The Connecticut River Valley Killer

               From 1978 to 1988, seven murders occurred along the border between Vermont and New Hampshire, Interstate 91. The case has gone cold in the decades since the murders ended, the victims likely to never receive justice. The man most brought up as a suspect has since died, having died by suicide in Florida. While the one living victim has identified this man as likely being her attacker, his DNA was never been tested against the DNA collected from the victims and crime scenes (Campbell).

               The possibility of a serial killer came to light after three women disappeared form Claremont, NH in the 1980s. Their remains would be found in a forest outside Kellyville, NH, but another victim had already been attacked by the time they were found. The discovery of the missing women’s remains, which were determined to have died from stab wounds, and the fourth victim stabbed in her home, investigators began to look back at earlier cases that were similar (“The Story Of This Unsolved Series Of Murders In New Hampshire Is Truly Chilling”). It wasn’t long before more cases were connected.

               On October 24, 1978, Cathy Millican, 26-years old and from Sunapee, NH, was taking photographss at the Chandler Brook Wetland Preserve, specifically of birds. Witnesses confirmed seeing her that day, but she never made it home. A day later, on October 25th, her remains were found near where she had last been seen. The second known victim, Mary Critchley, 37, was found on August 9, 1981 in Unity, NH. She had disappeared while hitchhiking from the Boston area around I-91 to Waterbury, VT two weeks earlier. The University of Vermont student was found on Stage Coach Road in Claremont, NH (Campbell)(Fuqua) (“The Story Of This Unsolved Series Of Murders In New Hampshire Is Truly Chilling”).

               Almost three years later, on May 30, 1984, 16-year old Bernice Courtemanche went missing from West Claremont, NH. The young nurse’s aid had been heading to her boyfriend’s house at the time she disappeared. Her remains would be found nearly two years later, April 9, 1986, in Kellyville, NH. Her remains were found only a thousand yards from the remains of fourth victim, Ellen Fried. Fried disappeared in July 20, 1984, after phoning her sister on a payphone. The payphone was in West Claremont, NH, the same town Courtemanche disappeared from. Fried had left her job at the Valley Regional Hospital, where she was a nurse, and stopped at the payphone to make her call. The two talked for nearly an hour, during which time she told her sister a car was driving back and forth. The action made her nervous and she asked her sister to stay on the phone while she started her car, but this precaution would be for naught. The next day, she never showed up for work and her car was found later that same day on Jarvis Road, abandoned. Jarvis Road was only a short few miles from the convenience store she had made her phone call from. On September 19, 1985, her remains were recovered from the Sugar River banks near Kellyville. While most of the victims are known to have died from stab wounds, Fried’s cause of death remains unknown (Campbell)(Fuqua) (“The Story Of This Unsolved Series Of Murders In New Hampshire Is Truly Chilling”).

               Eva Marie Morse was hitchhiking home on July 10, 1985, when she disappeared just as the four previous victims had. She had been on Router 12, between Claremont and Charlestown, NH, at the time. Morse was a single mother at the time she disappeared, and her family would wait almost a year before her remains were finally found. On April 25, 1986, loggers stumbled upon her remains a mere 500 feet from the spot Critchley’s remains were recovered from. In January of 1987, Barbara Agnew, 36, was enjoying a day out skiing in Stratton, VT, when she disappeared. 10 miles from her home, her green BMW was found abandoned at a northbound I-91 rest stop at Hartford, VT the evening she disappeared. Blood was found on the steering wheel.  Her remains were recovered on March 28, 1987, well-preserved and frozen from the cold. She was found still wearing her ski jacket, with a lift sticker still on it, by an apple tree in Hartford, VT. Chillingly, she was surrounded by snow still black with her blood. Her cause of death was reportedly repeated stabbing to her head (Campbell)(Fuqua) (“The Story Of This Unsolved Series Of Murders In New Hampshire Is Truly Chilling”).

               There are two victims that stand out amongst the rest, one due to the change in pattern, the other because she survived her encounter. Lynda Moore was stabbed in her home in Saxtons River, VT, a change from the Connecticut River Valley Killer’s usual ambush method. The murder was considered part of a home invasion in April of 1986, but was linked to the serial killings based on location, her home was near I-91, nature of the attack, and the description of her killer. Moore was found by her husband and had been stabbed a staggering 40 times. Neighbors came forward, having seen her that morning, and were able to give a description of a man that had been lingering in their neighborhood that day. The man was described as being stocky and dark haired, wearing glasses and was notably clean shaven. Witnesses believed he was between 20 and 25 and was carrying a blue backpack around (Campbell)(Fuqua) (“The Story Of This Unsolved Series Of Murders In New Hampshire Is Truly Chilling”).

               Jane Boroski, 23, was seven months pregnant on April 6, 1988, when she was heading home from the county fair of Keene, NH. On her way, she pulled over into a closed convenience store in Winchester, NH to get a drink from the vending machine there. She returned to her car to drink her soda, only for a man to appear at her car door and ask if the payphone was working. She didn’t even get time to answer before the man had opened her car door and dragged her from the car, beginning to slash at her with a knife. During the attack, he was reportedly accusing her of harming his girlfriend, to which she tried to explain that she didn’t know who his girlfriend was. At one point, Boroski was able to get away, only to be caught again. When she seemed to have given up the fight, her attacker seemingly lost interest and left. Boroski, despite her injuries, managed to get back into her car and drive away to a friend’s house for help. Eerily, Boroski realized during her drive that her attacker was in the car in front of her, and had paused to watch as her friends helped her when she arrived at their home. She had been stabbed a total 27 times. Her injuries were extensive, including lung collapse and kidney damage, but she and her baby both survived (Campbell)(Fuqua) (“The Story Of This Unsolved Series Of Murders In New Hampshire Is Truly Chilling”).  

               During the investigation into the killings, John Philpin, criminal psychologist, was called in to make a profile of the killer. He visited the crime scenes and determined that the areas had been determined preemptively by the killer, possibly meant to instill fear into his victims. According to his profile, the killer was detail oriented and would have a routine, was prone to outbursts of rage, would likely have his most significant relationship with his mother, had an abusive or absent father, which could be what he was recreating in his attacks, a history of voyeurism, and likely spent a lot of time on the road where driving nearly worked as hypnosis. While Philpin was working on his profile, Boroski agreed to undergo hypnosis. Under hypnosis, Boroski spoke about how calm and collected her attacker seemed during the attack and described the car, which she described as being a ’75-’85 Jeep Wagoneer with a license plate containing the numbers “662.” A search of this information brought up 350 possible matches (Fuqua).

               One suspect is consistently brought up by people. Michael Nicholaou was a Vietnam veteran, suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, and known to have been involved in other crimes. He murdered his ex-wife and daughter and was the main suspect in the disappearance of his ex-girlfriend (Campbell). Nicholaou met his ex-wife,  Michelle Ashley, while living in Virginia. Soon the two would be married in Holyoke, MA and had two children. Eventually the marriage began to fall apart, as sometimes happens, and Michelle took their children and fled. Nicholaou continued to harass her family until she relented and returned to him. Unfortunately, this would result in the ending of her life. When her family hadn’t heard from her for several weeks, her mother went to find them in December 1988. The apartment appeared abandoned, smelling of rotten food and items Michelle used on a regular basis left lying around. Despite the clear appearance of the apartment, she waited some time in hopes that her daughter and grandchildren would return. When they didn’t, she filed a missing persons report on them. Eventually, in 2001, a neighbor’s daughter-in-law working as a private investigator began to work on the case. She found Nicholaou in Georgia and contacted him to ask about his missing wife and children. While he initially claimed her didn’t know Michelle, he changed his story later, claiming she had run off with a drug dealer. The private investigator, Lynn-Marie Carty, was able to get into contact with Nicholaou’s son, Nick, who told her the traumatizing story of his life (Fuqua).

               In December of 2005, Nicholaou was living with a new wife, Aileen, and her daughter, Terrin. Aileen fled with her daughter to her sister’s home in Florida after Nicholaou broke her shoulder, but Nicholaou found them shortly after. Aileen’s sister called police and met them in her driveway, explaining that her brother-in-law was inside with her sister and that the situation was dire. Unfortunately, shortly after their arrival and attempts to enter the home, gunshots fired out and inside they found Nicholaou and Aileen dead and Terrin injured. Despite attempts to save her, Terrin would later die from her injuries. The incident was deemed a murder-suicide. Upon further investigation, Carty learned that, like the victims of the Connecticut River Valley Killer, Nicholaou’s missing ex-wife, Michelle, had also been a nurse (Fuqua). When shown a photograph of Nicholaou later, Boroski identified him as the man that attacked her (Campbell).

               In 1997, Gary Westover made a startling confession. Westover had been paralyzed in a car accident and was prone to nightmares that woke him up at night. One of these nights in fall of 1997, he confessed to a cousin that he believed he was going to hell. He believed that, at 47, he was dying and called for his Uncle Howard. His uncle was Howard Minnon, who had been a sheriff’s deputy in Grafton County, NH, during his life, though was retired by this time. Westover told his uncle that in his younger days, in 1978, some of his friends had arrived for a night out and insisted he join them, loading his wheelchair into their car. According to his confession, his friends picked up a woman that night and dumped her butchered body off on a back road after killing her. Westover gave the names of the three friends and Minnon called local authorities, but his information was basically ignored. This was understandably frustrating to the retired deputy, who passed away in 2006. Westover passed in 1998, taking what he knew with him. It is thought that the woman Westover claimed to have killed, along with his friends, was Barbara Agnew (Montgomry).

               Over 40 years later, the cases of the Connecticut River Valley Killer officially remain unsolved. Despite DNA evidence having been collected from some of the victims, DNA that could be tested against the suspects, no testing has been done. It is possible that the DNA will never be tested, meaning the chances of the cases ever being solved are incredibly low. For now, we only have speculation about suspects and information gathered from the living victims and witnesses.

“The Story Of This Unsolved Series Of Murders In New Hampshire Is Truly Chilling”. Onlyinyourstate, 2017, https://www.onlyinyourstate.com/new-hampshire/unsolved-murders-nh/.

Camacho, Gillian. “New Hampshire: The Connecticut River Valley Killer | Unsolved”. Sites.Psu.Edu, 2021, https://sites.psu.edu/gillianpassionblog/2021/03/18/new-hampshire-the-connecticut-river-valley-killer/.

Fuqua, Lisa Marie. “Unsolved Connecticut River Serial Killer Case — True Crime”. Medium, 2020, https://lisamariefuqua.medium.com/unsolved-connecticut-river-serial-killer-case-true-crime-efd5fa339a04.

Campbell, Jean. “The Connecticut River Valley Killer: Why The Prime Suspect Hasn’t Been ID’ed As A Serial Murderer.”. Front Page Detectives, 2021, https://www.frontpagedetectives.com/p/connecticut-river-valley-case-murder-serial-suspect.

Montgomery, Ben. “Gary Westover”. Oakhillresearch.Blogspot.Com, 2008, http://oakhillresearch.blogspot.com/2013/04/gary-westover.html.

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