wave. He also claimed that he pulled her back on the boat and removed her clothes to prevent hypothermia. When he realized she was seriously injured, he "panicked", tied the anchor and weight to her body, and dumped her back overboard. He claimed the blows to her head came from the lobsterman who pulled up her body; however, the coroner showed that those injuries occurred prior to her death.
Prosecutors, however, claimed that Maimoni had tricked Martha into coming onboard. He reportedly told her that his wife had recently died of cancer (in fact, she was still alive). Martha told her sister that she "felt badly" for him. He had used the same ruse with other women in an attempt to get them to go sailing with him. Two of them went sailing with him the week prior to Martha's death. One woman testified that once they were away from shore, he stripped down and sailed naked. Another testified he grabbed her in a sexual manner while on board.
In the end, the jury did not believe Maimoni; they found him guilty of second-degree murder in Martha's death. He was sentenced to life in prison. Detective Prosniewski says that he is willing to listen to Laurie if she thinks she can help them. He, Captain Murphy, and other investigators believe she had a hand in bringing Maimoni to justice.
In 2006, Maimoni became eligible for parole. However, it was denied. It was also denied during 2011 and 2016 parole hearings. During the hearings, he claimed that there was a "conspiracy" to frame him and that several people, including Laurie, were involved. He continued to maintain that Martha's death was an accident. On October 18, 2017, he died in prison at the age of seventy-two.
- Missing Salem woman leaves mystery behind - July 16, 1991
- Sailor sought for killing woman, dumping her body overboard - July 19, 1991
- Woman's body found; sailboat owner sought - July 19, 1991
- Salem murder suspect captured in Maine cabin - July 21, 1991
- Sailboat Owner Arrested After Companion’s Weighted Body Pulled From Sea - July 22, 1991
- Man Charged in Sailing Slaying Deceived Many, Prosecutor Says - July 23, 1991
- Court hears husband in Salem murder case - February 3, 1993
- Sailboat killer seeks parole; says he panicked - October 11, 2006
- Killer tries for parole - October 5, 2011
- Convicted killer Thomas Maimoni again tries for release - January 28, 2015
- Man who killed woman and dumped body overboard in 1991 seeks release - October 3, 2016
- Convicted killer Thomas Maimoni tells new story in bid for parole - October 4, 2016
- Convicted killer of Salem woman dies - October 19, 2017