Decades after their murders, three of the four victims whose bodies were found in barrels in the woods of New Hampshire’s Bear Brook State Park have been identified, authorities announced on Thursday.
The New Hampshire Attorney General’s office revealed that three of the victims in what became widely known as the “Bear Brook Murders” are Marlyse Elizabeth Honeychurch and her two daughters, Marie Elizabeth Vaugh and Sara Lynn McWaters. Their bodies were found in two separate industrial drums in Allentown, New Hampshire.
The news comes just two years after prosecutors and state police identified the “serial killer” behind the mysterious slayings: a “chameleon” drifter named Terry Rasmussen who died in prison while serving time for murdering his wife.
The fourth victim found in the barrels, who is Rasmussen’s daughter, has still not been identified.
“On behalf of our families, we would like to thank everyone who has spent decades tirelessly working to identify our loved ones,” the victims’ family members said in a statement read by New Hampshire Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey Strelzin on Thursday. “This day comes with heavy hearts, Marlyse, Marie and Sarah were so loved by our families and they are greatly missed. We take solace in finally having the answers we have longed for.”
Rasmussen has been fingered in several cold cases—including the 1981 disappearance of a New Hampshire woman believed to be his ex-girlfriend—thanks to DNA evidence and a complex forensic trail. Authorities said Rasmussen, who’s been described as a hard-drinking con man, also went by a slew of other aliases, including Robert Evans.
Authorities said Thursday that Honeychurch, who was dating Rasmussen, and her two daughters were last seen at a family Thanksgiving dinner in 1978. The two-time divorcee and Connecticut native, who was 24 years old at the time, left her family’s La Puente, California, home after a heated argument, the family told investigators. They never heard from her again.
On Nov. 10, 1985, a hunter walking through Bear Brook State Park in Allenstown, New Hampshire, found a 55-gallon industrial steel drum that contained Honeychurch, who was in her 20s, and 11-year-old Vaugh. Fifteen years later, authorities discovered another container with the bodies of two more girls, one of them McWaters, about 100 yards away. All four bodies, which were found dismembered and wrapped in a plastic bag, were so “skeletonized” that investigators concluded they died between 1977 and 1985.
Police believe the steel drums were dumped together, but had been pushed around by kids in the area. A medical examiner determined all four victims died from “blunt force trauma.”
Through DNA testing, investigators were able to reveal two years ago that Rasmussen is the father of the middle child found in 2000. Prosecutors believe her mother, who has not yet been identified, may have also been slain.
New Hampshire State Police Col. Christopher Wagner said Thursday that authorities are continuing to effort investigation to identify the middle child because “she needs a voice as well.”
“One of the goals is to locate the mother of that middle child and determine whether she’s still alive,” Strelzin added.
Strelzin revealed on Thursday that investigators got a crack in the case when a professional researcher and librarian from Connecticut alerted authorities to a tip she’d uncovered after listening to a podcast about the murders.
The researcher, Rebecca Heath, “had a hobby for missing persons utilizing an ancestry posting board and saw that Marlyse McWaters and her daughter Sarah were missing,” Strelzin said.
Rasmussen has also been connected to the 1981 disappearance of 23-year-old Denise Beaudin, his ex-girlfriend. Authorities believe the grifter killed Beaudin between New Hampshire and California before kidnapping her infant daughter Dawn, whose name was later changed to Lisa, for several years. In 1986, Dawn was found abandoned in a California RV park and adopted.
“It is possible Denise Beaudin’s body was left behind in New Hampshire,” Strelzin said Thursday.
In 2002, Rasmussen also admitted to murdering and dismembering Eunsoon Jun, a 45-year-old California chemist, soon after their marriage. He was convicted and died in prison in 2010 while serving a 15-year sentence.
Investigators have said they believe Rasmussen, who allegedly beat his victims to death, may be connected to several other unknown murders.
“Given what we know about him, we are concerned about his activities in California for those 12 years,” Strelzin said in 2017. “This is somebody who targets females, and children as well. We know he is an abuser. This is a guy who was a chameleon.”