A couple of weeks before Christmas in 2007, Nancy Bochicchio of Boca Raton, Fla., picked her daughter up from school early to take her to a doctor’s appointment.
She was relieved that a suspected heart murmur turned out to be nothing serious.
So the two headed to Town Center Mall in Boca for some Christmas shopping.
It was a Wednesday, and Nancy and Joey arrived just after 2 p.m. Mall security cameras captured them strolling past stores. And they were captured leaving about an hour after they got there.
That was at 3:11 p.m.
By 10 p.m., the mall was closing down. Close to midnight, a security guard noticed a black Chrysler Aspen SUV still out in the parking lot by the Sears entrance.
The lights were on and the engine was running. It was Nancy’s SUV, and when the guard went to check it out, he discovered Nancy and Joey’s bodies.
They were in the back seat. Both had been tied up and shot in their heads.
Nancy Bochicchio grew up in the Bronx section of New York.
Her sister, Jo-Ann Bruno, said Nancy was known for her shenanigans and prankster behavior.
Growing up in the big city also made Nancy tough and street-smart. Bruno says she was a fighter who stood her ground.
One summer, she was driving through Brooklyn with her father. Nancy had her Gucci shoulder bag with her on the seat. At a red light, a thief dashed up and reached into the car, trying to grab the bag. Nancy didn’t tolerate it and chomped her teeth down on the thief’s hand.
In the 1990s, Nancy was advancing her career through several jobs when some of her co-workers moved to Boca Raton. She made the decision to head south, too.
In Boca, Nancy got pregnant when she was 39 years old, and Joey was born in December 1999. The next year, Nancy married Joey’s father, Phillip Hauser, but the two separated three years later.
Joey Bochicchio-Hauser was an outgoing girl full of life. She said hi to everyone she met and ate foods not many kids would touch.
An article in the South Florida Sun Sentinel a couple of days after the killings described how inseparable Joey and her mom were.
From the article:
Perhaps it was because Nancy Bochicchio had her only child late in life. Or maybe it was because she was a single mom that she built her life around Joey.
She clung to her daughter, brought her everywhere she went, spent so much time with her that their two personalities virtually blended into one. Joey, 7, was mild-mannered yet outgoing. She was mature beyond her years.
“Joey was Nancy. That was her mold,” said Timmy McCurdy, a family friend. “They weren’t even like mother and daughter. They were sisters.”
Joey took dancing and acting lessons and enrolled in golf camp.
In December of 2007, Nancy bought golf clubs for Joey as a Christmas present. They came in a pink leather golf bag, and Nancy had to hide them from Joey to await delivery by Santa.
The clubs were stashed in the back of the Chrysler SUV on that day in 2007 when Nancy and Joey were last seen at Boca’s Town Center mall.
Kidnapped and murdered
After the bodies of Nancy and Joey were found, police began tracing their movements and piecing together what happened. And it was horrifying.
The video surveillance from mall security cameras showed the mom and daughter alone. No followers. Even as they left through an exit by the Sears, there was no sign of trouble.
Minutes after they were seen leaving, a call came in to 9-1-1 from Nancy’s cellphone, but the line went dead immediately. A return call by the dispatcher went unanswered.
Four minutes after that call, an ATM close to the mall registered a withdrawal from Nancy’s account. The camera on the ATM captured her making the transaction. Nancy withdrew $500.
Minutes after the ATM transaction, the car was back in the parking lot where it would be discovered later by the mall security guard.
The kidnapper apparently went well prepared. He brought what investigators called a “kidnap kit.”
In it were goggles. Swimming or diving goggles, with the inside lenses lined with sponge padding to black them out. He put them on Nancy so she couldn’t see.
Nancy apparently fought back, getting free of her handcuffs and removing the goggles. Her family thinks the tough girl from the Bronx fought back.
The killer shot both Joey and Nancy in their heads and disappeared.
Another mall kidnapping
As police investigated the Bochicchio murders, they quickly realized the details were chillingly similar to a crime that took place just a few months earlier at the same mall.
It was August 7. A woman had been shopping at Town Center mall with her 2-year-old son.
At about 5 p.m., they left the mall and headed to their black Lincoln Navigator SUV. The woman placed her son in his car seat in the back, put shopping bags and his stroller away, and walked around to get in the driver’s seat.
She heard her son cry and turned to find a man sitting in the back seat next to her son. He was wearing a floppy hat and sunglasses, and he had a gun.
Just as in the Bochicchio case, the man had brought zip ties and the same kind of goggles, blacked out to prevent her from seeing.
For more than an hour, he drove the mother and son around, including to an ATM where the woman withdrew $600.
But in this kidnapping, the man’s demeanor was different. He became almost courteous, offering them water and seemingly concerned for the little boy.
When the woman’s cellphone started to ring, the kidnapper allowed her to answer it and instructed to tell her boyfriend -- the father of the little boy -- to come pick her up.
Then the man fled the scene, leaving the woman and her son unharmed.
The woman’s name has never been released. Eventually, she was able to provide a description of her attacker, and a sketch was made.
Linking the cases
The similarities between the two attacks were striking, and police were convinced they were done by the same man.
They began looking for a motive.
Were the August kidnapping and December murders done just for money? In both cases, the suspect got away with just a few hundred dollars.
And why were Nancy and Joey Bochicchio killed but the August victims were spared? Maybe it’s because Nancy fought back, working her hands free and yanking off the dark goggles.
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Over the years, police have tried enlisting the help of the public to jog loose information about the kidnappings and murders. They have posted rewards for information — first $350,000, then $400,000 when the FBI pitched in more money in 2015. That reward still stands today.
On the next episode, investigators turn their attention to another kidnapping and murder of a woman earlier that same year. She, too, had been shopping at Boca’s Town Center mall. Some in the community wonder: Do they have a serial killer on their hands? And why are the cases still unsolved today?
Have information about these crimes?
Police ask anyone with information about the mall murders case to call Boca Raton police at 561-338-1344, or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-458-8477.
The reward for the arrest and conviction of the killer is up to $400,000.
About Felonious Florida
The Boca Mall Murders was reported by Juan Ortega based on interviews, police reports, court records and media coverage. It was edited by David Schutz and Randy Roguski. Felonious Florida is produced by the South Florida Sun Sentinel and presented in audio form in partnership with Wondery. The series is produced by Schutz, Arthur and Juan Ortega. Web design and production by Yiran Zhu. The Felonious Florida team includes Randy Roguski, Danny Sanchez, Sean Pitts, Cindy Choi, David Selig and Dana Banker.
Have a comment or question about this podcast or the cases it features, leave a recording at 954-283-7531 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.