CONCORD — A new world of crime sleuthing came into focus on Thursday, a world that uses social media as much as police networks, online genetic databases as much as forensic science, and amateur investigators as much as seasoned professionals.
During a presentation about the latest discoveries in the Bear Brook case, officials acknowledged that reality.
“Collaboration = Success,” read a PowerPoint slide presented by homicide prosecutor Susan Morrell.
It noted the contributions of law enforcement, forensic science, national databases, genealogists, the open-data DNA websites GEDMatch and Family Tree DNA, and public assistance.
For example, the DoeNetwork combs public information about missing persons and unsolved crimes and tries to link the two. It has solved 86 cases since it was founded in 2001, said Claudette Gammon, a retired Union Leader librarian who is the area Doe director in New Hampshire and Vermont.
“This case haunted me,” Gammon said about Bear Brook. She is on a panel that makes sure any leads passed to police are credible. Still, she said police, especially detectives newly assigned to a cold case unit, can be skeptical about DoeNetwork’s work.
A few of the unconventional means of solving the Bear Brook case:
Dawn Beaudin, who was abandoned by her supposed father in June 1986 in California, finds New Hampshire relatives of Denise Beaudin through an open-data DNA genomics website. That allows police to identify Bob Evans, whose real name is Terry Peder Rasmussen, and his role in the Bear Brook murders.
New Hampshire Public Radio produces the award-winning Bear Brook podcast by reporter Jason Moon. It is ranked among the 10 best in 2018 by New Yorker magazine and gives the New Hampshire mystery a national focus.
A librarian whose hobby is researching missing persons sees a post on an ancestry website, speculates it could be the Bear Brook victims, contacts the family member and discovers Rasmussen was connected to Marlyse Honeychurch and her daughter, Sarah McWaters.
“Thank you to everyone who never gave up on the Allenstown victims,” the family of Honeychurch said in a statement. “We also want to express our sincere gratitude to the media for helping in the efforts to identify our loved ones.”
Another case solved from amateur sleuthing was the disappearance of Elizabeth Lamotte from new Hampshire in 1984, Morrell said. The public provided information that she was missing, DNA was collected and uploaded to CODIS, an FBI-supported index system of DNA samples submitted by law enforcement countrywide.
Her DNA matched a Jane Doe found murdered in Tennessee in 1985.
Anyone with any information about the Bear Brook murders or other unsolved homicides should contact the New Hampshire State Police Cold Case Unit at firstname.lastname@example.org, Manchester police at LHoobs@manchesternh.gov, or the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children at email@example.com.
Union Leader reporter Shawne K. Wickham contributed to today’s coverage.