Metro

New clues revealed in long-unsolved N.H. deaths

Senior Assistant Attorney General Ben Agati (left) answered questions during a press conference, with updated images of the dead woman and three girls in the background.
Cheryl Senter for The Boston Globe
Senior Assistant Attorney General Ben Agati (left) answered questions during a press conference, with updated images of the dead woman and three girls in the background.

CONCORD, N.H. — The identities of three young girls and a woman who were murdered some 30 years ago and dumped in the woods in Allenstown remain a mystery, but the water they consumed during their short lives has offered fresh clues in one of the state’s most baffling unsolved crimes.

The unique properties of water detected in the hair, bones, and teeth of the victims suggest that three of them — the woman and two girls believed to be her daughters — lived together in New Hampshire or a neighboring state, close to the coastline, authorities announced Tuesday. The woman was likely in her mid-20s, and the girls were about 9 to 10 years old and 2 to 3.

The third girl, believed to be 3 or 4 when she was slain, was born and spent her childhood somewhere else, perhaps further inland in northern New Hampshire or as far west as Minnesota. The woman was not her mother, yet it is unclear whether she and the other girls shared the same father or some other familial connection, according to authorities.

Advertisement

Senior Assistant Attorney General Benjamin Agati revealed isotope analysis results and other details about the victims during a press conference Tuesday, flanked by representatives of the State Police, Allenstown police, the FBI, and the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children.

Get Fast Forward in your inbox:
Forget yesterday's news. Get what you need today in this early-morning email.
Thank you for signing up! Sign up for more newsletters here

“These are significant new testing results that we want to share basically with the world,” Agati said. Yet, he cautioned that the isotope results are not precise and should not discourage tipsters from calling if they have information that does not match up exactly.

The updated composite images.
N.H. Attorney General’s Office
The updated composite images.

It is more likely than not that all four victims are from the Northeast, according to Agati. Still, he said, other regions of the country have similar drinking water, making it possible that the victims lived in other states.

The woman and two girls believed to be her daughters may have lived on the West Coast, or in a number of states stretching from Arizona northeast to Minnesota. The isotope results were narrower for the other girl, indicating she may have lived in northern Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, upstate New York, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nevada, or a small part of southeast Wyoming.

Authorities are planning a media blitz in areas of the country that the victims may have lived, based on the isotope results, Agati said.

Advertisement

“They’ve slipped through the cracks and we’ve got to try to find out what happened,” Agati said.

He urged anyone with information to call 800-843-5678 or e-mail the New Hampshire State Police cold case unit at coldcaseunit@dos.nh.gov.

The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children also on Tuesday released new life-like computerized images of what the victims may have looked like.

Carl Koppelman
Earlier portraits of what the woman and girls may have looked like.

Hunters discovered the partially decomposed bodies of the woman and the oldest girl on Nov. 10, 1985, on private property that borders Bear Brook State Park in Allenstown. They were found inside a plastic bag, which had fallen out of an overturned steel drum.

Nearly 15 years later, in May 2000, a state trooper assigned to the unsolved case was familiarizing himself with the area when he found a second steel drum, containing the skeletal remains of the two other girls. It was about 150 yards from the other drum.

Advertisement

Authorities believe all four victims were killed at the same time between 1980 and 1984.

‘We’ve got to try to find out what happened.’

Benjamin Agati, senior N.H. assistant attorney general 

The isotope results indicate that the woman and three girls spent the last few weeks to months of their lives together in the New Hampshire region before their deaths, Agati said.

The latest scientific data in the case was the result of DNA testing done by Virginia-based Bode Technology and isotope analysis done by the Florida Institute for Forensic Anthropology & Applied Sciences at the University of South Florida.

“It kind of tears at your heart strings,” said Matt Peltier, a consultant for the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children. “Someone out there has some answers and it’s just a matter of showing the pictures to the right people.”

Tonia Cowan/globe STaff
The states highlighted in green indicate where the woman and two of the girls, who are believed to be her daughters, may have lived based on isotope tests of their hair, bone and teeth that reveal the general location where they consumed drinking water. Authorities say the tests suggest all three could be from New Hampshire or a nearby state, but they can’t eliminate the other highlighted areas because they have similar water.

tonia cowan/globe staff
The red squares around the yellow-highlighted areas of the map indicate the areas where the girl, estimated to be 3 to 4 years old, may have lived, based on the water detected in her hair, bones and teeth. She did not grow up with the other victims and it’s possible that she is unrelated to them, or is half-sister or cousin or their father’s side.

Shelley Murphy can be reached at shmurphy@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @shelleymurph.