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DNA led victim's daughter to Granite State, revealing her link to Allenstown murders

New Hampshire Sunday News

January 28. 2017 10:08PM

A killer's aliases
The man who was Denise Beaudin's boyfriend when she disappeared in 1981 went by many different names in different places, authorities say:

Robert T. Evans: New Hampshire,1977-1981

Curtis Mayo Kimball: Los Alamitos and Cypress, Calif., 1984-1986

Gordon Curtis Jenson: Santa Cruz County, Calif.,1986

Gerald E. Mockerman: Franklin County, Idaho, and San Luis Obispo, Calif., 1987

Lawrence William Vanner: Richmond, Calif., 2001-2002

Evans died of natural causes in prison in California in 2010.

An adopted daughter's search for her identity was the break in a decades-old case that led New Hampshire authorities to the man they believe killed victims on both coasts.

The woman at the heart of the disturbing case, revealed by authorities last week at a news conference in Concord, grew up thinking of herself as Lisa Jenson.

Now in her mid-30s, she recently learned that the man she once thought of as her father was a serial killer - and most likely murdered her mother.

Authorities also believe that man, who called himself Bob Evans when he lived in New Hampshire, murdered a woman and three young girls whose bodies were dumped in barrels in Allenstown sometime in the late 1970s or early 1980s. Evans died in 2010 in a California prison, where he was serving time for the 2002 murder of a girlfriend.

Carol Schweitzer is supervisor of the forensic services unit at the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC). She's been working on the Allenstown case for years - and also helped Lisa discover her true identity.

Schweitzer said the connection to Lisa's case began in 2004, when California authorities asked for the center's help to identify a child who had been abandoned 19 years earlier in a trailer park by a man they thought was her father.

"They knew she was abandoned in 1985 and they had never been able to locate her family because the offender absconded after he abandoned her," she said.

But in 2002, a man calling himself Larry Vanner was arrested for murder in Contra Costa County, Calif. The dismembered body of Eunsoon Jun was discovered in the basement of the home she had shared with Vanner; a bloody saw, axe and meat cleaver were found nearby.

Investigators learned that Vanner had gone by several aliases over the years. They matched his fingerprints to those of Curtis Kimball, a man wanted for a parole violation 12 years earlier.

That man had served time for abandoning his daughter in 1985, when he was going by the name Gordon Jenson. But he fled parole and was a fugitive for 12 years before reappearing in California in 2002 as Larry Vanner.

And that, Schweitzer said, is when authorities learned through DNA testing that the man who had abandoned Lisa was not her biological father.

"That's when everyone started asking, where did he get her from?" recalled Peter Headley, a deputy sheriff with the San Bernadino County (Calif.) Sheriff's Department. "Who is she?"

No longer was it a case of child abandonment; now police were looking at an abduction.

In 2004, the San Bernadino department contacted NCMEC asking if Lisa matched the description of any of the missing children they had in their files.

She didn't.

Headley said his department spent years trying to follow Curtis Kimball's trail backward to try to figure out who Lisa was and where she'd come from.

Detectives even interviewed Vanner in prison, he said. "He would not even admit to knowing who she is or having her. At that point he just denied everything."

In 2014, they decided to try to learn Lisa's identity through one of the online DNA databases that folks can use to search their family histories. Working with a genetic genealogist, they submitted Lisa's DNA and hoped for a match.

And last year they found one, a cousin in New Hampshire.

Lisa, Headley said, "has always been extremely grateful for everything anybody does for her."

So he said, "It was just great to be able to call her up and tell her we figured out who she is."

Headley said they were able to confirm her identity through her grandfather's DNA.

But they also learned something ominous about her mother.

Denise Beaudin was just 23 years old when she and her 6-month-old daughter Dawn left Manchester just after Thanksgiving in 1981 with a man the family knew as Bob Evans. They were never heard from again.

"The family was led to believe that Denise and the suspect owed money to everyone and they were running from money trouble," Headley said. So the family never reported Denise and the baby missing.

"That's when we put it together that she's a missing person," Headley said.

They didn't yet realize that Lisa's story was about to collide with a decades-old murder mystery.

In 2008, New Hampshire authorities had contacted NCMEC, asking for help to identify four victims whose bodies had been found in barrels in Allenstown years earlier.

In 1985, a hunter had made a grisly discovery in the woods near Bear Brook State Park: a 55-gallon barrel containing the remains of an adult woman and a child. Fifteen years later, authorities found a second barrel, the remains of two more little girls inside.

NCMEC had worked with forensic specialists to reconstruct what the woman and three girls may have looked like when they were killed. And DNA testing had revealed that the woman and two of the children were maternally related.

The third and "middle" child was an outlier, unrelated to the rest.

Detective Sgt. Michael Kokoski of the New Hampshire State Police's cold case unit has worked on the Allenstown case for years. He said the DNA testing that linked Lisa to New Hampshire and Denise Beaudin - and Bob Evans - was the key that broke open the case.

"If that California connection had never been made, I don't know where we would be with these cases," he said.

Police from here and California exchanged photos that proved Evans was the same man who called himself Vanner, Gordon and Kimball, Kokoski said.

"You had somebody who's a convicted murderer and now you've got him tied to New Hampshire, tied to the disappearance of a woman that nobody has known is missing."

And right away, he said, Manchester and state police started wondering if there was a connection to the Allenstown victims.

They learned that Evans had worked at the Waumbec Mills in Manchester as an electrician. He had also done some work for the man who owned the Allenstown property where the victims were found - including dumping waste from the mill at that property, according to authorities.

The Allenstown victims had been wrapped in plastic and electrical wiring.

The evidence seemed promising.

Police in California had Evans' DNA; authorities sent it out to test for a match to the Allenstown victims.

"It was almost like a shot in the dark," Schweitzer recalled.

And last October, the testing found the link investigators were looking for: Bob Evans was the biological father of the middle child, the one who was unrelated to the other three victims.

That, Kokoski recalled, "was the real Eureka moment, that connection to the victims."

Kokoski said Evans' name had actually surfaced in 2014, but investigators couldn't find anything to tie him to the Allenstown case. "With this California nexus, and the direct link to the victims, that was huge," he said.

"We were all shocked," Schweitzer recalled, "but at the same time very pleased to hear that this was an answer we had been waiting for for a long time."

And now, she said, "We're more optimistic than ever to be able to identify these victims, knowing this piece."

One possible scenario is that Evans and his daughter met a woman who had two girls of her own. "Did he come into town with his daughter, posing as a single dad?" Schweitzer asked.

That's what he did when he arrived in California in 1984, posing as Lisa's father, she said. "I think it's very possible that he met this other family when it was just him and his daughter, but we don't know that."

Kokoski said it's likely that Evans killed the Allenstown victims before he got involved with Denise Beaudin. Police are hoping to jog the memories of people who may remember a man with a young daughter who spent time with a woman who had two girls of her own.

As strange and terrible as her early childhood was, in the end Lisa was the lucky one.

The man who apparently killed his own daughter and stuffed her small body in a barrel spared Denise Beaudin's daughter, leaving her behind with kindly strangers before vanishing.

"It is a mystery," Schweitzer said. "We can't start rationalizing the decisions he made. We can just start trying to identify the ones that he made so we can find Denise, and identify the family (found) in New Hampshire, if not other victims he had across the country."

The Allenstown children would be about Lisa's age had they lived, noted Kokoski, who called Lisa "a remarkable woman."

And if there's a silver lining to what she has endured, he said, it's "that ultimately all these years later, her story would dovetail with these stories out there, and ultimately the hope is she's going to give some hope to the identification of these children."

Headley, who has stayed in touch with Lisa, said "it's been an emotional roller coaster for her."

At last week's news conference, Senior Assistant Attorney General Jeffery Strelzin read a statement from Lisa, expressing gratitude to those who have helped her. "I am so thankful to be reunited with my Grandfather and cousins after all these years," she said.

She asked the media to respect her privacy.

"Currently I have three beautiful children and a loving husband, and would like our presently happy and secure life to remain intact and protected through the release of this story," she wrote.

"Please turn your focus toward the unidentified victims, and other potentially unknown victims in this case, and hopefully their families will also be offered some closure as this investigation continues."

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