The Bear Brook Murders, one of the most infamous cold cases in American history, was broken open today by investigators.
But in a strange twist, they have honed in on the killer—but still lack the identities of the four victims found stuffed in barrels in the New Hampshire woods.
A man known as Robert Evans in the 1970s and early 1980s in New Hampshire was the biological father of "Child 2," one of the four victims. The man known as Evans also was an employee of the owner of the property where the bodies were discovered.
In a complicated investigative web, it was the connection to two other missing persons cases in New Hampshire, and a completely separate murder in California, which have connected the dots of a serial killer who was apparently stalking multiple states from coast to coast—and likely has at least a half-dozen victims over decade, and potentially more.
The killer named Evans went by at least four other names—and his true identity remains unknown. A startling investigation by the New Hampshire and California authorities, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and others have started to paint a horrifying portrait of an unknown size—though they are starting to understand its shape.
“This is a guy who was a chameleon,” said Jeffery Strelzin, chief of the homicide unit for the New Hampshire Attorney General’s Office. “We are confident we have our killer—we now want to ID these victims.
“When you can’t identify your victims, you generally can’t get anywhere,” he added. “In this case, it was the opposite … Now we need to identify and try to find all of his victims.”
Coast to Coast, Name to Name
Robert Evans was initially sought in connection with the disappearance of Denise Beaudin and her infant daughter Dawn in November 1981, authorities said.
Evans next popped up in California in 1985. But he was named Curtis Kimball on the West Coast, and he was with a girl going by the name of Lisa. Denise Beaudin had disappeared along the way, somehow.
A series of arrests and aliases mark the killer’s trail. He was still Curtis Kimball in 1985 at the time of a DWI. He was Gordon Curtis Jenson when working in an RV park, and when he abandoned the little girl Lisa in 1986. A family at the RV park adopted the girl. The story of abuse she told her new family and authorities led to felony arrest warrants for him.
The same man—now known as Gerry Mockerman—was picked up by authorities in 1988. He was convicted in 1989 and sentenced to three years in prison. He served 18 months, before he was paroled, and absconded.
The killer—whatever his new name—disappeared for 12 years.
The man resurfaced with the name Lawrence William Vanner in 2001. Doing odd jobs as a handyman, he met a woman named Eunsoon Jun, whose roof he repaired. They were married in an unofficial backyard ceremony in August 2001. Jun went missing in September 2002, and her body was found in her basement weeks later.
The husband was arrested that November and charged with murder—and he was eventually convicted and sentenced to 15 years to life in prison.
The prisoner known in the legal system as Curtis Kimball died in a California prison on Dec. 28, 2010.
It is not known how old he was, since he gave birthdates throughout his life that ranged from 1936 to 1952, depending on what alias he was using, authorities said.
The Lingering Mystery
Back in New Hampshire, the Bear Brook case was mired in infamy—and dead ends.
The first barrel was found by hunters near Bear Brook State Park in the New Hampshire woods in November 1985. Inside the 55-gallon drum were the bodies of a woman and a young girl. The case quickly went nowhere, despite New Hampshire authorities committing hundreds of hours to try and identify the two females.
Fifteen years later, in 2000, investigators combing the woods for clues on the long-unsolved case came upon the unthinkable, just a short distance away: yet another barrel. This one contained the bodies of two more little girls.
For 15 years more, the trail led nowhere beyond those woods outside Allenstown, New Hampshire. DNA early on established the woman and two of the girls were closely related, perhaps mother and daughters, or siblings.
All four victims lived in New Hampshire together prior to their deaths, they found. The middle child, however, was different—she had likely come from somewhere in the middle of the country.
One investigative hope was oxygen isotope analysis, completed in 2015. The tests of the isotopes in the remains determined all four had lived together in the Northeast, drinking the same water marked by a particular chemical signature.
DNA and other findings from the remains have narrowed down the inter-relationships, too: the woman likely had dark, wavy hair and was between 22 and 33 years old. The oldest girl in the same barrel was 10 years old at the time of death. The youngest victim, who was also related, was 2 or 3 years old and had a large gap in the front of her teeth. The unrelated middle child was 3 or 4 years old and had a different appearance, according to the latest sketch.
That middle child is now confirmed to be the biological daughter of the killer—whether he is known as Evans, Kimball, Jenson or whatever other names he used in his decades of mayhem.
The DNA Link
The link was the little girl he abandoned, then known as Lisa Jenson.
Curious about her barely-remembered past and the man she had been with for the cross-country travel, she took a genetic test. It was linked to people in New Hampshire—people who turned out to be her cousins and her grandfather.
Further testing and contact with police established an incredible connection: she was Dawn Beaudin, the little girl last seen on the East Coast in 1981.
The woman, now with a happily married life including three children of her own, released a statement through authorities at the press conference this morning.
“I am so grateful to be reunited with my grandfather and cousins,” she said, calling it an “incredulous” story. “Please turn your attention to the unidentified victims.”
Police now believe Evans killed at least six people: Denise Beaudin, the four Bear Brook victims and Jun, whose murder was the one for which he was actually caught. However, the biological mother of the daughter he killed and placed in the barrel remains unknown—and unaccounted for. (Elizabeth Evans is a name that appears occasionally in documents, but investigators are unsure of her real identity.) All the known victims were killed with blunt-force trauma. Some were dismembered.
“Frankly, we do not know the true identity of the subject right now,” said Sgt. Michael Kokoski of the New Hampshire State Police.
Little investigative clues have mounted, however. Based on things he said and his history, they believe he may have been in the military, perhaps in the U.S. Navy, prior to appearing on the New Hampshire radar in 1977. Heavy drinking marked his entire life, including the DWIs. And he also was a drifter, with only months at a time in the same place. Almost everyone he had met along his travels described him as aloof and strange.
Most chillingly, perhaps—investigators are not only unsure of what the killer’s real name is, but they’re also unsure of his travels. Beyond California and New Hampshire, he stole a car in Idaho. He is also believed to have potential connections in a wide swath of the rest of the country: Washington, Oregon, Arizona, Wyoming, Colorado, Texas, Hawaii, Missouri, Louisiana, Georgia and Virginia.
Police are asking anyone to see if they recognize the man known as Robert Evans, Curtis Kimball, Gordon Curtis Jenson, Gerry Mockerman and Lawrence William Vanner. Tipsters should call the New Hampshire State Police, or the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children at 1-(800)-THE-LOST.