While honoring two Bear Brook victims, anger is nowhere to be seen

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  • Terry Rasmussen’s daughter Diane (right) holds onto Marlyse Honeychurch’s sister Michelle Chigaris as they sit with her other siblings during the graveside service for Honeychurch and her daughter Marie Vaugn at the St. John the Baptist cemetery in Allenstown on Saturday afternoon, November 9, 2019. Terry Rasmussen murdered Honeychurch and her daughter around 1980. Honechurch’s sibling Paula Hodges of California (far left), Roxanne Barrow California, and youngest David Salamon of Oregon, sit next Michelle and Diane during the service. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Marlyse Honeychurch’s siblings clutch each other at the end of the burial service for Honeychurch and her daughter Marie Vaughn at St. John the Baptist cemetery in Allenstown on Saturday. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor staff

  • Michelle Chigaris (left), holds onto Terry Rasmussen’s daughter Diane at the gravesite of Marlyse Honeycutt and her daughter Marie Vaughn at St. John the Baptist cemetery in Allenstown on Saturday, November 9, 2019. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Paula Hodges from California holds a red rose as she remembers her sister Marlyse Honeychurch during her burial ceremony at St. John the Baptist cemetery in Allenstown on Saturday, November 9, 2019. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Siblings and family members of Marlyse Honeychurch carry her urn for burial at the St. John the Baptist cemetery in Allenstown on Saturday, November 9, 2019. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Siblings and family members of Marlyse Honeychurch carry her urn for burial at the St. John the Baptist cemetery in Allenstown on Saturday, November 9, 2019. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Siblings and family members of Marlyse Honeychurch carry her urn for burial at the St. John the Baptist cemetery in Allenstown on Saturday, November 9, 2019. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Terry Rasmussen’s daughter Diane places a red rose into the burial spot for Marlyse Honeychurch and her daughter Marie Vaughn at St. John the Baptist cemetery in Allenstown on Saturday, November 9, 2019. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

Monitor columnist
Published: 11/10/2019 1:13:19 AM

Michelle Chigaris flew in from Oklahoma, leaving her bitterness and hatred at home.

So there she was Saturday at the St. John the Baptist Cemetery in Allenstown, wrapped in a white winter coat, hiding her tears with sunglasses and clutching the hand of the woman whose father killed Michelle’s sister, Marlyse Honeychurch.

Later, Michelle actually placed her head on the woman’s shoulder, held her right arm tightly and shared one of life’s most powerful moments together.

It’s certain you’ve heard about the Bear Brook State Park murders, the endless crime story that has gained national attention. This latest chapter, a bit brighter than past news through four decades, included a service to honor two of the victims identified last summer – Marlyse Honeychurch, a young adult, and her daughter, Marie Vaughn, who was between 5 and 10 years old when Terry Rasmussen beat her to death.

Terry Rasmussen’s daughter is Diane. The same Diane who received lots of tenderness from Marlyse’s four siblings. Especially while seated next to Michelle during an official service to bury these remains and add a stone with the IDs, next to the one that says, “known only to God.”

Afterward, the media had to tread lightly, searching for sources for an amazing story that was hard to talk about, to say the least.

These were under-the-radar people, from California, Oregon and Illinois, an office records keeper and a plumber, people simply trying to put the pieces together and pack the puzzle away, siblings still adjusting to reality, the sadness mixed with relief. They were flown in by ABC for a 20/20 documentary and trailed by cameras and microphones where ever they went.

“I don’t want to talk,” Michelle told me softly, her voice reflecting shyness, not meanness.

She let her guard down for a moment, telling me she and her siblings had just met Diane face-to-face that morning. They had done some internet chatting beforehand, leading up to Saturday.

“A very nice person,” Michelle said. When asked if any trace of bitterness existed, Michelle said, “No, because that is just who I am. I reach out.”

They all reached out, this whole family at what resembled a family affair. David Salamon of Oregon, 48; Paula Hodges of California, 59; Chigaris, 62; and Roxanne Barrow of California, 66.

“They told me that they did not blame me,” said Diane, who lives in Illinois. “They have been so gracious and kind to me, the daughter of the man who did this.”

Roxanne said her late sister would have been 65. No permanent address, of course.

Not after meeting Rasmussen, who, police believe, probably killed more than the five people we know about. He died in prison in 2010, sentenced for killing his wife, who authorities found under a pile of cat litter in California.

Before any of that, though, Rasmussen charmed Marlyse into leaving her family in La Puente, Calif., around Thanksgiving of 1978. She brought her two daughters – Marie and Sarah McWaters – from two different fathers and they settled in Manchester.

Rasmussen killed them all, sometime around 1980, and left the state a year later with his girlfriend, Denise Beaudin. She’s presumed to be dead.

The remains of Marlyse and Marie were discovered in a barrel near Bear Brook State Park in 1985. A second barrel with McWaters and another yet-to-be-identified little girl was found in a second barrel about 100 yards from the first in 2000.

Since then, the strange has gotten stranger. For one thing, the unidentified little girl found in the second barrel turned out to be Rasmussen’s daughter, adding to Diane’s already strong sense of loss and grief.

“There is no closure for me until my sister is identified and my sister gets her name back,” Diane told me. “Michelle, Paula and their whole family have some closure, but my sister doesn’t have her name back.”

Also, as the case grew, residents in that area of the Suncook Valley became accustomed to updates, looked for updates, and, once the names surfaced last summer, felt the need to say goodbye.

“I felt like I better come,” said Jackie Mason, a longtime Allenstown resident. “They were part of the family by this point. That’s how we felt.”

Jennifer Albee moved to the area 10 years ago and got hooked when she heard NHPR’s podcast examining the history of this case.

“When they figured out who these people were, it really just humanizes them,” Albee told me. “Even though it was so close to home, there’s still this disconnect because you didn’t know who they were. They were just faceless, and when they named them, it hits your heart in a different way.”

Justin Calnan grew up nearby and rode the trails where the barrels were found. He’s sure he must have passed them at some point.

“I remember being a little kid and the panic it brought to the town,” Calnan said. “Just growing up in town and finally seeing it come to an end is definitely good.”

With the advancements in DNA testing, some pretty smart amateur sleuths working the internet and an Attorney General’s office that never closed the book, only one identification remains.

“Through the years, we never stopped searching,” said David, who was 6 when his sister left with Rasmussen. “We searched and we searched and we never gave up.”

The remains of Marlyse and Marie had been stored at the medical examiner’s office for years. Their two urns were placed in a square opening in the dirt on Saturday, which was then covered with a monument parallel to the ground. It had a rose and two names: “Marlyse Elizabeth Honeychurch 1954-1981” and “Marie Elizabeth Vaughn 1971-1981.”

At least 150 people showed up, forming a semicircle around the family. There were blank stares, sad stares, tears, making it feel like an intimate event with a family, a big family, grieving the loss of a loved one.

Diane felt that.

“I think they have been more than kind and loving,” she said, “and it’s very touching to me.”




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