After Years of Investigation, New Hampshire Police Officially Identify Three Victims of the “Bear Brook Murders”
Authorities credit citizen sleuths and cutting-edge DNA technology with helping them restore names and faces to the previously unknown victims.
CONCORD, NH — Shining new light on a decades-old mystery, the New Hampshire State Police have released the names and photos of three murder victims whose bodies were found crammed into two barrels and discarded in Bear Brook State Park in Allenstown. One barrel was reportedly discovered in 1985, the other in 2000. Police say they believe the victims fell prey to alleged serial killer Terry Peder Rasmussen, aka Robert “Bob” Evans, the alleged perpetrator of the so-called Bear Brook murders.
The New Hampshire Attorney General’s office now says the one adult victim has been identified as Marlyse Elizabeth Honeychurch, a mother in her mid-20s. Two of three child victims were identified as Honeychurch’s daughters—Marie Elizabeth Vaughn and her younger sister Sarah Lynn McWaters.
Authorities say they are still working to identify the one remaining child victim, but that DNA indicates Rasmussen was her biological father and that a search is underway to track down that child’s mother.
Rasmussen is believed to have allegedly murdered at least six women and girls total, and detectives say they suspect he is connected to the 1980 disappearance of Denise Denault.
In 2010, Rasmussen died in prison, while serving time for the 2002 murder of his then girlfriend, Eunsoon Joon.
For more than two decades, the Bear Brook murders remained a complete mystery. Investigators said they finally got a break in 2017, when a new forensic technique known as genetic genealogy pinpointed Rasmussen as the likely culprit. It was the first time, researchers claimed, that genetic genealogy had been successfully employed in a murder case.
With the identification now of these three victims, authorities are also expressing gratitude for the efforts of citizen sleuths in pursuit of truth and closure.
Reportedly, the victims’ identities were first discovered last fall by two researchers outside law enforcement who were working without the knowledge of one another: genetic genealogist Barbara Rae-Venter and amateur investigator Becky Heath.
Heath, a 33-year-old librarian from Connecticut, reportedly came by her discoveries after being intrigued by an Ancestry.com message board post with the headline “Missing Half-Sister.”
The Boston Globe reports that Heath followed developments on that post for years and, in the course of also investigating the Bear Brook murders, she put together information that indicated Marlyse Honeychurch was the half-sister being pursued.
Reportedly, then, Heath learned that Honeychurch had been involved with convicted killer Terry Peder Rasmussen in 1978 and moved with him and her two daughters from California to New Hampshire. In 1981, Honeychurch reportedly went missing. Upon making that final discovery, Heath said she contacted authorities immediately.
A San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Deputy, who was working with genealogists on the case at the same time, praised Heath, stating: “She deserves credit. She’s an incredibly good researcher.”
In addition, New Hampshire Senior Assistant Attorney General Susan Morrell praised the people of the Allenstown area, stating, “They never stopped trying to identify the four victims in these barrels and they worked together to bring the answers to the victims' families today. Today, we've returned the identities and the dignity to Marlyse Honeychurch, Marie Vaughn, and Sarah McWaters."