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Bodies in barrels: how two American women solved a murder 30 years ago

'26.03.2022'

Source: Big Picture

The police have been investigating the case of a brutal serial killer for decades. The curious librarian managed to reveal the secret, who decided to get to the bottom of the truth, writes Big Picture.

Photo: Shutterstock

The gruesome murder story in New Hampshire dates back to the 80s. In 1985, two barrels containing the remains of four people were found in the Bear Brook trailer park. Later it turned out that these were the bodies of a young mother, her two daughters and an unknown girl. The police could not determine the identity of those killed for 30 years, until the librarian Rebecca became interested in a strange case.

The woman pulled the thread of a whole tangle of serial murders, which she managed to unravel after many years. Volunteer Barbara joined her, and with their help the police came to the killer, who had been hiding under various names for many years.

On October 10, 2018, 34-year-old Rebecca from Connecticut finally found a clue that helped her solve the mystery and identify four murder victims whose bodies were found in lube barrels in Bear Brook Park, New Hampshire.

Screenshot: True Crime Daily / YouTube

The remains belonged to a young woman and three girls who died in 1980 or 1981. The cause of death is a blow to the head with a blunt object. The bodies were found in barrels at the site of a burned-out store. Each barrel contains two bodies. The woman and the eldest girl were found in 1985, and the bodies in the second barrel, which lay a few meters further, were found only in 2000.

The results of DNA tests showed that the young mother was not even 30 years old, and the 10-year-old and one-year-old girls were her daughters. Strangely, the third found four-year-old girl was not their relative. The police were never able to identify them, despite an investigation that lasted two decades.

The first place of burial of the victims. Screenshot: ABC News / YouTube

Rebecca stumbled upon a strange case ten years ago. She hoped that her research skills would help the victims finally find peace. The librarian began her own investigation trying to identify the girls and the woman.

The American grew up in a group similar to the Amish. When the girl turned 19, she left the community and family. A sense of empathy forced her to seriously take on finding out the real names of the victims. The woman spent hundreds of hours combing genealogical sites and old inquiries to find relatives who may have been linked to those killed in Bear Brook. The librarian compiled a list of names and began working on them, checking open documents according to which missing people were declared or declared dead.

In 2018, the Bear Brook murders became the subject of a popular documentary podcast, and Rebecca learned a lot from the series. In particular, the film said that DNA tests identified the father of the third, four-year-old girl. The man was convicted of the murder and dismemberment of his wife and died in prison in 2010. His name was Terry Peder Rasmussen. The show also revealed that a mother and two daughters lived on the West Coast.

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Rebecca stepped up her search. She managed to find an ad from the 1999 archive on Ancestry.com - a woman was looking for her half-sister. She had not seen her mother and sister, who lived in California, since 1978. The American born in 1977 was Sarah McWaters. Her older sister, Marie Vaughn, was born in 1971 to another man, and the mother of both girls was named Marlies Elizabeth Honeychurch. In 1978, after a fight with her family on Thanksgiving Day, she and her two daughters went missing. The librarian began to suspect that Marlies, Marie and Sarah could be the three victims found in Bear Brook.

In 2018, Rebecca found a woman on Facebook who was looking for relatives. She immediately responded to the message and said that she was still looking for Sarah. The woman wrote that Marlies left town with a guy named Rasmussen. This finally confirmed the investigator's guesses. So the librarian managed to find out the real names of the victims.

Rebecca immediately went to the police with the findings. She kept in touch with the family of those killed. Within a few months, DNA tests were done to confirm the relationship. Now the relatives of the victims wanted to know who Rasmussen was and why he killed the girls and their mother. Investigators have managed to piece together the puzzles of the mysterious story, although some of its details still remain a mystery.

Terry Rasmussen was born in Colorado in 1943. In 1968 he married and lived with his wife and four children in Arizona and California. In 1975, his wife left him and took the children. This happened after Rasmussen was arrested for aggravated assault. His eldest son Eric recalls how his father burned him with cigarettes. Daughter Andrea said that he suffered from addictions and mental problems.

It is not known how Rasmussen met Marlies Honeychurch and her daughters, but in 1978 she had a falling out with her mother and left California for New Hampshire with her children and a new boyfriend. The killer lived there under the pseudonym Bob Evans. He worked as an electrician in a store in Allenstown, next to which the bodies were later found in barrels. It remains unsolved how his biological daughter ended up there and when she died. Marlies, Sarah and Marie passed away in the spring of 1980.

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In 1981, Rasmussen, using the pseudonym Bob Evans, began dating 23-year-old Denise Bowdin, who had a six-month-old daughter, Dawn. At the end of the year, the mother and baby disappeared. They were last seen on November 26 when Denise and Rasmussen had Thanksgiving dinner with the woman's family. Since the couple had financial problems, Denise's relatives decided that the lovers had fled the city. They did not report their disappearance to the police.

Four years later, Rasmussen showed up in California under a new pseudonym - Curtis Kimball. He lived with Don, whom he called his daughter Lisa. The man was arrested for drunk driving and for endangering a child's life. The offender managed to escape trial, but soon he threw the baby in a trailer park. The girl ended up in an orphanage.

In 1987, Rasmussen was arrested for carjacking, and the fingerprints led an investigation to Denise and her daughter. It turned out that Lisa is the missing Don. The man received three years in prison for abandoning a child, but was conditionally released and disappeared again. By that time, the girl had been adopted.

Screenshot: UNSOLVEDS / YouTube

In December 1999, Rasmussen showed up in California calling himself Larry Vanner. He dated 42-year-old Eun Sun-jun. When the woman disappeared in June 2001, the police took her boyfriend's fingerprints.

Interrogation of Rasmussen:

It turned out that they coincide with those appearing in the Curtis Kimball case. The police searched his home and found Eun Sung's dismembered body under a pile of cat litter.

Rasmussen was arrested and found guilty of murder. The perpetrator was sentenced to 15 years in prison. The police called him a chameleon for constantly changing names. After the conclusion, the killer admitted that baby Lisa was not his daughter, which was confirmed by a DNA test. In 2003, authorities began searching for her biological family.

In 2015, Detective Peter Hadley contacted Barbara Ray-Venter, a former lawyer who helped orphanage children find their biological relatives using genealogy databases. He asked for help in finding Lisa's real family, whose real name was Don. 72-year-old Barbara was able to find 94 distant relatives of the girl using a DNA test. She had to do a tremendous amount of work to get on the right track.

More than a hundred volunteers took part in a special project to find people using DNA analysis. In 2016, Barbara finally found out that Lisa was Don Bowdeen. She found one of the girl's grandfathers in New Hampshire, who told about Denise's disappearance in 1981 with a man named Bob Evans. Police contacted colleagues in New Hampshire, who compared Rasmussen's DNA to those of the victims found in barrels in Bear Brook. It turned out he was the father of the middle girl.

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In 2018, Barbara learned through a genealogy website that Bob Evans is actually Terry Rasmussen. The librarian gave the police information about Marlize and her daughters. In the end, the puzzle worked out. In June 2019, police publicly named victims found in Bear Brook Park. Last November, relatives and friends of Marlies and her daughters, Marie and Sarah, came to the funeral. The remains were buried in the cemetery in Allenstown.

Despite the fact that Rasmussen's guilt in the murder of Marlies, her daughters, his biological daughter, Eun Sung Jun and Denise Bowdeen has been proven, the detailed history of these tragedies remains unknown.

Perhaps the perpetrator killed his own daughter during the same period. Denise Bowdin could have died at his hands from 1981 to 1985 while Rasmussen was in California. No one knows if he threw the remains into barrels immediately or later, as they were only discovered in 1985. Serial killer Rasmussen died of lung cancer on December 28, 2010 and took the secrets of terrible crimes with him to the grave.

The librarian and volunteer managed to solve a dark riddle that the police could not unravel for several decades. Barbara and Rebecca continue to help investigators find and identify unnamed victims. They are sure that many more women died at the hands of Rasmussen, whose bodies could be buried anywhere.

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