The Bear Brook murders: Solved cold case from 1985
Updated: Jan 21, 2022
This case is crazy. I don’t like to say that much about the cases I cover, but I can’t think of many other appropriate words for this one — other than maybe “convoluted.” In fact, I was so overwhelmed with all the information when researching that I wasn’t sure exactly how to tackle it. But I’ve laid everything out in what is hopefully the easiest way to follow, and I hope you guys find it as interesting as I did. Let’s talk about the Bear Brook murders.
On November 10, 1985, a barrel was found by hunters on private property close to Bear Brook State Park in Allenstown, New Hampshire. One of the hunters looked inside the open barrel and saw a skull.
The 55 gallon metal barrel contained two female bodies. One was of an adult, between 23 and 32 years old. The other was a child, between 5 and 10 years old. The bodies were still decomposing, and no clothing was found in the barrels. The bodies had been in woods between six months and three years before they were found. Both had died from blunt force trauma.
After the bodies were found, police interviewed residents of the nearby trailer park, but nobody knew anything. There was speculation that the victims were mother and child, and it was possible the murders were domestic. But the initial investigation only led to dead ends. The bodies lay in a hospital morgue for awhile before being buried, unidentified.
With no leads, the case went cold until 2000, when it was assigned to a new trooper. On May 9, 2000, then-Detective John Cody was in the area of the crime scene looking for more clues, when he stumbled on something shocking — a second barrel, just 100 yards away from where the first one had been found.
The barrels are thought to have been dumped in the woods at the same time but moved around by kids in the area. The second barrel probably wasn’t found back in 1985 because of this, as well as things like the thickness of trees and the sheer size of the area. There may be even more remains in those woods, though none have been found.
This second barrel had two more bodies in it, also believed to be female. They were both of children: One was between 1 and 3 years old, the other between 2 and 4 years old. They were completely skeletonized. Some sources said their causes of death have never been publicly released; they’re listed on The Doe Network as “homicide by beating.”
After the second barrel was found, all four victims came to be known as the Allenstown Four.
At this point, investigators were stunned. New Hampshire had murders, of course, but never four unidentified victims all at once. And why had nobody come forward to say they knew these people?
They believed the victims may not have been “visible members of society” based on things like poor dental work. Said Angela Williamson of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children: “I don't think they were regularly in school and went home and had dinner with mom and dad every night.”
New Hampshire State Police Sgt. Joe Ebert thought someone knew something but didn’t come forward maybe out of guilt for not doing it sooner, or maybe they were afraid of getting in legal trouble. It was also speculated that the victims may not have kept in close contact with their families and/or lived in a remote community.
2014 tests showed the woman and child in the first barrel were maternally related. The woman was also maternally related to the younger child in the second barrel, but the middle child wasn’t related to any of them.
The woman and two children were thought to be mother and daughter, but the woman could have been the child’s aunt or even older sister. I’ve also seen speculation that she’d been a young, single mother and become estranged from her family after this — a potential explanation for why she didn’t match with any missing persons reports. The woman and two girls girls she was related to probably all lived together in New Hampshire or another nearby state.
In 2002, Eunsoon Jun disappeared from her home in Richmond, California. At the time, Eunsoon was in a relationship with a man named Larry Vanner.
Their exact relationship status isn’t clear. A lot of sources listed her as Larry’s girlfriend. Others said they were married, and yet another called her his common law wife. Yet another said they were married in a backyard ceremony, which I’m assuming was not legally binding. Regardless, the man known as Lawrence William Vanner, Larry Vanner or William Vanner was brought in for questioning.
But investigators couldn’t find anything on a Larry Vanner. There was no ID or anything else to suggest he even existed. So they ran his fingerprints and found they matched to another name — Curtis Kimball.
After this, Larry Vanner/Curtis Kimball was arrested, and the home he shared with Eunsoon searched. Her body was found under a pile of cat litter; she’d died from blunt force trauma. Vanner/Kimball later pled guilty to second degree murder and was sentenced to 15 years to life. He died in prison of natural causes in 2010.
But back to 2002. Under the name Curtis Kimball, this man had been on parole after being charged with child abandonment in 1989. In the early 1980’s, he went by yet another alias, Gordon Jensen, and lived in a trailer park in Santa Cruz, California, with a little girl named Lisa Jensen, who he claimed was his daughter.
In 1986, he tried to arrange for Lisa to be adopted, but fled before the adoption could be finalized. Lisa went into foster care and was later adopted, and “Gordon Jensen” was charged with child abandonment and sentenced to three years in prison. When police asked Lisa if she had any other siblings, she said they’d all died from eating “grass mushrooms.” “Jensen” also claimed Lisa’s biological mother was dead.
Even after being adopted, Lisa still believed the man known as Gordon Jensen was her father. But as she got older, she wanted to know more about her family and where she came from. In August 2003, DNA confirmed that now-22-year-old Lisa was not biologically related to “Gordon Jensen.” Fearing she may have been kidnapped, investigators began looking into her family.
They were assisted by Barbara Rae-Venter, a genetic genealogist who helped identify Joseph DeAngelo (aka The Golden State Killer). Using genealogy, Rae-Venter was able to trace Lisa’s family all the way to New Hampshire, where she found her maternal grandfather.
In 2016, Lisa Jensen found out she’d been born Dawn Beaudin. Her mother was Denise Beaudin — who hadn’t been heard from in over twenty years.
Denise Beaudin was last seen on November 26, 1981 in Goffstown, New Hampshire. She’d eaten Thanksgiving dinner with her family, including 6-month-old Dawn as well as Denise’s boyfriend, a man named Bob Evans. On December 1, family members went to visit Denise at her home in Manchester but she wasn’t there. They thought she’d left on her own because of financial issues.
Based on photos of “Bob” and Denise, they knew this man was the same one who went by Gordon Jensen, Larry Vanner, and many other aliases. The wire on the bodies of the Allenstown Four also came from Carol Cable, where Denise had worked. Now, investigators were afraid Denise might be another victim, along with the woman and girls in the barrels — who had been found less than twenty miles from where Denise lived.
Denise’s home was searched, but nothing significant was found. Her DNA was tested to see if she was the woman in the barrel, but it wasn’t a match. In 2016, Denise Beaudin was officially reported missing by police.
But there was one more revelation after this, brought on by a DNA test investigators administered on a hunch. “Bob Evans” and the middle child in the second barrel — thought to be between two and four years old — were father and daughter.
So if you’re confused right now, don’t feel bad — I told you this case was crazy. We have a man who has gone by at least four aliases so far: Gordon Jensen, Curtis Kimball, Larry Vanner and Bob Evans — and there are even more not listed here. He’s thought to be responsible for the deaths of the Allenstown Four in New Hampshire and we know he killed Eunsoon Jun in California. He’s almost certainly responsible for the disappearance of Denise Beaudin. Investigators are also afraid he might have hurt or killed the mother of his biological daughter, one of the Allenstown Four.
And, of course, none of these aliases were his real name. On August 18, 2017, investigators announced that, using DNA and genetic genealogy, this killer’s true identity: Terry Rasmussen.
Terry Peder Rasmussen was born on December 23, 1943 in Denver, Colorado. He dropped out of school in tenth grade and joined the Navy in 1961. He was discharged in 1967, when he moved to Hawaii. He was married on July 20, 1968. The couple moved to Phoenix in 1969 and welcomed twin daughters that same year. In 1970, they moved to California, where they welcomed a son. Another daughter followed in 1972, but Rasmussen and his wife separated that year. In 1973, he moved back to Phoenix.
Rasmussen and his wife did get back together, but it was only a temporary reconciliation. He last saw his family around 1975 or 1976 in Arizona. He told them he was living in Texas, and was accompanied by an unidentified woman. Police have speculated that this woman is the mother of his daughter in the barrel.
the investigation continues
So police knew almost certainly who had killed the Allenstown Four. But one question remained: Who were they? The answer came from two women researching the case around the same time.
Becky Heath, a librarian from Connecticut, has been fascinated with true crime for awhile now. She has a soft spot for John and Jane Does, especially children. She found out about the Bear Brook murders while going through newspaper archives at work. Not only was this a case of four Jane Does, but Becky was born just a few days after the first barrel was discovered. The case had also been unsolved for many years already at this point. All of these things together drew her to it.
In her research, Becky came across postings from 1999 on an Ancestry.com message board. The posts were from a woman who said her husband was looking for his half sister, Sarah McWaters. Sarah and this man had the same father, Ralph McWaters, but Sarah had a different mother, named Marlyse, and a half sister, Marie — Marlyse’s other daughter. At first, the family thought Sarah may have been adopted by her grandparents, but they’d never been able to get in touch with her and weren’t even sure if she was still alive. Marlyse’s family didn’t know what happened to Sarah either.
When Becky Heath found these messages years later, she wondered if there was a connection between Sarah McWaters and the Allenstown Four. She posted her speculation on Facebook groups, but didn’t get much response or enthusiasm.
Then, in 2018, New Hampshire Public Radio began airing Bear Brook, a podcast about the case. After the podcast, Becky decided to reach out again to the woman who wrote the Ancestry.com post. This time, she told her Marlyse had married a guy with the last name Rasmussen. (Other sources say they were dating, not married.) The next day, Becky contacted one of Marlyse’s sisters, who said Marlyse had last been seen on Thanksgiving of 1978, where she left with a guy named Terry.
At this point, Becky Heath knew none of this could be a coincidence. The ages of the Allenstown Four, the fact that Marlyse had been involved and last seen with Terry Rasmussen…everything just fit. On October 12, 2018, she contacted law enforcement.
At the same time Becky Heath was investigating the case on her own, Barbara Rae-Venter was also looking into it. In order to make a match, she decided to use autosomal DNA from the victims’ hair. Autosomal DNA comes from all the chromosomes in the human body except the X and Y chromosomes (which, of course, determine biological sex). Because you get autosomal DNA from both parents, you can learn a ton about your genetics from it.
Barbara Rae-Venter put the DNA profiles she got from these samples into genealogy databases. From here, she was able to make a definitive conclusion.
On June 6, 2019, the New Hampshire State Police officially announced that three of the Allenstown Four had been identified. The woman in the barrel was 24-year-old Marlyse Honeychurch. The oldest child was her daughter, 6-year-old Marie Vaughn. The youngest child was her other daughter, Sarah McWaters, who was just a year old.
(other sources said Marie was 7)
Marlyse Elizabeth Honeychurch was born on January 28, 1954 in Connecticut, the second of five children. Her parents separated in 1961; she initially stayed in her home state with her dad, but ended up moving to California, where her mom now lived, a few years later.
On June 12, 1971, Marlyse married her first husband in Las Vegas. On December 6 of that year, she gave birth to Marie. She was divorced by 1974 and awarded custody of Marie. Later that year, she married her second husband (I assume this was Ralph McWaters). Their daughter, Sarah, was born on December 13, 1977, but the couple separated the following year. On August 30, 1978, Marlyse’s soon-t0-be ex was awarded custody of Sarah. But by October, Ralph McWaters was in a new relationship and nobody saw him with Sarah, who was presumed to now be with her mother.
Marlyse and her daughters were last seen by her family on Thanksgiving Day of 1978 at her mom’s house in La Puenta, California. She also brought Terry Rasmussen with her, who may have been either her boyfriend or husband at the time. While there, Marlyse had an argument with her mom, who would never see her daughter again. In 1985, a private investigator was hired to find Marlyse and her children, but that effort was unsuccessful.
other possible victims
So it’s almost certain that Terry Rasmussen killed Marlyse Honeychurch and her daughters, his still-unidentified biological daughter and Denise Beaudin. We know he killed Eunsoon Jun. But there are a few other women whose names have been brought up as potential victims.
Rasmussen is suspected to be involved in the disappearance of Denise Ann Daneault. Denise was last seen leaving a private club in Manchester, New Hampshire on June 8, 1980 at the age of 25. Rasmussen, who went by “Bob Evans” at the time, was her neighbor.
He’s also suspected in the disappearance of Laureen Rahn, who also disappeared from Manchester on April 27, 1980 at the age of 14. Like Denise Daneault, Laureen was a neighbor of Rasmussen; he lived just half a mile away from her at the time she disappeared from her home.
Another possible victim was a Jane Doe found in a refrigerator dumped in a canal in California in 1995. There was a brand of milk in the refrigerator that was only delivered to one specific area; the same one where Rasmussen was at the time. This woman also died of blunt force trauma.
So let’s talk about one other mysterious name in all this: Elizabeth Evans. In the late 1970’s, Rasmussen was arrested several times under the name “Bob Evans,” and an “Elizabeth Evans” was listed as his wife on the arrest reports. Who was this mystery “Elizabeth Evans?”
One possibility investigators thought of was Elizabeth Lamotte. Elizabeth disappeared from New Hampshire in 1984 at the age of 16. Her body was found in 1985 along a highway in Tennessee, but not identified until 2018. Her cause of death was blunt force trauma, and, as far as I know, her murder is under investigation. However, the New Hampshire Attorney General's Office said she was not Elizabeth Evans. This would make sense as she didn’t disappear until 1984 and the name “Elizabeth Evans” had stopped showing up on Rasmussen’s arrest reports by October 1980.
There has also been speculation that Marlyse was actually Elizabeth Evans, since Elizabeth was her middle name. There was an investigation into this, but I don’t know that it led anywhere. Elizabeth Evans has never been identified.
In November 2019, a memorial service was held for Marlyse and Marie in Allenstown, and their bodies were reburied. There are also new plaques under their tombstones that bear their names.
In February 2020, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, along with the New Hampshire State Police, released a new facial reconstruction for the still-unidentified daughter of Terry Rasmussen. They hope it will spark someone’s memory.
The girl is thought to be between two and four years old, 3 feet 3 inches to 3 feet 9 inches tall, with wavy brown hair. She’s white with small amounts of Asian, black, and Native American ancestry. She may have had anemia as well as an overbite. 2015 isotope testing shows she probably grew up in Wisconsin. Her mother has never been located or identified, and police think she may have been another victim of Rasmussen.
So that’s all I have for you today on the Bear Brook murders or the Allenstown Four. Because we know almost certainly who committed the murders, I’m considering this case technically solved, even though there’s quite a bit we still don’t know. Even though he only faced justice in life for one of his murders, I am glad the families of some of Rasmussen’s victims were able to get answers after going so long without knowing what happened.
If you have any information that could lead to the identify of Terry Rasmussen’s unidentified daughter, you can contact the New Hampshire State Police Cold Case Unit: 1-603-223-3856.
Or you can contact the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children at 1-800-THE LOST (1-800-843-5678).