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Investigators hope killer's ID will yield new clues

New Hampshire Sunday News

August 20. 2017 1:53AM

Terry Peder Rasmussen in high school in 1960, left, and in a 1985 police booking photo. 

The remains of an unidentified adult woman and child, found in a barrel near Bear Brook State Park in Allenstown in 1985, were buried in a grave at Saint Jean Baptiste Cemetery in Allenstown. (Shawne K. Wickham/Sunday News)

When New Hampshire investigators recently learned the true identity of the serial killer who called himself Bob Evans, it felt like the last piece of a grisly puzzle that has haunted them for decades might fall into place.

In January, authorities announced their belief that it was Evans who murdered a woman and three little girls and disposed of their bodies inside metal barrels that were discovered in Allenstown in 1985 and 2000. DNA tests had proved that Evans was the father of the middle child, who was unrelated to the three other victims.

They also believe the same man murdered Denise Beaudin, a 23-year-old woman who had left Manchester in 1981 with the boyfriend she knew as Bob Evans - and was never seen again.

On Friday, law enforcement officials announced Evans' true identity: Terry Peder Rasmussen, who was born in Denver in 1943. After six years in the Navy, Rasmussen got married and moved to Arizona in 1969; he and his wife had four kids in four years, the oldest of them twins, officials said.

Friday's news release provided this chilling statement: "Rasmussen's former wife and his four children are alive and accounted for."

Jeffery Strelzin, senior assistant attorney general and chief of the AG's homicide unit, said he feared at first that Rasmussen's family members would turn out to be the woman and children in the Allenstown barrels. "Obviously, we're happy that they're safe," he said.

Rasmussen's wife had left him in 1973, taking the children with her. They saw him only once after that, the following year, when Rasmussen showed up at their Arizona home to visit his children, according to officials.

There was a woman with him at the time and he told his estranged wife that he was living in Texas.

Detective Sgt. Michael Kokoski, supervisor of the State Police Major Crime Unit's cold case unit, said one "working theory" now is that the woman with Rasmussen on that visit could have been the mother of his daughter, the 2-to-4-year-old girl whose body was found in a barrel in Allenstown in 2000.

"Maybe it is, maybe it isn't," he said. "We certainly would like to try to identify who that woman is, and we're trying to be optimistic it could open some new doors for us if we could figure out who she is."

Strelzin said a combination of DNA and investigative work revealed Rasmussen's true identity. When investigators put Rasmussen's high school yearbook photo next to a 1985 booking photo taken of Evans, they knew for sure.

"I think for all of us when we saw those two pictures together, we said, 'That's our guy,'" Strelzin said.

A paternity test of one of Rasmussen's now-adult children confirmed his identity, which allowed investigators to glean military, criminal and other records to track his movements over the decades, Strelzin said.

Now authorities hope releasing that information will help them solve the Allens-town murders at last.

Rasmussen lived in Hawaii, Arizona, California and Texas before he came to New Hampshire in the late 1970s. At some point, he started using aliases, calling himself Evans, Curtis Kimball and Gordon Jenson.

He was going by the name Lawrence William Vanner in 2002 when he murdered his common-law wife in California, burying her dismembered body in the basement of her home and covering it with kitty litter. He went to prison for that murder and died there in 2010.

It was Sgt. Kokoski who broke the news to Rasmussen's former family about what he had become.

"The reality was they had lost touch with him so early on," he said. "His children were so young when the family left him, they're very detached in the one sense that they don't have any memories of him."

Still, they had always wondered what became of Rasmussen, and to learn that he became a serial killer, Kokoski said, "It's a lot to take in."

The second barrel was found in 2000 at Bear Brook State Park in Allenstown, containing two unidentified female children (2 to 4 and 1 to 3 years old). (NH State Police)

Kokoski said the Evans/Rasmussen case has been "priority number one" for his cold case unit this year. He said investigators believe that the Allenstown victims were likely killed in the late 1970s.

That's also the time that Rasmussen began using aliases.

Strelzin said discovering Rasmussen's real name is a "major step in the right direction" for New Hampshire investigators. "The focus here obviously was to identify him in the hopes we could learn the identity of our victims and find Denise Beaudin and any other potential victims this guy left out there," he said.

There are gaps in what they know about Rasmussen's trail over the years, Strelzin said. "Part of that is because he was changing his identity," he said.

But there could be a more sinister reason, he said. "It's certainly possible that a person or persons with knowledge are dead at this point, for nonhomicide reasons - or dead because he killed them."

Kokoski said authorities are working with the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC) to broadcast the new information about Rasmussen's identity, especially in the western states where he previously lived.

For investigators, the window between 1974 and 1978 is a critical period, Kokoski said, because it appears that's when Rasmussen fathered the middle child found in Allenstown, and met the woman and the other two children whose bodies were found there, who are related to each other.

"What we want most from the public is any information on anybody who knew him, who knew where he was, and most importantly, who knew any females or children he traveled with," Kokoski said. "Our hope is we're going to get a tip that will really orient us to who our victims may be, based on the relationship to Terry Rasmussen."

Rasmussen was still using his real name when he lived in Houston in 1978, working for the Brown & Root Company. Company records show he "quit to work elsewhere."

Soon after, he showed up in New Hampshire, using the name Bob Evans, and was hired as head electrician at Waumbec Mills in Manchester. He also did some work for a co-worker who owned property adjacent to Bear Brook State Park in Allenstown, including dumping waste from the mill on the property, according to authorities.

It was on that property that two metal barrels were later discovered with dismembered bodies inside, wrapped in plastic and electrical wire.

At some point, "Evans" started dating Denise Beaudin, and the couple lived together in Manchester. Shortly after Thanksgiving in 1981, they left with Beaudin's infant daughter, Dawn.

Police released this photo taken in 1969 of Terry Peder Rasmussen holding a baby.

Beaudin's family would later tell investigators they thought the couple was fleeing financial troubles. They never heard from her again.

By January of 1986, Rasmussen was living and working at an RV park in Scotts Valley, Calif., under the name Gordon Jenson. With him was a young girl he called Lisa who he said was his daughter. Five months later, he left the child with a local couple and fled.

When authorities arrested him in California three years later for child abandonment, he denied knowing anything about the girl. DNA testing proved he was not the child's father.

Years later, that young woman's quest for her true identity would lead back to Manchester. Working with police and the NCMEC, she learned she is Denise Beaudin's daughter.

Kokoski said investigators have no evidence that Evans used his real name when he lived in New Hampshire, but it's possible releasing his identity may trigger someone to remember him by that name. 

"I would certainly ask the public here to give it a second look," he said.

Authorities also released some old photos of Rasmussen, including one of him holding a newborn baby, staring directly at the camera.

The photo is disturbing, Kokoski said, given the dichotomy between the image of a family man and the brutal crimes he would go on to commit against women and children. "It's unsettling just to think that somebody could in one lifetime be doing both of those things, and in front of the camera have that look of normalcy, and then go on to do the things that he's done," he said.

So how does a young man who served his country in the military and once was a family man end up becoming a serial killer?

Strelzin said he can't talk about what investigators learned from confidential records. He wouldn't even say whether Rasmussen had ever served in Vietnam, since his military records were confidential.

The first barrel was found at Bear Brook State Park in Allenstown in 1985 containing an unidentified woman age 23 to 33, and a female child age 5 to 11, who were related. (NH State Police)

But he did say "things were rough" in Rasmussen's marriage, "and we surmise that things got a lot worse, which is why he ended up committing the crimes that he did."

"I think it's fair to say by the late '60s, early '70s, he was taking a very different turn," Strelzin said.

With Rasmussen dead, investigators here are focusing on his victims, Kokoski said.

"And justice in this case is going to be identifying those children and that woman and finally giving them their dignity back," he said.

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