Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Tips keep coming in case of teen missing since 1980

The top photo is of Rachel Garden when she was 15 and disappeared in Newton, N.H.
The bottom photo shows store owner Peter Jewett standing next to a missing person poster hung up at his store in East Kingston within the last week. He is believed to be one of the last to see Rachel before she went missing.
I wrote an update for the paper this week on the search for a Newton teenager, Rachel Garden, who went missing in 1980. While it might seem like a cold case, police are still chasing down leads, hoping to find some clues to point them in the right direction. They've even begun posting new missing person posters around the area, even after all this time has passed.

I had a chance to briefly interview Rachel's father this week for the story that appeared in today's paper.

Here's the story:

By Jason Schreiber
Union Leader Correspondent

NEWTON - It’s been 28 years since he last saw his 15-year-old daughter Rachel, but Stuart Garden still holds out hope that she’s out there somewhere.
“If she is alive, she’s not around here, there’s no question about that, and if she is alive, she’d have another life,” the 70-year-old Garden said yesterday as he reflected on the years of searches that have so far turned up nothing.

Rachel vanished without a trace on the night of March 20, 1980, after leaving Rowe’s Corner Market. The young teenager came into the store that night as she often did, bought a pack of Marlboro Lights, handed Peter Jewett a $5 bill, and went on her way.

“I was leaning against the counter and watched her cross the street. She went down Maple Avenue and that’s the last I saw of her,” recalled Jewett, who owned the local convenience store at the time and is believed to be one of the last people to see Rachel before she was gone.

Over the years, the Garden family has hunted for clues along with state and local police investigators who have followed up on countless leads that have led them to dig in Kingston, Newton and other areas. They’ve searched by air and water, and in recent months, scoured a pond in Kingston to check out a tip.

Private detectives and even psychics have been brought in as well, but still there are no answers for Rachel’s family, her friends, and the police investigators who can only wonder what happened.

In hopes of generating new leads, police within the last week have begun posting new missing person posters in the area with information about Rachel and two photographs, one of Rachel when she was a teenager and another generated by a computer to show how she might look today if she were still alive.

The case is still officially classified as a non-family abduction, but authorities have suggested that she may have been kidnapped and murdered. Others speculate that could have run away.

While Rachel’s father appreciates the work of some of the investigators, he raised questions about the way some of the searches have been handled. “I believe some of the searches that they’re doing are not valid,” he said, declining to elaborate.

The recent effort to hang new missing person posters “doesn’t hurt,” he said, but posters were put up when she first disappeared with little luck. During the initial investigation, there was little publicity about her disappearance, but the Gardens tried to get the word out by hanging posters and giving posters to truckers to post across the country during their road trips.

One truck driver who lived across the street from the Gardens actually claimed to have possibly seen her while he was in Florida shortly after she went missing, but the claim could never be confirmed.

“As time goes on you don’t think much of it because you’ve accepted certain things, but there’s always the thing in the back of your mind that she’s out there,” said Stuart Garden, whose family moved from Newton to Center Harbor about five years after Rachel disappeared.

Like others who knew her, Jewett has always wondered where Rachel went after she left his store.

Jewett, 66, sold the Newton store 24 years ago and now owns Jewett’s General Store in East Kingston.

Jewett knew Rachel and her family well. They were frequent customers and lived just down the street. Jewett described Rachel as a “mini Phyllis Diller,” saying she was an outgoing young teenager who was so full of life.

“I would give anything to have the case solved in my lifetime,” Jewett said. “I would really like to know.”

Anyone with information in the case is urged to contact the New Hampshire State Police Major Crimes Unit at 271-2663.

No comments: