Bear Brook

Since Bear Brook debuted last October, more than four million listeners have downloaded an episode of the New Hampshire Public Radio podcast. But it was a single listener who just helped solve part of the mystery of the murders that were the center of the series.

First, some background: Bear Brook focuses on four unsolved murders from the 1980s near Bear Brook State Park in Allenstown, NH. In the podcast, NHPR reporter Jason Moon and producer Taylor Quimby explore a central question of how could a murdered family go missing and unidentified for so long?

Some of that mystery was solved this week as New Hampshire law enforcement officials announced they have confirmed three of the four Bear Brook murder victims’ identities. Marlyse Elizabeth Honeychurch and her two daughters, Marie Elizabeth Vaughn and Sarah Lynn McWaters, were found in two industrial barrels near the park in 1985 and 2000.

Librarian and amateur investigator Becky Heath first made the connection in November 2017 when she posted a response to the women’s family on an ancestry message board that their missing relatives could have been the Bear Book victims. Then, when the Bear Brook podcast was released last fall, she remembered a posting about Sarah McWaters on the board in 2000. She contacted the original message board poster and quickly began making the connections. During the past several months police investigations have been confirming their suspicions, and the women’s identities.

Health told NHPR on Thursday that she got “a little crazy” with trying to solve the mystery of who the Bear Brook victims were. “I would go to work and I’d come home and I would just research and research and research,” she said. Then came the Bear Brook podcast. “I was like, ‘you know what? Listening to this podcast makes me think it is this person – these girls,’” says Heath. “It fits, it just fits.”

While the victims have remained a mystery, police have a pretty good idea of who the killer was. Using genetic technology, they believe drifter and serial killer Teddy Peder Rasmussen was responsible for the women’s deaths. Rasmussen died in prison in 2010 while serving time for another murder. A fourth victim, a little girl who is not biologically related to the other women, remains unidentified but is thought to be the daughter of the alleged killer. Her mother is unknown, but police think she too was one of Rasmussen’s victims.