Oakhill Research & the Bear Brook Gardens Project

 Scott and I grew up in New Hampshire about thirty miles from Allenstown. I didn't learn of this case until 2011 and was astonished that a story with such horrific and puzzling elements would have generated so little publicity over the decades. As a genealogist and someone who has done adoption searches for a couple of decades, I was intrigued by the fact that the identities of the victims were still unknown and decided to "do a little research." 


May 2011: Scott in the sandpit at the foot of the snowmobile trail on the first of many visits to Allenstown.

Scott and I made our first trip to the Allenstown property where the barrels were found Memorial Day weekend of 2011. At home after home in adjacent Bear Brook Gardens (BBG) mobile home park when we mentioned the victims, we were met with similar responses, "Oh, you have your story wrong, there were only two bodies found." And when some of them went on to insist, "I know, because I lived here then," we were flabbergasted and even embarrassed to be the ones to deliver the news that two more little girls were found eleven years ago. The disbelief on both sides that day (albeit for different reasons) was the catalyst that made us decide that, if nothing else, there was work we could do around publicizing this story.



 Over the next few months we made a number of trips to the area, walking the property and talking to former neighbors. We came to believe, as most people in Allenstown already did, that whoever deposited those victims was personally familiar with the property. Local folks had never bought into the theory that some random trucker looking for a place to dump bodies had just backed up and dropped off barrels.


 Because so many people we spoke with from BBG had never been questioned by authorities, we eventually decided to re-create the mobile home park from the years 1977 through 1985. We wanted to ensure one, that every female resident was either alive or had died under normal circumstances and two, we wanted to capture people's memories from that era.  If no one knew about the little girls, even within a stone's throw of where they were found, then how was anyone going to know if their memories from back then had significance to this case?


      In 2012, I went to Florida and visited with former Allenstown Police Chief Norman "Jazzy" Connors and former Allenstown police officer Mike Philbrick. They graciously shared their story about the day they responded to the call about the 1985 barrel and thoughts they have had about the case in subsequent years. 


Somewhere along the way, we named ourselves Oakhill Research because people kept asking who we were and who we worked for. 'Oak Hill' was the informal name of the neighborhood where we grew up and 'Research' seemed appropriate because, well, that's what the project was all about. Accessing four libraries in NH, we began collecting binders of information gleaned from old city directories, phone books, deeds, newspapers, and annual reports.

Concord Library

As there was no city directory covering Allenstown for 1984, I spent 14 hours over several days going through every line in the 1984 Concord phonebook to obtain names of residents. I don't recommend doing it, the motion sickness was most unpleasant! Scott devised a grid to help us map out the lots off of Deerfield Road and we slowly began filling in names and then reaching out to people. We went door to door in Bear Brook Gardens passing out flyers, asking questions about who lived where, collecting pictures from that era, and using old growth trees still in the park to help us match old photos to current lots as the addresses have changed three times since 1977. 



Former park resident Paul Chevrette has been a valuable resource over the years in orienting us to the area.




Many residents have passed away and during the years of working on this project, a number of others that we have met and spoken with have also died, including Chief Connor. Although it was sobering to realize how the passage of time could impact finding answers in this case, it has been even more disturbing to us that relatives of the victims might die without finding their answers.
Because these relatives are currently unknown, Scott and I came to feel, as do many in the Allenstown area, that we were standing in as family for them. We visited their grave on Mother's Day and other occasions and marked the anniversaries that their bodies were found as we didn't know their birthdays and date of death.


May 9, 2015: Memorial gathering on the Allenstown property to observe the 15 year anniversary of the little girls being found. Susan Connolly (pink shirt) came with her daughters from Massachusetts and has been a constant support on this project- getting media coverage for the story and sharing it online in many venues.


 Our spouses have also been incredibly supportive of this project and have helped in many practical ways behind the scenes. They have endured the trips, the huge maps and timelines hung in both houses, and the endless phone calls between siblings who previously had talked on the phone perhaps two or three times a year.

 Our spouses assisting with the project. The barrel pic was from when we were studying the significance of the location of the barrels, the height and weight of victims compared to a 55 gallon drum, and whether we thought kids could have rolled a barrel 100 uneven yards with that kind of weight in it.


I took four stones from the property where the victims were found and have carried them with me on my travels. Someday, I vowed, I will be able to write their names on those stones and lay this project to rest. Until then, they go back and forth from Maine to New Hampshire with me, rattling around in my trunk the way the puzzle of this story rattles around in my head.

 
In June of  2015 I went to Laconia Bike Week for three days to publicize the case. It was awkward kneeling on the Weirs with my cordless drill every morning to put my sign together but the bikers were interested and most of them said they'd never heard of the case.


 As many of these bikers were from Manchester and Concord and Portsmouth, it reinforced again for me that the Allenstown victims could easily have come from NH. It was extremely disturbing to think that their killer may have walked free for years because their story got so little attention in the Granite State. 



We decided our focus, in addition to re-creating the park, needed to be on searing the story into the consciousness of people in New England. We designed this blog, made a Facebook page and printed new flyers in 2013 and 2015 when new composites were released. We talked about the case to strangers everywhere- at the fair, outside the grocery store in Allenstown, in diners, etc. Someone had to recognize them!

 2009, 2013, 2015

In the summer of 2014, we were researching half a dozen stories connected to the case, one being an anonymous tip about the victims being from a "gypsy" family. I called the Allenstown property owner Ed Gallagher several times to inquire about possible travelers who may have camped in the sandpit at the rear of his property and to run various names by him. Near the end of July, Ed, likely exasperated with all my questions over the years and worn down with caring for an ill wife, mentioned that he thought the person who dumped the bodies on his property was one Bobby Evans. Surprised to hear a name after three years of phone calls, I was obviously curious about why he would connect this former co-worker to such a ghastly crime. Ed didn't offer many reasons, stating that Evans was odd and aloof and refused to discuss his past. I collected the stories about "Bobby" that Ed shared and Scott and I began looking for him - this electrician who worked with Ed at the Waumbec Mill and who later helped him in Allenstown with refrigeration and freezer issues at Bear Brook Store. I had one rather memorable phone call with a Bob Evans who was an electrician but assured me that he never worked in Allenstown and that he knew two other electricians named Bob Evans in the area as well. It felt a bit like something out of a bad movie but we researched and eliminated Electrician Bob Evans #1, #2, and #3.


At this point, I was becoming somewhat dismissive about Ed's theory and was heavily into researching "travelers" out of South Carolina who passed through the Granite State doing paving jobs. There had been that odd anonymous query in 2013 from someone in SC asking "did two kids get murdered at bear brook 4 camp in nh?"  Struck by the wording of "two" kids and not three and the way the poster seemed to be trying to verify a story they had heard, I was looking into the travelers of Murphy Village and missing children from SC on the genealogy forums. As for the Evans idea? I thought that being "aloof" and reluctant to discuss the past pretty much summed up most folks in New Hampshire and hardly signified that one was inclined to saw up people and toss them away like trash.




Scott, however, couldn't shake the story and kept circling back to Evans. I called the state to check electrician licenses in that name but was told that they didn't have records going that far back. We called Gallagher, asking him if he recalled exactly where in Manchester Evans lived as he had driven him home at least once. He described the location as "east of Elm Street near the park where they have lights and play baseball." Strangely enough, this took Scott into the virtual backyard of the first Bob Evans we spoke with.




 
After several months of fruitlessly searching for the whereabouts of the Bob Evans who once introduced his pregnant girlfriend to Gallagher in the most disparaging of terms, I turned over Ed's theory to the NH State Police on December 19, 2014. We let Gallagher know that we had passed it along and eventually began asking about Evans in the Bear Brook Gardens Facebook group. Surely someone from Allenstown remembered Evans and the girlfriend who drove him around in the faded gray or light blue VW camper.



.
[To be continued]


No comments:

Post a Comment