By day, she handles books; by night, she chases leads 

  • Rebekah Heath, a librarian from Simsbury, N.H.

Monitor columnist
Published: 6/15/2019 8:19:43 PM

Rebekah Heath saw the message online, revealing a man’s last name.

“Rasmussen,” it read.

Rasmussen? Heath wondered if the writer was sure.

Yes, she was sure.

The name held different meanings for the two people involved. Heath’s online connection was a woman searching for a long-lost baby, a relative named Sarah McWaters, not seen in more than 40 years. Sarah’s mother, Marlyse Honeychurch, was also missing, Heath learned, after disappearing from California in 1978.

Further, this online connection said the last person known to have had contact with the mother and daughter, plus two other missing girls, was a man named Terry Rasmussen.

Heath’s mouth instantly opened, into an oval of astonishment, once the name appeared on her computer screen. A killer of women had been identified at a press conference in 2017, and the name was repeated later in a podcast by New Hampshire Public Radio:

Terry Peder Rasmussen.

Heath was listening.

And with that, this librarian from Simsbury, Conn., knew her independent work trying to help police identify four people – a woman and three girls found dead years ago and years apart in Allenstown, near Bear Brook State Park – had paid off.

The four people Rasmussen killed in N.H. had remained unknown for years, and Heath was sure the named killer and this other Rasmussen were one and the same. It just made sense.

After all this time, we had names for three of the four victims: Marlyse Honeychurch, Sarah McWaters and Honeychurch’s older daughter, Marie Vaughn.

The other girl, we know, was Rasmussen’s daughter, not related to Honeychurch, but authorities have not yet discovered a name for her.

Rasmussen had married Honeychurch. Or was he her boyfriend? Didn’t much matter. The killer’s name matched up to that online post. He was connected to a missing woman and three missing girls. The librarian had spent the past year trying to aid police in their search for identities.

Mission accomplished.

“I knew right away,” Heath told me by phone. “I literally started shaking. I couldn’t type. You knew something was there.”

Heath didn’t sleep that night, realizing she had assisted in a cold case that had stumped law enforcement since that first barrel was found in a thickly wooded area in 1985, containing the remains of a woman and her young daughter.

And when officials found a second barrel in 2000 just 100 yards from the first one, containing the badly decomposed remains of two more little girls, the mystery deepened, turning it into a national story.

By 2018, Heath wanted to know more. Could she help crack this case?

“I started compiling lists of any potential listings that could match the victims,” Heath told me. “I looked for someone looking for a stepsister, someone looking for a granddaughter. If I could not find any information, then I would probably reach out to the person who originally posted it, and that’s what happened.”

This is all pretty new to Heath, this amateur Sherlock Holmes gig. She’s 33. By day, she handles books. By night, she chases leads.

“A hobby,” Heath called it. “It’s something I’ve always just had a soft spot for, an unidentified Jane and John Doe missing person. I especially like the cold cases. They don’t seem to get the same amount of attention as current cases.”

These four unsolved murders moved in and out of the public consciousness through the decades. A reporter would revisit now and then, check on progress, see if there had been any developments in a case that had proved frustrating for so many for so long.

Heath scoured missing-children posts. Monthly subscriptions to, and lots of newspapers opened doors. She wasn’t sure what her monthly bill for these services was, but the way things turned out, this background material was priceless.

“She got Rasmussen’s name from a podcast at the same time we were doing our investigative and genealogy work,” Associate Attorney General Jeff Strelzin told me during a phone interview. “It all came together at the same time.”

Strelzin said his office and law enforcement, in general, didn’t mind that a private citizen assisted in their effort to create at least some closure for families.

The reason? Rasmussen is dead. He died in a California prison in 2010 after police there charged him with killing his girlfriend, a woman named a Eunsoon Jun.

“This was a unique case,” Strelzin explained, “because this was not a prosecutorial case, so it would not impact our position.”

Strelzin recalled the case of Manuel Gehring, a Concord man who killed his two children in 2003, then buried them, he said, somewhere along a 700-mile stretch in the Midwest.

Gehring killed himself in prison, taking the location of the graves with him, but allowing authorities to welcome help from the public in their search for the children, who were discovered buried in Ohio.

“We put out the information and they would call us and the police department,” Strelzin said, “and a private citizen helped find the bodies out west.”

Heath was so instrumental in finding answers that at a recent press conference, called to announce that three names had been attached to the victims, Heath was mentioned more than once by law enforcement officials, who addressed a crowded gathering of New England media.

Heath had dug for a worthy tip. She had phoned the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department – the organization that named Rasmussen after he had murdered Eunsoon Jun. She had mentioned the possibility, that, because the unknown females found in Allenstown had a connection with this guy, maybe, just maybe, that would uncover the truth.

San Bernardino law enforcement called their colleagues in New Hampshire. Then came the photos from family members, interviews, DNA testing, contact with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. Dots were connecting. A story was unfolding.

“His DNA was compared to all the victims,” Mike Kokoski of the State Police said at the press conference earlier this month, referring to Rasmussen. “We announced those developments here in January 2017.”

Then Kokoski and other officials explained this confusing tale, the one about a monster, unnamed for decades, and his four victims, so cruelly beaten and discarded in thick woods.

They thanked the librarian. She was invited to the press conference.

So were family members of those killed. They sat in a reserved section up front and then filed out quickly, declining to comment.

But Heath has been besieged by interview requests, and she’s patiently agreed to tell her story to all who call. Meanwhile, she’s furthering her education.

She might change her major.

“I was going for my bachelor’s degree in communications,” Heath told me. “But now I think I will probably change focus:

To criminal justice research.

What else?

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