true crime

Inside the disturbing disappearance of Laureen Rahn.

This post originally appeared on Medium and has been republished with full permission.

April 26, 1980 — Manchester, New Hampshire

Judith Rahn stepped into her apartment building on Merrimack Street shortly after midnight to discover that every single hallway light was out in the three-story building where she lived with her daughter, Laureen.

Reportedly, Judith had just come home from an out-of-town tennis tournament she’d attended with her boyfriend. Normally, her 14-year-old daughter would tag along, however, Laureen had asked Judith if she could skip the outing this time and Judith obliged.

As she walked into her second-floor apartment, Judith noticed that the front door was unlocked and the back door was wide open. She entered Laureen’s bedroom to check on her sleeping daughter only to discover that her child was not in her bed. One of Laureen’s girlfriends who had been visiting that night was sleeping in her bed. When Judith asked the young girl where her daughter was, the girl said that Laureen was sleeping on the couch. While there were both a blanket and pillow on the couch and Laureen’s brand new sneakers out in the living room, the teenager was nowhere to be seen.

According to the New Hampshire Department of Justice, Judith called the police at 3:45 that morning to report Laureen missing.

While Judith had been out the previous evening, Laureen invited her girlfriend and a male friend over and the three reportedly hung out in the apartment drinking alcohol. It's believed that, at one point, the male friend thought he heard someone in the hallway and thinking that it may be Judith, left the apartment by the back door and was certain that he heard Laureen lock it behind him. This friend later committed suicide in 1985. Authorities never considered him a suspect in this case, but how they came to this conclusion is unknown as is the reason for taking his own life.


It would later be discovered that someone(s) had gone to the trouble of unscrewing all the light bulbs in the apartment building that same night.

Police initially treated the case as a runaway situation despite the fact that Laureen left her purse and other personal belongings behind. As weeks went by they changed their stance and stated that it appeared that Laureen stepped out willingly with the intention of going back inside but met with foul play.

In October of that same year, Judith discovered odd charges made to her home phone. Three calls had been made from a motel out in Santa Monica, California. Two of the calls were made to a motel in Santa Ana and one to a teen sexual assistance hotline. In 1980, calls could be charged to your own number by calling the phone company and entering a pin code. Doing this cost less than placing a collect call. However, Judith had absolutely no connections to anyone in California.

After some investigating, it was discovered that the teen sexual assistance hotline was run by an unnamed physician out in California. When initially questioned, the physician claimed to know nothing about that call. Curiously, five years later, this supposed physician would change his story and claimed that runaway girls often visited his wife at their home and he recalled that one of those girls may have been from New Hampshire and was about the same age as Laureen.

As there is so little information about this case, not only is the physician’s name a mystery, but what his wife had to do with runaway girls is as well.

In 1986, an investigator discovered that one of the motels in California had been used by a child pornographer who went by the name “Dr. Z.” According to the Charley Project, investigators were unable to link this Dr. Z to the teen hotline and were also unable to identify whether or not child pornography was linked to Laureen’s disappearance. How they came to that conclusion is not clear, and rather inexplicable.

I attempted to do a little digging around online to see if I could find any information about this Dr. Z but was unsuccessful. Then again, I was also a touch apprehensive about doing too much digging given the subject matter.

Here's where the case gets even creepier: According to a number of souces, for about a year after Laureen’s disappearance, Judith and Laureen’s sister regularly received mysterious phone calls that came in roughly about 3:45 AM which, oddly, was right around the same time that Judith initially placed the call to police. For several years the phone calls also came in around Christmas time.


Listen: Should this true crime story have ever been made? (Post continues...)

According to The Trail Went Cold podcast, when either woman answered, the person on the other end remained silent then terminated the call. In 1986, a childhood friend of Laureen’s named Roger Maurais got a call from a woman who identified herself as either Laurie or Laureen. Roger’s mother had answered the phone and the woman on the other end claimed to be Roger’s ex-girlfriend. The caller has never been identified.

Could any of these calls have been Laureen? Was she attempting to ask for help but was unable to bring herself to speak up?

The calls stopped several years later when Judith remarried and moved to Florida, changing her number. She firmly believes that at least the first three calls made from California were Laureen and she also believes that at least one of Laureen’s friends know something but are refusing to talk.

Two other disappearances took place around the time that Laureen went missing. Twenty-five year old Denise Daneault and fifteen-year-old Rachael Garden. Although Denise was older than Laureen, they did bear a close resemblance and lived only two blocks from each other. Rachael was from a nearby town and also looked similar to Laureen. It has never been proven if these cases are related in any way.

The so-called physician associated with the teen sex hotline, and Dr. Z - whether they are the same person, or were working together - presents a strong lead. However, there are so many other questions that arise when you look at this case:

Why was Laureen targeted? As there was no evidence of a struggle, this means she must have walked out one of the doors willingly, begging the question of what led her to do so? Had someone been watching her and chose this day, when her mother was out of town, to abduct her?

I believe that whoever was at those motels in Santa Monica and Santa Ana holds the information needed to discover what happened to Laureen Rahn. Regardless of whether or not Laureen is still alive, I feel it’s only fair that Judith learn what became of her daughter.

Brenda Thornlow is a published author from Brooklyn, NY. Her work can be found at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Smashwords. To read the original article, and Brenda's other pieces on Medium, click here.

This information has been sourced from The Charley Project, New Hampshire Department of Justice, and The Trail Went Cold podcast.

There is very little information to be found about this case including the names of those closely associated with it. If there are any details that can be added to this story or if any crucial information has been left out, please feel free to contact me.

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