Forensic Case Files: The Bodies in the Barrels

They were discovered by a deer hunter on November 10, 1985, near Bear Brook State Park in Allenstown, New Hampshire. The bodies of a woman and a child, both brutally beaten, were stuffed inside a plastic bag, and then crammed into a metal barrel and left in the woods. The woman was estimated to be between the ages of 22 and 33, the little girl between the ages of 5 and 11. Both had died from blunt force trauma. Due to the weathered conditions of the bones, it was estimated that they had died sometime between 1977 and 1985. It was proposed that they might be mother and daughter, but no concrete leads ever developed and the case went cold.

Fifteen years later, in 2000, a State police officer with some free time between investigations travelled back to the area where the bodies were discovered. Only 100 yards away from the first barrel’s location, he discovered a second barrel containing the bodies of two more children—two girls between the ages of 1 and 3, and 2 and 4. Suddenly they no longer had two victims, but four. But the case continues to thwart investigators.

One of the oddest aspects of the case is the lack of missing persons’ reports to correlate with the victims’ identity. Four individuals went missing, but no one noticed their absence, including a school-aged child? It may be that the only person who noted their absence was the person who killed them.

These victims remain nameless, but science has made some connections between them. Mitochondrial DNA testing determined that the adult female is related through the maternal line to the oldest and youngest children. She could be their mother, their sister or their aunt. The middle child is not related through the maternal line, but could be related through a paternal branch of the family. Further modern DNA testing may shed more direct light on family relationships between the victims.

Recently, the New Hampshire State Police asked the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children to do a facial reconstruction of the four victims in hopes that someone might recognize them and be able to provide some leads in the case. The three-dimensional digital reconstructions below are the result of those efforts:

Case evidence as well as dental condition leads investigators to believe that the victims were not visible members of society. They may not have been local residents, or even American, an aspect which greatly complicates their efforts.

But the victims are not forgotten, especially by the residents of Allenstown. A single headstone marks the passing of the first two victims and residents have already stated that they’d like to be able to provide a marker bearing the names of all four victims.

If anyone recognizes any of the victims or has any information that could assist investigators, please call 1-800-THE-LOST (1-800-843-5678).

Photo credit: National Center for Missing & Exploited Children and the New Hampshire State Police