Search for Concord homeless man stalls
They have searched the fields behind Gully Hill Road and scoured the old homeless camp near NHTI. They have combed the riverbanks and traced the footpaths to and around the power plant in Bow. The grove behind Everett Arena? Checked. Horseshoe Pond? Done.
And still no Pauly. Not even a body.
Nearly four months, and the search for Paul Bonin – Pauly, as he is known – has run cold. The 50-year-old homeless man was last seen Feb. 20 along North State Street in Concord. Since then, nothing. No credible police leads. No physical evidence. Fewer and fewer places for friends and relatives to look.
“Any area that Pauly ever went has been checked, double-checked and triple-checked,” said Roberta Hixson, a volunteer at Open Hands Resource Center, where Bonin was a regular. “Pauly wasn’t one to walk away and not tell his friends,” she said. “He was like clockwork. He came into the center at least once a week – and he always came back.”
Speculation has so far proven just that, according to the police. Perhaps Bonin was hit by a car or succumbed to the elements while walking back from Boscawen. False. Maybe he left to visit family. Untrue. Someone might have murdered him and tossed his body in the Merrimack River or a dumpster. Thus far entirely uncorroborated.
“These rumors do crop up,” said Concord police Lt. Timothy O’Malley. “And we certainly explore those possibilities.”
Bonin is described as a white male about 5 feet 3 inches tall and weighing at most 130 pounds. He was last seen with gray hair and a long, grizzled gray beard. He was wearing blue jeans, a gray jacket, a purple hat and boots.
Bonin has had his share of personal problems – his brother Pierre Bonin said he has been an alcoholic for years, and underwent invasive heart surgery in January after officers found him lying facedown on the street in downtown Concord – but it’s unclear whether those factored into his disappearance. He reportedly lost his heart medication in the weeks before he was last seen.
Bonin was also arrested Feb. 7 and charged with trespassing. He refused bail and was released from the county jail in Boscawen a few days later. O’Malley said Bonin has a limited criminal history – small infractions, mostly involving alcohol or trespassing. He was never violent and had no known enemies, O’Malley said.
“The general consensus was that he was well-liked,” O’Malley said. “Alcohol was certainly a part of the issue. But he wasn’t a criminal. We didn’t have any negative contacts with him.”
Hixson called Bonin “one of the sweetest little guys ever.”
“He would come in a lot and pick up stuff for the other guys in the camp,” she said. “Pauly would always come in and get just what they needed, never more than that.”
Since the disappearance, a handful of friends and relatives have been searching the city for evidence or, at worst, a body. Amy Lacen, an employee at Concord Hospital who had frequent contact with Bonin through the resource center, started a page on Facebook and said she has been looking for him in her free time most days.
“Today’s update . . . hung flyers more today . . . walked the tracks and search a bit,” she posted on the site Wednesday, adding, “Talked to a bunch of people today and asked everyone for the millionth time about pauly. They say no news is good news but i just don’t know if that’s true.”
Bonin was born in Alton, the youngest of six surviving siblings. He worked there for years as a commercial painter before falling into debt about 2009, Pierre said. He was sober in the early 2000s, Pierre said, but started drinking heavily again a decade ago. He arrived in Concord about 2010.
“He was doing fantastic when he was sober,” Pierre said.
Pierre noted that the surgery in January left Bonin feeble and unsteady on his feet. The two were in frequent contact, he said, as was Bonin and another brother named Renne. Bonin had said he would call Renne soon after he was last seen. When he didn’t, Pierre said, he and Renne started to worry.
Pierre said he has been coming down from Berlin about once a week since March to check in with a detective and search unchecked areas of the city. Renne has been helping when he can.
“We’ve been told to expect the worst and hope for the best,” Pierre said. “That’s what we’re doing.”
He claimed Bonin had been bullied in the months before his disappearance – his cigarettes, cash and booze had all supposedly been stolen. He also said Renne has received various anonymous texts regarding Bonin since he vanished. One said the authorities had found Bonin’s body, but that was proved incorrect.
More recently, Pierre said, he got one that read, “Don’t worry, Paul’s fine.”
“That was a week and a half ago,” he said. “Other than that it’s just been rumors and innuendo.”
(Jeremy Blackman can be reached at 369-3319, firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JBlackmanCM.)