The Bear Brook murders or the Allentown four, is a case where, we know who the serial killer is, before we know who the victims are. An adult female and 3 female children were discovered in barrels. The murderer is Terry Rasmussen and he was dubbed The Chameleon. He used several aliases and each time he killed, he changed his appearance and moved. Three victims in the barrels were identified as Marlyse Honeychurch, Marie Vaughn, and Sarah McWaters. One of the children remains unidentified. There are other murders and disappearances wrapped in this story as well.
Drinking The Cool Aid
Today we're covering the Bear Brook murders, also referred to as the Allenstown Four. Bear Brook State Park is the largest developed state park in Allenstown, New Hampshire and it has over 10,000 acres and more than 40 miles of trails. This is an extremely wooded area. This entire case was worked backwards, so that's how we will start. In this story, there's a headstone that reads, “Here lies the mortal remains known only to God of a woman aged 23-33 and a girl child aged 8-10. Their slain bodies were found on November 10th, 1985, in Bear Brook State Park. May their souls find peace in God's loving care.”
There's a placed called Bear Brook Gardens in Allenstown. It's a small trailer park community that is surrounded by Bear Brook State Park. The local residents have fond memories of living in this wooded area. I watched The Chameleon on 20/20 and they talked about a game that the kids created. It was essentially, hide and seek, with a 4-wheeler. Someone would drive the 4-wheeler all around the woods to find the kids that were hiding. The locals loved this game and they would play this all summer long.
In 1985, a local resident, Jesse Morgan, was driving the 4-wheeler one day when they were playing their game of hide and seek. One of the kids approached him and said he found a barrel in the middle of the woods. It was a rusted, blue, 55-gallon, steel drum barrel. One of the kids, tried to lift the lid off the barrel and they were all hit with the smell. Then, the kid pushed the barrel over and it fell on it's side and a liquid began oozing out. The kids were way off the normal trails when they discovered this and the one driving the 4-wheeler, was only 11-years-old, so I'm guessing they were all pretty young. The boys all hopped on the 4-wheeler and left. One even mentioned that it looked like milk was pouring out of the container, they honestly didn't understand what they had just discovered.
Several months after this incident, in November, 1985, police got a call from a local hunter. He told the police that he found a barrel in the woods that has bones inside. The officer, Ron Montplaisir Jr. headed into the woods and saw the barrel on it's side. As the officer approaches, he noticed that there was a plastic bag hanging out of the barrel. He opens the bag, and a FACE IS STARING AT HIM.
Two bodies were inside the barrel. One appeared to be an adult female between the ages of 23-33, Caucasian, and possible Native American ancestry, with light brown, curly hair and about 5'4” to 5'7” in height. Her teeth showed significant dental work, including multiple fillings and three extractions. The second body was a young girl between the ages of 8 to 10, Caucasian, with light brown hair and her height is about 4'3”. She appeared to have signs of pneumonia, a crooked front tooth, and a space between her top teeth. There weren't any items in the barrels that would help police identify the two victims. Both of them had died from blunt force trauma to the head.
The police were extra baffled by this whole case when the investigation started. The population of Allenstown, was 5,000. Classic, everybody knows everybody, type of place. The police started asking around and no one was aware of two missing girls. They began to wonder if the woods were just used as a dumping ground for someone that wasn't local. Could a truck driver have just been passing through and dumped the bodies? Maybe the girls weren't local.
Two years after the bodies were discovered, police released the remains because they wanted the girls to get a proper burial. The headstone reads, “Here lies the mortal remains known only to God of a woman age 23-33 and a girl child age 8-10. Their slain bodies were found on November 10th, 1985 in Bear Brook State Park. May their souls find peace in God's loving care.”
That was it, the case went cold after the burial. It's tough to solve the case when they can't even figure out who the girls were. In 1986, a guy named Gordon Jenson, was staying at Holiday Host RV Park in Santa Cruz County, California. He was working as a handyman there and had his daughter with him, Lisa, who was about 5-years-old. Gordon ends up becoming friends with a couple that lived there, Catherine and Richard Decker. He tells the couple that he's having a hard time raising Lisa on his own and the couple knew something was wrong. They often heard Lisa crying at night and her clothes weren't in great shape. Gordon told people several stories about what happened to Lisa's mom. Sometimes, she got cancer and died. In another story, he said they were at a diner and the place was robbed. In a panic, the mother ran into the street and got hit by a car and died. The residents that heard the stories say that they were incredibly convincing and Gordon would break down and cry when he talked about Lisa's mother. He wanted to find a way to make sure Lisa had a good life.
The Decker's really wanted to help out and make sure Lisa was taken care of. They had a daughter who had always wanted a little girl and they wondered if she could adopt Lisa. Gordon liked the idea and told them to take Lisa for a bit as a trial adoption. The couple headed to Southern California, where their daughter lived. They did a two week trial period and they decided to adopt. During their time alone with Lisa, it became evident that she was showing signs of abuse and they contacted the police. The Decker's also contacted Gordon because they wanted to see if he would sign the adoption paperwork as soon as possible, so they could make sure Lisa was safe. It turns out, Gordon had already quit his job and disappeared.
The police asked if there was anything in the RV park that ONLY Gordon would have touched. Since he was the handyman, he had recently installed some equipment by himself. The police found that everything had been wiped clean...on the outside. When they took one of the surveillance systems apart, there were fingerprints on the inside. The police ran the prints and it came back to a man named Curtis Kimball and he had been in a drunk driving accident in the 80's and Lisa had been in the vehicle.
Two years after this guy left the RV park, he was pulled over for driving a stolen vehicle and gave the name, Gerald Mockerman. If you're getting confused, Gordon Jenson, Gerald Mockerman, Curtis Kimball...all the same guy. He served a year and a half in prison for child endangerment and the day he was paroled, he fled.
Since he fled and the mother was supposedly dead, the Decker's weren't allowed to keep Lisa, so she ended up in foster care. I can't imagine how awful this would be. The Decker's rescued Lisa from an abusive situation and then, they're forced to give her away. You may be wondering how we went from talking about a barrel with bodies, to a child being taken away by CPS. Well, Lisa is a big key to this whole story.
In the year 2000, a state trooper, named John Cody, was handed the Allenstown cold case. He walked around the woods to review the area that the bodies had been discovered in, back in 1985. He saw an area where the land was uneven and decided to check it out. As he approached, he saw a black bag in a barrel. Inside the bag, there were human bones. There were two children inside the barrel. One of the girls was about the age of 1-3, with long blond or light brown hair and was between 2'1” and 2'6”. The other girl was 2-4 with brown hair, she was about 3'8” with a gap in her front teeth and had a very noticeable overbite. Both victims had been killed with blunt force trauma to the head. All four of the victims that had been discovered in barrels, were either partially or completely skeletonized.
Now, we're heading back to California. A woman named Eunsoon Jun, was introducing her new boyfriend to her family. She was a chemist from Korea and had been dating a guy named Larry Vanner. The meeting didn't go very well. Eunsoon's family thought he was disrespectful, dirty, and they just had a bad feeling right off the bat. Shortly after this meeting Eunsoon became very distant with her family and friends. When people tried to call the house and talk to her, Larry would give all sorts of excuses. She was busy taking care of her mother, she had an appointment, etc. Eventually, a friend, Renee Rose called the police when she couldn't get through to Eunsoon.
Larry Vanner was brought into the station for questioning. He told several stories that had absolutely nothing to do with Eunsoon. When they attempted to get the interview back on track, he said she had a nervous breakdown and it could set her off if the police called her. The police fingerprinted Larry and he was a parolee at large.....named Curtis Kimball, the guy that abandoned Lisa. Police were dispatched to the house and they were not able to find Eunsoon. There wasn't anything that appeared to be out of place, but they did notice that there weren't any items in the home that would belong to a woman. That's strange. The police headed to the garage and it was packed with stuff. They found a ton of pottery and then they found an enormous pile of cat litter. It was 4-5 inches wide and 2-3 feet high. There was an axe leaning up against the wall, but there wasn't an odor. Even though it didn't smell, there was blood spatter. As they brush the pile of litter away, there was a foot. Eunsoon had been killed with blunt force trauma to the head. The guy that calls himself Larry Vanner, was charged with murder.
There were ten bags worth of cat litter covering Eunsoon. Investigators were notified by the bank that Larry was on camera using Eunsoon's bank card. Based off nothing more than this, they realize that there's a small pet store near the bank. An investigator goes into the pet store and she asks if anyone had recently purchased an abnormally large quantity of litter. They said a guy had just purchased 10 bags of litter and they described him and said he paid cash. Larry didn't fight the charges at all and immediately plead guilty. Investigators could have stopped here, but they felt that there was something BIG going on. Why on earth, would this guy give up so easily and confess to murder? They decided to do a little digging into his past....especially that abandonment charge for him leaving Lisa.
This rock star investigator began to wonder if Lisa even belonged to Larry. She ordered a test and he was not biologically related to Lisa. He is not the father. Lisa was now 22 and she wanted answers just as bad as the investigators did. The investigators did DNA testing and facial recognition for the woman and three girls that were discovered in the barrels. Three of them were related, but the middle child was from a different family. In 2015, Lisa hears that people are using their DNA to find relatives and she signs up for Ancestry.com. Since they didn't know Lisa's name, DOB, or anything, it was very difficult. Eventually, after thousands of hours of work, a family tree was built and they found Lisa's grandfather. They tracked him down, got a DNA sample and confirmed this was Lisa's biological grandfather. They learn from this guy that his daughter, Denise Beaudin was Lisa's mother. Lisa's birth name was Dawn. The last time the family had seen Denise and Dawn was in 1981 around Thanksgiving, with the mother's boyfriend, Bob Evans.
During the holidays, this boyfriend, Bob, told the family that they had to leave town because they owed some people money. A missing person report was never filed because Denise's family thought they went to another state to start over. Police showed the grandfather a picture of the guy that abandoned Lisa all those years ago and he said, that's Bob Evans. They also learned that Bob Evans spent a good amount of time in Bear Brook State Park, where the barrels were found, because he did electrical work at a camp store that was located on the property. Lisa's DNA didn't match the girls in the barrels, BUT the middle child that wasn't related to the others in the barrels, was a DNA match to this Bob Evans guy. I know this case is confusing with names, but it's not often that we know who the serial killer is, before we know who the victims are.
The serial killer goes by several names, but who is he really? The genealogist that created a family tree for Lisa, was asked to create on for the serial killer as well. They eventually learned that the serial killer, was Terry Rasmussen (RasmUssen) from Colorado.
Terry Peder Rasmussen was born on December 23rd, 1943. He ended up dropping out of high school in Arizona to join the Navy in 1961. He was trained as an electrician and served for six years at bases around the West Coast and Okinawa. He got married in Hawaii in 1968 and the couple moved to Phoenix, Arizona to start their family and had four kids. In 1975, Terry and his wife split and the family never saw him again. The family had been looking for Terry for decades and police had to tell them he was a serial killer. Terry Rasmussen was dubbed The Chameleon. He used several aliases and each time he killed, he changed his appearance and moved. Terry did die in prison in 2010 and we are left without so many answers, but the story doesn't end here.
The good news is that the online sleuths demanded answers. A librarian, named Becky Heath, loves to investigate things and went through ancestry message boards to search for terms like “California” or “missing sister”. She began searching through message boards each night after work and she found something. Becky said, “I would just go through that list and then I would start searching to see if they had public records, if the person was alive, see if I could find any record for their existence. If not, then I would pursue it a little further and reach out to the person who had originally posted looking for the loved ones.” There was a missing woman and two children that a family was searching for. Becky stumbled across a posting from 1999 about a relative looking for Sarah McWaters and her mother Marlyse Honeychurch. The online sleuth kept looking into things further and she found another woman looking for the same relatives. She posted in a Facebook group about the case and asked if the missing people, Sarah, and Marlyse, could be the victims found in the barrels. She didn't really get a response and decided to drop it. About a year later, Becky was listening to a New Hampshire Public Radio podcast about the Bear Brook murders. This reminded her about that ancestry message board. The listing did contain an email address.... Becky decided to reach out to the family member and ask her, who was your daughter last seen with before she went missing.
The response is that she married a guy with the last name Rasmussen. Did your heart just drop into your butt? Now, the genetic genealogist that has been working this case, has new technology that she would like to try. She read an article where they can extract DNA from rootless hair. Previously, you couldn't get DNA from hair samples that didn't have a living root attached. There's a new type of genetic genealogy that uses autosomal DNA, which is found inside the cell nucleus. It's a VERY lengthy process because they basically reassemble broken bits of DNA that is found in rootless hair. The samples were sent in and after months of failed attempts, BOOM. Three of the victims from the barrels were identified.
The adult victim is Marlyse Honeychurch
The oldest child is Marie Vaughn
The youngest child is Sarah McWaters
The mother and both daughters were identified, but the middle child that wasn't related to them, was not. A new funeral was held in November 2019 in Allenstown. A headstone was put up and displayed the names of Marlyse Honeychurch and Marie Vaughn. Members of the Honeychurch family were in attendance and the daughter of Terry Rasmussen, from his first marriage was there. Sarah McWaters was laid to rest in Connecticut, to be closer to her father's family. The fourth child is unidentified, but the Honeychurch family calls her Angel and they continue the search to find out who she is.
If you think the last piece of this puzzle is discovering the unidentified child's name, you'd be wrong. There's still so much mystery with this case. We know that Terry Rasmussen went by several names including Bob Evans, Curtis Mayo Kimball, Gordon Jensen, Larry Vanner, and Jerry Mockerman. He got in trouble under all of these names and it's hard to piece together a good timeline for him. In 1980, Terry was arrested three times under the name, Bob Evans. He got in trouble for writing bad checks, and theft of services, such as, stealing electricity. On the first two arrest reports, Terry listed his spouse as Elizabeth and there was a signature from an Elizabeth Evans on a certified letter delivered to Terry on January 9th, 1980. Well, Elizabeth is Marlyse Honeychurch's middle name. Investigators believe it's possible Marlyse was using an alias for awhile. On the third arrest report in October 1980, the line for the spouse's name was blank.
One of the women Terry was with, Denise Beaudin, has never been discovered. She is presumed dead at this point.
The Chameleon 20/20
Bear Brook Murders
Bear Brook murders - Wikipedia
An amateur sleuth helped authorities confirm the identities of the New Hampshire murder victims
Bear Brook murders: An amateur sleuth helped authorities confirm the identities of the New Hampshire victims (cnn.com)
Bear Brook Killings: An old photo raises more questions
Bear Brook killings: An old photo raises more questions | Crime | unionleader.com
Three Bear Brook Murder Victims Identified; Citizen Sleuth, Genetic Genealogy Provide Key Clues
Three Bear Brook Murder Victims Identified; Citizen Sleuth, Genetic Genealogy Provide Key Clues | New Hampshire Public Radio (nhpr.org)
Bodies in Bear Brook Barrel Murders Linked to 'Worst Serial Killer Out There'
Bear Brook Barrel Murders Update: Bodies Identified, Terry Rasmussen is Killer | Crime News (oxygen.com)