The Girls of Allenstown New Hampshire

When a person is discovered and remains unidentified for years, it’s baffling.  We are inclined to believe that “no man is an island” and that someone, somewhere is missing that person.  Occasionally, two or more people are discovered together and the puzzle becomes more troubling.  With every piece of a puzzle that’s found, the picture should become clearer and the mystery easier to solve.  Unfortunately, for members of a family found in Allenstown, New Hampshire, the puzzle remains unsolved.

In 1985, a deer hunter found a steel drum near the rugged Bear Brook State Park in Allenstown, New Hampshire.  Inside the steel drum were the remains of a woman and a young girl, aged 5-11.  They had been killed by blunt-force trauma.  At the time they were discovered, it was theorized that they were mother and daughter.  Other cases diverted the limited time, resources, and attention of law enforcement.

Fifteen long years passed.

In 2000, a NH state trooper went back to check on the location of barrels at Bear Brook in relation to a nearby mobile home park and road.  A trailer and the remains of a burned camp store were nearby.  In one of the barrels, two more bodies were found.  Both were little girls, one aged 1 to 3 and the other aged 2 to 4.

Latest DNA testing has shown that there is some maternal relation between the woman and the child she was found with in 1985, but a mother-daughter relation can’t be proven or disproven as of yet.  Testing also showed that the youngest girl, aged 1 to 3 was also maternally related.  A familial connection to the girl aged 2 to 4 can’t be proven at this time.  DNA testing that’s been completed so far could only detect maternal lineage.  New DNA tests are currently being conducted in hopes of clarifying exactly what the relationships were between the four.  The estimated ages of the girls has changed over time as well as testing continues.


The woman and children may have been killed as early as 1977 or 1978.   Police theorize that they may have come from anywhere and not necessarily been local to the area.  It’s an extremely intriguing case.  There’s an excellent blog devoted exclusively to this particular case if you’d like to learn more:

I’ve wondered if the possible reason a “family” wasn’t reported missing is because only the adult female was ever reported missing, perhaps a teenager who ran away while pregnant.  A search of missing persons from the era turned up at least one possibility who lines up in terms of timeframe.  Jan Andre Cotta was 5-7 months pregnant when she disappeared from New Jersey in the summer of 1973.  It would put her in the same approximate age range as the adult female and the baby she was carrying in the same age range as the oldest child.  Because of the condition of the bodies, law enforcement cautions that the composites should not be expected to look exactly like the woman and girls did while alive.  Here’s a photo and some information about Jan Andre Cotta:


Beth Doe of Carbon County Pennsylvania

Composite of Beth DoeIt was less than a week before Christmas in 1976, and a little girl was waiting to be born.  She might have been a Christmas baby or a New Year’s baby.  She would have been a Capricorn:  practical, responsible, patient, loyal, and high-achieving, if you buy into astrology.   She might have been someone important, a mother herself, someone you might have sat next to on the bus one day and chatted with about the weather, or a doctor who may have saved your life.  She might have been any number of things, if she only ever had the chance to live.

Christmas music was playing over the radio and Rod Stewart topped the charts with “Tonight’s the Night”.  Outside of the small town of White Haven, Pennsylvania, the Lehigh River flowed under Interstate 80 near the Luzerne-Carbon County line.  On December 20th, a young boy playing by the river made a horrifying discovery:  the extremely mutilated body of a young woman and her unborn daughter spilling out of three suitcases on the riverbank.  The young mother still remains unidentified, known only as Beth Doe.

There is a certain brutality involved in every murder.  Lethal violence, by its nature, whether quick or prolonged, renders someone a victim and someone a killer.  The brutality exhibited by Beth Doe’s killer went far beyond the pale.  We often study murders looking for a motive, some sort of reasoning in the mind of a killer that we can at least identify with and say “Oh, he was angry with his wife for cheating – so he killed her.” or “His business partner swindled him, so he snapped and killed him.”  We look for reasons to believe that there is a shred of relatable humanity hidden somewhere even in animalistic and inhumane killers because we hope that monsters under the bed aren’t real.  We hope all things are somehow still explainable, that there’s method to madness, because we are terrified of the alternative.

But, there is the alternative – there are monsters among us and Beth Doe’s killer was one of them.

There is a base cruelty involved in killing a full-term pregnant woman that exceeds any attempt at rationalization.  Beth Doe was killed brutally, in a manner that is the very definition of “overkill”.  She was strangled, shot in the neck, and then dismembered with “a fine, serrated tool”.  The killer removed her breasts, ears, and nose.  Her little girl never had a chance to be held by her mother, tucked in and kissed goodnight, speak her first word, or take her first breath.  So often in the world of “true crime” there’s a glorification or fixation on the killers.  We are horrified, and in our horror, forget our humanity.

Don’t forget Beth Doe.  And don’t forget her little girl.

“Beth”, in life, was about 16-22 years old with brown eyes and brown hair.  She stood at about 5’4″, weighed about 150 lbs, and was at full-term in her pregnancy.  She had moles that may have developed during her pregnancy:  a small circular mole above her left eye and a mole on her left cheek.  She had a 5.5″ scar on her left leg, just above the heel.  She had type O blood.  Both her dentals and DNA are available in law enforcement databases.  She had been dead less than 24 hours when she was found on December 20, 1976.

There are many tantalizing clues in this case.  “Beth” had letters and numbers written in ink on her left hand.  The letters are believed to be WSR with either a 4 or 5 next to the letters.  Either a 4 or 7 was below and to the right.  The three suitcases were all the same size, two blue and one tan plaid.  Interestingly, the handles had been cut off of the suitcases and the zippers painted with flat black paint.  The suitcases contained dry packing foam, straw, and a cut up chenille bedspread.  There were six sections of the New York Sunday News dated September 26, 1976, in the suitcases as well.  The bedspread was in a worn and dirty condition, but it is believed it was originally pink in color, and had an embroidered yellow flower pattern.

I can’t help but wonder if Beth Doe was held captive somewhere rural for at least a few months, going from the date on the newspapers, the straw, and the worn and dirty condition of the bedspread.  Perhaps her killer was keeping her captive until her baby was due.  I also wonder if there might be any relation to an unidentified man found January 16, 1977, in Albany Township, Berks County, Pennsylvania.  His death was ruled a suicide by drug overdose.  It appears to be about an hour-long drive from where Beth Doe and her baby were found.