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Allenstown Four: The Haunting, Decades-Long Mystery of the Bear Brook Murders

Two barrels. Four bodies. A decades-long murder mystery.

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  • Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

UPDATE JUNE 6, 2019: Authorities in New Hampshire have identified three of the four victims in the Bear Brook murders case. See below for details. 

Fifteen years apart, in 1985 and 2000, four bodies were found in New Hampshire’s 10,000-acre Bear Brook State Park. The first two bodies, a woman and a young girl, were found by hunters on November 10, 1985. Both had been dismembered, wrapped in a plastic bag, and stuffed into a 55-gallon drum behind Bear Brook Gardens Mobile Home Park.

The woman was described as having wavy brown hair and a significant amount of dental work, including three extractions and numerous fillings. The girl was between 5 and 11 years old; she was wearing earrings and had a gap in her front teeth. Her lungs also showed symptoms of pneumonia. 

Both victims were determined to have suffered blunt force trauma. Allenstown Police Chief Norman Connor had no leads and no information; investigators could only estimate that the victims died between 1977 and 1985. For 18 months, the bodies lay in the morgue at New Hampshire Hospital in the hope that someone would step forward to identify the victims. No one did. Finally, in May 1987, Connor buried the bodies in the same grave without knowing their names.

Still, police spent the next 15 years looking for clues. In 2000, a state trooper searching the crime scene stumbled across another barrel. Inside were the skeletal remains of two more children in a plastic bag, both female.

DNA analysis was able to confirm that the adult and two of the children were biologically related–likely a mother and her two daughters. The third child was unrelated to the other victims. Police were now dealing with a quadruple murder; the victims soon became known as the Allenstown Four. Investigators turned their attention to the nearby trailer park, not far from where the bodies were discovered. Many of the residents, it was discovered, had been transients and ex-convicts from nearby New Hampshire State Prison. Additionally, the trailer park had 115 lots and some 476 people who had passed through temporarily during the time of the murders. Trying to find a lead under those circumstances was the proverbial needle in a haystack.

Related: 9 Murder Victims Whose Names Are Unknown 

Locals joined the search as well. One resident, named Ronda Randall, became interested in the case and organized her own makeshift investigation. She set her sights on the trailer park, documenting her interviews and extensive search for the truth on her blog

Nevertheless, the Bear Brook murders and the identities of the Allenstown Four remained a mystery. The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children joined the effort to identify the bodies. In 2013, the organization created new facial reconstructions of the victims. Additional scientific testing conducted by NCMEC, private labs, and the Florida Institute of Forensic Anthropology revealed that the woman, the youngest child, and the oldest child, were from the same geographic area (possibly New Hampshire); the middle child, it was discovered, was raised farther north.

In 2015, a forensic artist at NCMEC created new composite sketches of the victims as they might have looked in life; for the first time, police had real faces to put to the bodies. Senior Assistant Attorney General Ben Agati stated that all four victims had lived together in the New Hampshire area for up to several months before they were murdered. Agati also noted that all four had been killed at the same time, between 1980 and 1984.   

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  • Terrence ‘Terry’ Peder Rasmussen.

    Photo Credit: Alchetron

The decades-long mystery of the Bear Brook murders appeared on the verge of a breakthrough. Then, in early 2017, investigators announced that they had zeroed in on a suspected killer: a man known as Robert ‘Bob’ Evans. The suspect had died in a California prison in 2010 where he was serving time for the 2002 murder and dismemberment of his then-wife, chemist Eunsoon Jun. Authorities also revealed that the name Robert Evans was a pseudonym and that the suspect’s true identity was currently unknown. 

The suspect’s link to the Bear Brook murders came through another New Hampshire cold case: the 1981 disappearance and suspected murder of Denise Beaudin. Evans was dating Beaudin at the time of her disappearance. A revived interest in Beaudin’s whereabouts led authorities back to Evans and his DNA profile—where they discovered that he was the biological father of the third child genetically unrelated to the other Bear Brook murder victims. 

Authorities also unearthed circumstantial evidence that linked Evans to the Bear Brook murder scene. He was an electrician at a local mill at the time of the slayings, working under a man who owned property where the remains were dumped. The barrels used to store the bodies were likely sourced from the mill. 

Related: The Unsolved Keddie Murders of California 

Knowing that ‘Robert Evans’ was an alias, investigators set out to reveal the suspect’s true identity. In August 2017, they successfully identified the man as Terrence ‘Terry’ Peder Rasmussen. 

Their investigation revealed a chilling portrait of Rasmussen and his life of crime. The chameleon-like killer employed a slew of aliases in a crime and murder spree that spanned New Hampshire to California. Police believe he killed at least six people—Beaudin, the four Bear Brook murder victims, and Eunsoon Jun—though he may have murdered others. 

In 2018, New Hampshire public radio released a multi-episode podcast investigation into the Bear Brook murders called Bear Brook

On June 6, 2019, the New Hampshire Attorney General's office revealed that investigators had successfully identified three of the four Bear Brook murders victims. They are: Marlyse Elizabeth Honeychurch, the adult woman whose remains were discovered in 1985, and her two biological daughters, Marie Elizabeth Vaughn and Sarah Lynn McWaters. 

CNN reports that Honeychurch was dating Rasmussen at the time she and her children went missing. Honeychurch and her two daughters were last seen by family members around Thanksgiving 1978—when Honeychurch, along with her daughters and Rasmussen, were visiting Honeychurch's family in La Puenta, California. After getting into an argument with her mother, Honeychurch left with her daughters and Rasmussen. The family never heard from Honeychurch, or Honeychurch's children, again. 

Slowly but surely, the veil of mystery is lifting on the Bear Brook Murders. Yet while investigators have identified three of the four victims and are confident that they found the killer responsible for the slayings, questions remain. Who is the fourth young victim? The New Hampshire State Police remain hopeful that they will finally close the case that has haunted the area since the mid-1980s. Anyone with information is asked to call the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children at 1-800-THE-LOST, or contact the state cold case unit at coldcaseunit@dos.nh.gov

Featured photo of the reconstruction of the victims and Bear Brook State Park: Wikipedia