A drifter who died in a California prison while serving time for killing and dismembering a Contra Costa County woman has been linked to the disappearance of a New Hampshire woman and to the deaths of another woman and three children whose bodies were found in metal drums in the woods of New England, authorities said Thursday.
New Hampshire State Police and the state attorney general's office said they used a long and complicated trail of DNA evidence to determine that a Susanville, Calif., inmate was a possible serial killer who used at least five different aliases as he preyed on women and children over several decades.
"This is a guy who was a chameleon," New Hampshire Asst. Atty. General Jeffrey Strelzin said in a news conference. People who knew him "said generally he was a strange guy but just didn't have a lot of information about him," Strelzin said.
In the early 1980s, the man, using the name Bob Evans, was living in Manchester, N.H., with a woman named Denise Beaudin and her infant daughter, who was not his child.
Shortly after Thanksgiving in 1981, Beaudin, then 23, went missing and has not been seen since. Police assume she is dead, but a body has never been found.
Beaudin's family assumed she left town with Evans to avoid financial troubles, and they did not report her as missing, authorities said. Police believe Evans killed Beaudin and disposed of her body at some point between leaving Manchester and before he and Beaudin's daughter turned up in California.
There are long gaps in authorities' knowledge of the man's whereabouts.
Between 1984 and 1985, he was hired as an electrician in Los Alamitos, Calif., using the name Curtis Kimball. In 1985, he was arrested in Citrus for driving while intoxicated and endangering a child. He had Beaudin's daughter with him, Manchester, N.H., Police Capt. Ryan Grant said Thursday.
After his arrest, he was living and working at a Santa Cruz County trailer park, where he left the girl with a family and abandoned her. They kept her for a short time before telling authorities. The girl was put into foster care and later adopted.
By October 1986, California authorities were investigating the drifter for child abandonment, and felony warrants were issued for his arrest. The warrants identified another alias: Gordon Curtis Jensen, authorities said.
Two years later, he was arrested in San Luis Obispo for driving a stolen vehicle from Idaho. He was also using the name Gerry Mockerman.
While he was serving jail time for the theft, authorities used his fingerprints to determine that he was the same man wanted for child endangerment. He was paroled in 1990 and fell off authorities' radar for 12 years as a fugitive, according to the New Hampshire State Police.
In the summer of 2001, the man, who was back in California working odd jobs under the name Lawrence Vanner, had an "unofficial backyard marriage ceremony" in Richmond, Calif., with a woman named Eunsoon Jun. No official marriage paperwork was filed, authorities said.
A year later, Jun's dismembered body was found buried in her basement.
The man was arrested and sentenced to 15 years to life for Jun's murder. According to Strelzin, the man pleaded guilty against the advice of his attorneys.
After his arrest, authorities who had tied him to the earlier child abandonment case used DNA evidence to determine that he was not biologically related to Beaudin's daughter and began an investigation to identify her.
The man died in prison in 2010.
Authorities admit they do not know the man's real name or how old he was, but they believe he was in his late 60s or early 70s when he died, Strelzin said.
Meanwhile, Beaudin's daughter — who, authorities said, is now a mother of three — provided her DNA to an ancestry website and learned who her mother was.
Police recently searched the Manchester, N.H., home where the drifter lived with Beaudin and her daughter before they went missing in 1981 but found nothing, authorities said. The attorney general's office has been communicating with Beaudin's daughter, whom they say had been abused by the man.
The drifter was recently linked to the bodies of a woman and three children found in barrels near a state park in Allenstown, N.H., after DNA revealed that he was the father of one of the children, Strelzin said.
The case of the bodies found in the barrels had long stumped investigators.
In 1985, a hunter on a wooded property near Bear Brook State Park found the partially dismembered and decomposing bodies of a woman and a young girl, between the ages of 5 and 11, stuffed in a barrel and wrapped in garbage bags tied with electrical wire, authorities said.
Fifteen years later, an investigator working the case went back to the property and found another barrel containing two more young girls. One of those girls, believed to be about 4 years old, was the drifter's daughter, police said.
The Allenstown victims have not been identified, authorities said. It is unclear who the mother of the drifter's child is, and authorities fear she too was killed, Strezlin said.
Authorities believe the woman whose body was found in the barrel is probably the mother of the eldest and youngest girls, but the identity of their father is unknown. The victims found in the barrels were probably killed in the 1980s, authorities said.
Authorities said the drifter was working at that time as an electrician at a local mill; his supervisor was the man who owned the property where the bodies were found, Strezlin said.
The victims in the barrels all died of blunt force trauma, as did Jun in California.
Police are now trying to identify the victims and learn anything they can about the drifter. There could be more victims, especially given the long gaps in authorities' knowledge of his whereabouts, Strezlin said. They are particularly concerned about his activities in California.
Authorities say he may have had a military background.
"We believe we have our killer," Strezlin said. "Now we need to identify and try to find all of his victims."
Investigators will continue to comb the property where the barrels were found, he said.
11:20 a.m.: This article was updated throughout with details provided by authorities at a New Hampshire news conference.