How an Agatha Christie-Obsessed Librarian Helped Solve a Decades-Old Murder Mystery
Rebekah Heath has always loved a good mystery novel.
The librarian from Simsbury, Connecticut, particularly enjoyed reading Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple series.
“There’s something about a little old lady solving crimes,” she says in this week’s issue of PEOPLE Magazine. “Nobody thinks she is out there looking for clues and answers.”
But it was a real-life murder mystery that had the 33-year-old amateur sleuth hooked — a case as gruesome as it was shocking.
In 1985 and then again in 2000, police discovered the dismembered remains of a woman in her 20s and those of three young girls in steel barrels near Bear Brook State Park in Allenstown, New Hampshire.
A break in the case came in July 2017, when police announced that a drifter named Terry Rasmussen had killed the four and was the biological father of one of the unidentified children. But their identities remained a mystery.
Heath says she became “obsessed” with trying to identify them.
“I’ve always had a soft spot for Jane Doe’s,” she says. “I wanted to give a voice where there was no voice.”
During her free time, Heath began searching genealogy and missing person sites and lost family members message boards. In November 2017, she came across a potential clue when she discovered a series of messages on an ancestry website about a missing woman named Marlyse Honeychurch and her daughter Sarah McWaters, who was also missing.
Heath wondered if the mother and daughter could be the victims of Rasmussen, who died in prison in 2010 while serving a life sentence for the bludgeoning and dismembering murder of his girlfriend in California.
She reached out to Facebook groups about the possible connection but got no response.
A year later, her interest was piqued again after she listened to a podcast about the Bear Brook murders. Heath remembered the earlier posting about Honeychurch and her daughter and reached out to their relatives on social media.
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That’s when the pieces began to snap together.
Heath says her stomach “just dropped” when one relative told her that Honeychurch was last seen in 1978 with a man named Rasmussen, whom she had been dating.
“I remember just shaking,” she says. “I knew it was something huge.”
The next day, she contacted a San Bernardino County Sheriff’s deputy who had worked to identify Rasmussen and told him what she had found.
“I said, ‘I bet you hear this all the time, but I am almost 100 percent confident that this is the answer to your case,’” she says.
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Through DNA testing, authorities soon identified Honeychurch as one of the unidentified victims in the barrel along with her daughter Sarah and another daughter, Marie Elizabeth Vaughn.
About helping to solve one of New Hampshire’s biggest crime mysteries, Heath says her work is still not over: She is determined to identify Rasmussen’s still unnamed daughter.
“I want to give her her identity,” she says. “She shouldn’t be associated just with him.”