The Disappearance of Rachael Garden

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EARLY LIFE:

Rachael Garden was born on December 30, 1964. The eldest of four children, she had a good relationship with her family, except for a few arguments surrounding her having to babysit her siblings.

Described as fun-loving, friendly and outspoken, Rachael was known to be rebellious from time to time. While she could be headstrong and would complain to friends about the rules her parents set for her, she was generally seen as a good kid.

Rachael attended Sanborn Regional High School, where she was a freshman. While there, she would sometimes skip class in order to drink alcohol and smoke with other students in the woods located near Maple Avenue.

When not at school, Rachael could be found spending time with her horse, which she loved dearly.

LEAD UP TO DISAPPEARANCE:

On the evening of March 22, 1980, Rachael walked to Rowe’s Corner Market, located on Route 108 in Newton, New Hampshire, where she was a regular. While there, she purchased some chewing gum and a pack of cigarettes with a $5 bill. Upon receiving her change, she departed from the store. This was at approximately 9:00pm to 9:30pm.

According to Peter Jewett, the owner of Rowe’s Corner Market, he saw Rachael walking north on Main Street. Her family says she was planning on spending the night at a friend’s house, which was located in the 50 block of the street. She never arrived at said friend’s residence.

DISAPPEARANCE:

On the morning of March 23, 1980, when Rachael hadn’t returned home, her mother knew something was wrong and reported her daughter as missing to police around 10:00am.

On March 24, her mother telephoned administrators at Sanborn Regional High School to let them know her daughter wouldn’t be in that day. She didn’t specify the reason as to why.

SEARCH:

Given Rachael’s age, her disappearance was initially treated by police as a runaway case. According to one of her friends, she had discussed running away around the time she vanished. Given this, no posters or flyers were put up around town.

At the time, Newton’s police department only had one full-time officer, as the then Police Chief had recently died. There was no mention of Rachael’s disappearance in the department’s town report for the year of 1980.

When spoken to by investigators, the friend Rachael was supposed to be staying with on the night of March 22 said she hadn’t made plans with her that night and was unaware she was coming over. The friend never saw Rachael.

A search of the woods where Rachael frequented was conducted by a group of volunteer firemen and boy scouts. However, it produced no evidence or leads. While no wide-scale searches were done in relation to the case, helicopters were flown over nearby wooded areas, swamps and fields to try and find any trace of the missing girl.

A search of the Garden home showed Rachael had left behind all of her belongings.

Years after her disappearance, two witnesses came forward to say they’d seen Rachael talking with three men in a dark-coloured car near Rowe’s Corner Market. It’s reported she knew the trio, who had troubled reputations and were involved in criminal activity. One of them would later serve time in prison for assault and rape.

Allegedly, while at a bar in Haverhill, Massachusetts, one of the men confessed to killing Rachael. While specifics about this confession have not been released, it did prompt investigators to dig up a site off Route 108, beside a stone wall and a stream. However, no remains or evidence were found.

It is currently unknown if any of the men were involved in Rachael’s disappearance, and none of them have been publicly named.

During the search, Rachael’s parents consulted with psychics and hired private investigators, but their efforts proved fruitless. Her mother followed up on sightings from Haverhill and Hampton Beach, but both remain unconfirmed.

In the 1990s, the state major police crime unit excavated a 60-square-foot patch of woods in town. No evidence was recovered.

At one point during the investigation, a $10,000 reward was offered.

Rachael is one of many missing females believed to have possibly been Princess Doe, an unidentified deceased female found in Blairstown, New Jersey on July 15, 1982. However, she has been ruled out as a match.

In 2008, Newton police received a tip that led them to search Ice Pond and Country Pond, located within the area. Six hours were spent using sonar and GPS equipment to look at the bottom of Ice Pond, while divers spent two days searching Country Pond. However, both searches brought up nothing.

In 2013, the then Police Chief of Newton passed on a potential tip to the State Cold Case Unit. Specifics haven’t been revealed.

According to police, they have chased every lead in the case. Along with the use of search dogs and consults with psychics, they’ve dug up numerous possible gravesites, but to no avail. Given the case is still open, they are unable to release much information to the public.

Voluntary disappearance is still considered a possibility in Rachael’s case. However, police are now investigating other theories, including the possibility of foul play.

Rachael’s dental records and DNA are currently available for testing. Before she went missing, she’d had some orthodontic work done, for which she wore a dental retainer. She had three dental fillings, and before having any orthodontic work done she’d had all four of her wisdom teeth removed.

THEORIES:

1) The initial theory in the case is that Rachael voluntarily ran away from home. This was corroborated by the story she told to her parents the night she went missing, regarding her staying over at a friend’s house. Given the friend had not made plans with Rachael, some have questioned if she falsely told her parents this in order to get a head start. However, her family and those who knew Rachael find it uncharacteristic of her to leave home and feel she was too naïve to set out on her own.

2) The other prevailing theory in the case is that Rachael’s disappearance is the result of foul play. Police believe her to be deceased, and many who have reviewed the case feel the three men she was last seen speaking with to be involved.

3) Some online web sleuths feel Rachael’s disappearance to be related to that of another missing New Hampshire girl, Laureen Rahn. Laureen went missing from Manchester, New Hampshire on April 26, 1980 and her disappearance is believed to have been at the hands of suspected serial killer Terry Rasmussen. There is currently no evidence linking the two cases.

AFTERMATH:

Many of Rachael’s schoolmates didn’t learn about her disappearance until months or years after it occurred. It was the general consensus that she either moved away or dropped out.

As the years have gone by, Rachael’s mother has become reluctant to talk about the case.

CASE CONTACT INFORMATION:

Rachael Garden went missing from Newton, New Hampshire on March 22, 1980. She was 15 years old and was last seen wearing a two-toned blue ski parka, a plaid shirt with silver threads, blue jeans and brown lace-up shoes. She was carrying a dark blue tote bag with the word “Things” imprinted on one side. At the time of her disappearance, she was 5’1″ and weighed approximately 100 pounds. She has light brown hair and hazel eyes, and her ears are pierced.

Currently, the case is classified as a non-family abduction, due to the lack of evidence. If alive, she would be 54 years old.

If you have any information regarding the case, you can contact the Rockingham County Sheriff’s Office at 603-679-2225 or the Newton Police Department at 603-382-6774.

Image Credit: Crime Watchers

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