true crime

How four unidentified bodies in a barrel led to the arrest of the Golden State Killer.

Jessie Morgan was 11 years old in the summer of 1985.

He lived in a trailer park in the small community of Allenstown, New Hampshire. Like most kids in the area, Jessie spent his days hanging around Bear Brook State Park with his friends.

They whittled away the long, summer days playing their own version of hide and seek, a version in which the ‘seeker’ would drive around the park on a four wheeler.

One day, while Jessie was playing the role of the ‘seeker’, his friend Keith gave away his location by yelling out that he had found a barrel

According to the Bear Brook podcast, the barrel turned out to be a blue, 55 gallon steel drum. The barrel’s lid was slightly ajar and a plastic bag was poking through the top.

Curious, Keith pulled the top off the barrel, and the group were immediately hit with a thick, sour smell. The kids kicked the barrel and saw what they thought was rotten milk, oozing out of it.

Then, being easily bored kids, they left.

It wouldn’t be until months later that Jessie and his friends would discover what was in the barrel. And it would take authorities decades to track down the man behind the crime.

On November 10, 1985, a hunter came across the barrel. He looked further into the drum than the kids had and discovered what he thought was human remains.

He immediately called the local police.

When Officer Ron Montpleasure arrived on the scene, he noticed the hunter was pale. He told him to stay with the patrol car, while he went to take a closer look at the barrel.

Thinking it was probably just a dead animal, Officer Montpleasure approached the barrel and opened the plastic bag. A human face stared back at him.

It was later discovered there were two bodies in the barrel. One belonged to a woman who would have been in her twenties or thirties. She may have had Caucasian and Native American heritage. She had wavy brown hair and was between 5 foot 2 inches and 5 foot 7 inches.

Her teeth held the biggest clues to her identity, she’d had multiple fillings and three extractions.

The other body belonged to a girl aged between five and 11 years old. She had crooked front teeth and two earrings in each ear. Her hair was a wavy, light brown and she was between 4 foot 3 inches and 4 foot 6 inches tall.

The local authorities roped off the perimeter and searched the area for clues about the identity of the woman and the child in the barrel.

Despite an intensive investigation, no one ever came forward to claim the victims as their missing family members and their identity remained unknown.

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In May 1985, a man named Curtis Kimball was pulled over in California. He was charged with driving under influence and fingerprinted.

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On May 9, 2000, 15 years after the discovery of the first barrel in Bear Brook State Park, a second barrel was found just 90 metres away from the initial crime scene.

It contained two bodies – that of a girl aged between two and four years old. She had brown hair, a gap in her front teeth, and an overbite. She was around 3 foot 8 inches tall.

The other body belonged to a girl aged between one and three years old. She had long blonde hair, and she also had a gap in her front teeth. She stood between 2 foot 11 inches and 2 foot 6 inches tall.

Despite the case being widely publicised in the United States and in some parts of Canada, the bodies in the barrels were still not identified.

With advancements in DNA profiling, it was determined the woman and the youngest and oldest children were maternally related. The woman may have been their mother, aunt or sister.

The middle child was not related to the woman or the other two children.

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In 1986, a man named Gordon Jenson moved into the Holiday Host RV Park in Scotts Valley, California.

He was travelling with his five-year-old daughter Lisa.

During his stay at the park, Jenson became close to Richard and Katherine Decker, an older couple who were short term residents of the park.

When Jenson admitted he was struggling to look after Lisa, the Deckers offered to take her to meet their daughter who wasn’t able to conceive a child on her own.

While Lisa and the Deckers travelled to their daughter’s house, Jenson fled the caravan park.

Two years later, Jenson, who was going under the name Gerald Mockerman, was pulled over for driving a stolen vehicle. Fingerprints confirmed he was the man who abandoned Lisa and he served three years in jail for child abandonment.

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Denise Beaudin was last seen on November 26, 1981. The 23-year-old had visited her parents for Thanksgiving dinner, with her boyfriend Robert T “Bob” Evans, and her six-month-old daughter, Dawn.

When her parents went to visit Denise and her family a few days later, they discovered they had left town. Denise’s parents never heard from her, or their granddaughter, again.

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On New Year’s Eve 1999, Eunsoon Jun introduced her new boyfriend, Larry Vanner, to her family.

Eunsoon’s family were immediately suspicious of this man, whose clothes were tattered, and who had the sickly strong smell of a drifter.

When they probed him about his alleged military history, Vanner became threatening.

Despite her family’s apprehension, Eunsoon married Vanner.

By June 2002, Eunsoon’s family stopped hearing from her. Four months later, in October, Vanner was arrested for his Eunsoon’s murder. Fingerprints confirmed Vanner was actually Gordon Jenson, Gerald Mockerman, and Curtis Kimball.

He later died in prison in 2010.

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In October 2016, DNA confirmed Bob Evans was the biological father of the unidentified middle child found in the Bear Brook barrels. We still don’t know who her mother was.

He was not Lisa’s father. Through genetic genealogy authorities were able to determine that Lisa was actually Dawn, the daughter of Denise Beaudin, Evan’s ex-girlfriend who disappeared in 1981. Denise’s body has never been found.

Almost a year later, in July 2017, genetic genealogy confirmed the true identity behind the aliases Bob Evans, Curtis Kimball, Gerald Mockerman, and Larry Vanner is Terry Peder Rasmussen.

According to the Boston Globe, Rasmussen had abandoned his first wife, and their three children, decades earlier. Police were able to use one of his son’s DNA to trace his steps.

This one man, with all these aliases, was responsible for the deaths of Eunsoon Jun and Denise Beaudin. The kidnapping, molestation and abandonment of Lisa/Dawn. And the murder of the four – still unidentified – bodies in the barrel.

Thanks to genetic genealogy, authorities were able to piece together Rasmussen’s crime spree which stretch over four decades and two states.

This case led the way for other agencies to start using genetic genealogy to track down killers. When Detective Paul Holes, who was working on the then unsolved Golden State Killer case, heard about the success of the Rasmussen case, he immediately submitted case DNA to a genetic genealogy website.

As the New York Times reports, the results would eventually lead him to Joseph James DeAngelo AKA the Golden State Killer, one of America’s most infamous serial killers.

To hear more about the case that changed the way crime is investigated, listen to the Bear Brook podcast

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