CONCORD, N.H. — The small parking lot at the head of the Marsh Loop trail sat nearly empty, save for a pair of work trucks. The nearby trails, typically thick with hikers or mountain bikers in this scenic southern New Hampshire capital city, have been quiet in recent weeks — eerily so, as one regular put it recently.
In the month since the bodies of a husband and wife were found near a well-traveled hiking path here, residents have been grappling with the spasm of violence in a place largely immune to it. In one horrific act, the fatal shooting of Stephen L. and Djeswende Reid exceeded the number of murders this city normally sees in an entire year.
“On a nice day like today, there’d be 10 cars — on the weekends, more, ” said Dan Estabrook, as he walked his dogs on a recent weekday afternoon, nodding to the empty lot just off Portsmouth Street.
“Obviously, it’s had an effect.”
Officials received more than 110 tips following Tuesday’s release of the sketch and the announcement of a $33,500 reward for information, according to the New Hampshire attorney general’s office. But the multiple agencies investigating the case have been silent on whether any leads have proven fruitful. Meanwhile, the as-yet-unsolved case has remained at the forefront of the local conversation.
By now, the few details released by authorities are well-known. On April 18, Stephen Reid, 67, and his wife Djeswende “Wendy” Reid, 66, left their apartment in the Alton Woods complex on foot around 2:30 and eventually accessed the nearby Marsh Loop trail, a 1.5-mile path that’s part of a larger trail system known as Broken Ground. The Reids were later reported missing after failing to show up for a family engagement. Three days later, their bodies were found, riddled with bullets, in the vicinity of the Marsh Loop trail on the city’s east side.
To the frustration of some residents, however, authorities have declined to release almost any other details in the case — who discovered the bodies? when did they die? — even as police have insisted that there’s no danger to the public.
“It’s frustrating for locals,” said Matt Bowser, a regular user of the Broken Ground trail system and vice president of the Central New Hampshire chapter of the New England Mountain Bike Association, which helps maintain a mountain bike trail. “I know the police have to hold back details, but it just seems like they’re holding a lot back.”
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the lack of concrete information has resulted in a steady stream of speculation among residents.
Some have wondered whether the killings might’ve been racially motivated; Stephen Reid was white, Wendy Reid was Black. Meanwhile, the Reids’ international development work — and the involvement of the Federal Bureau of Investigation — has served as fodder for the idea that the killings could’ve been related to their connections to the US government. Some have pointed out, meanwhile, that the trail system has previously been home to a homeless encampment.
In some ways, the release this week of a sketch and description of a person of interest has only brought more questions.
Multiple residents said that the individual described by authorities — a man in his late 20s or early 30s, dressed in khaki-colored pants, a jacket, and with a backpack — would have been far from out of place on the busy trail system, which spans 5 miles and includes a variety of loops popular with runners, mountain bikers, and those out for a lunch-hour stroll.
“The sketch looks like 90 percent of the population of Concord,” said Bowser, who has continued to use the Broken Ground trail system since the murders, but calls the area “eerie.” “Could be anybody.”
At Alton Woods, a sprawling apartment complex where the Reids apparently lived a quiet life, the still unsolved case has continued to dominate conversation.
“All I know is when I’m home alone, I lock my doors,” said Marilyn Belanger, as she sat on a neighbor’s patio on a recent weekday afternoon.
Amy, another woman who lives in the complex, who gave only her first name, said she was surprised when police knocked on her door the day before the bodies were discovered asking to use her key to access the building’s attic.
Beth Fenstermacher, an assistant city planner for the city of Concord, said that after a decrease in trail foot traffic in the weeks immediately following the slayings, residents have begun to return and that despite the recent tragedy, the city is still viewed as a safe place.
“I think it’ll get back to normal once the dust settles,” she said.
Still, residents said they understand the hesitancy to wander back into a secluded stretch of acreage before a suspect has been apprehended.
“I don’t walk out there,” said Amy. “But if I did, I think it would give me the creeps.”
Dugan Arnett can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.