"Connecticut River Valley Killer" refers to an
unidentified serial killer believed
responsible for a series of similar knife
murders mostly in and around Claremont, New Hampshire, and the Connecticut River Valley, primarily
in the 1980s.
In the mid 1980s, three young women disappeared
from the Claremont, New Hampshire
1985 and 1986, the skeletal remains of two of the vanished women
were recovered within about a thousand feet of each other in a
wooded area in Kelleyville, New Hampshire.
The condition of the remains made the cause
of death difficult to determine, but certain factors pointed to
multiple stab wounds. Between the recovery of the first and second
bodies, a 36-year old woman was stabbed to death in a frenzied
attack inside her Saxtons River home.
Ten days later, the remains of the
third missing woman were found; postmortem
revealed evidence of multiple stab wounds.
At this point, investigators began examining prior homicides in the
area and found two previous cases, in 1978 and 1981, that further
reinforced the presence of a burgeoning serial killer. At the peak
of the investigation, and after additional homicides and one
non-fatal attack, investigators noted similarities in M.O.
, oft-used dump sites, and specific wound
patterns that linked many of the murders, suggesting a common
Seven homicides are commonly cited as being conclusively linked to
the Connecticut River Valley killer.
24, 1978, 26-year old Cathy Millican was
photographing birds at the Chandler Brook Wetland Preserve in
New London, New
The next day, her body, with at least 29
stab wounds, was found yards away from where she was last
On July 25, 1981, 25-year old Mary Elizabeth
disappeared while hitchhiking
. She was last spotted near Interstate 91 at the Massachusetts/Vermont border.
Fifteen days later, her body
was found on Stage Coach Road in Claremont. Her manner of death has
not been disclosed.
16-year old nurse's aide Bernice Courtemanche
last seen by her boyfriend's mother in Claremont on May 30, 1984.
thought to have set out to see her boyfriend in Newport by hitchhiking along Route 12.
She did not reach
her destination and was subsequently reported missing.
later, on July 20, 1984, 27-year old Ellen
Fried—supervising nurse at Valley Regional
Hospital—made a late-night stop to use a payphone outside Leo's Market in Claremont.
Fried spoke with her sister for approximately an hour when she
suddenly remarked on a strange car she'd observed driving back and
forth in the vicinity. She stepped away from the phone briefly to
make sure her car's engine would start and then returned. After
speaking for a few minutes longer, Fried concluded the call.
The next day, Fried failed to report to work and her car was found
abandoned on Jarvis Road, a few miles away from Leo's Market.
10, 1985, 28-year old single mother
Eva Morse was seen hitchhiking near the border of
Claremont and Charlestown, New Hampshire, on Route 12.
This is the last time anyone
would see Morse alive, and she too was reported missing.
September 19, 1985, the remains of Ellen Fried were found in a
wooded area near the banks of the Sugar
River in Kelleyville, New Hampshire.
Postmortem examination revealed evidence of
multiple stab wounds.
During the afternoon of April 15, 1986, 36-year old Lynda
was doing yard work outside her home in Saxtons
River, Vermont, a short distance from I-91. That evening, her
husband returned home to find his wife's dead body, bearing
multiple stab wounds. The crime scene suggested a fierce struggle
had taken place.
Numerous witnesses reported having seen a slightly stocky,
dark-haired man with a blue knapsack lingering near Moore's home
the day of the murder. The man was thought to be between 20 and 25
years old, clean shaven, with a somewhat round face, and wearing
dark-rimmed glasses. The following year, a composite sketch
Four days after Moore's murder, a fisherman happened upon the
remains of Bernice Courtemanche about one thousand yards from where
Ellen Fried's remains had been recovered. Forensic examination
uncovered evidence of knife wounds to the neck
and an injury to the head
Six days later, the remains of Eva Morse were found by loggers
about 500 feet from where Mary Elizabeth Critchley's body had been
discovered in 1981. Postmortem examination found evidence of knife
wounds to Morse's neck.
January 10, 1987, 38-year old nurse Barbara Agnew
was returning from a skiing outing with
friends in Stratton,
Vermont. That evening, a snowplow driver encountered her green BMW at a northbound I-91 rest stop in Hartford,
The door was cracked and there was blood on
the steering wheel
. On March 28, 1987,
Agnew's body was found near an apple tree in Hartland.
She had been stabbed to death.
There was a heavy snowstorm in the area during the night of Agnew's
disappearance, and she was a mere 10 miles from her home. Her
reasons for pulling into the rest stop have been puzzling to
Jane Boroski attack
Composite sketch of Jane
killings remained unsolved and had apparently stopped when, late in
the evening on August 6, 1988, 22-year old Jane Boroski, seven
, was returning from a
in Keene, New
when she stopped at a closed convenience store in
to purchase cola from a vending machine. Boroski
returned to her car and began drinking the beverage when she took
notice of a Jeep Wagoneer
to her. Via her rear-view mirror
Boroski then saw the driver of the vehicle walking around the back
of her vehicle. He then approached her open window and asked her if
the pay phone was working, at which time he immediately grabbed her
and pulled her from the vehicle. Boroski struggled, and the man
accused her of beating up his girlfriend and asked if she had
Massachusetts plates on her car. Boroski responded that she had New
Hampshire plates, but this did not deter her attacker, who
proceeded to stab her 27 times before driving away and leaving her
Boroski managed to return to her car and drive on Route 32
toward a friend's
house for help. As she neared the house, she noticed a vehicle
driving in front of her and realized that it was her attacker.
Boroski finally reached her friend's home at which the occupants
immediately came to her aid. Her attacker apparently performed a
and slowly passed by the house as
Boroski was tended to before speeding away into the night.
Boroski was treated at the hospital, where it was determined that
the attack had resulted in a severed jugular vein
, two collapsed lungs
, a kidney
, and severed tendons
in her knees
. Fortunately, Boroski's baby survived, although
not without complications; Boroski's daughter would later be
diagnosed with mild cerebral
Boroski was able to provide authorities with a composite sketch and
the first three characters of the attacker's license plate
Despite two composite sketches, the formation of a task force
, assistance from criminal profiler
John Philpin, a handful
of local suspects, and an Unsolved Mysteries
concerning the murders (aired April 10, 1991), no arrests were made
in the Connecticut River Valley killings and the case grew cold
, as the killings ceased after the attack on
In 1993, Scribner published a book, The Shadow of Death: The
Hunt for a Serial Killer
, by true crime author Philip E.
Ginsburg. Both the Unsolved Mysteries
segment and Ginsberg
book featured substantial input by Philpin.
20, 1984, 16-year old Heidi Martin went for a jog in Hartland,
Vermont, on Martinsville Road.
Delbert Clyde Tallman mugshot.
The next day, her
body was found in a swampy area behind Hartland Elementary School.
She had been raped
and stabbed to death.
21-year old Delbert C. Tallman confessed to the crime and was
tried; however, he later recanted his confession and was acquitted.
Nearly three years later, Barbara Agnew's body would be found
approximately a mile from where Martin was discovered.
has resided in Bellows Falls, Springfield, and Windsor, Vermont as well as Claremont, New Hampshire, the locus of
most of the Connecticut River Valley killings. He was convicted in
1996 on two counts of lewd and lascivious conduct with a child and
is currently serving time in a Lake County, Florida prison for failure to comply
with sex offender registration
Given the circumstances of Martin's murder, and the dearth of
information related to the arrest and trial of a suspect, some
websites cite Martin's death as unsolved and part of the
Connecticut River Valley killings.There is, however, no evidence
presently available to the public that Tallman was involved in any
In 2001, private investigator
Lynn-Marie Carty was contacted by the mother of Michelle Marie
Ashley, a Vermont woman who had been missing since December 1988,
along with her two children. The woman hired Carty to gather
information pertaining to the possible whereabouts of her daughter,
as well as her two grandchildren, whom she believed to be in the
company of Ashley's common-law
husband, Michael Andrew Nicholaou.
Michael Nicholaou was a Vietnam
who'd served as a helicopter
in the Army
Nicholaou had earned two Purple Hearts
two Silver Stars
and two Bronze Stars
before being charged in 1970,
along with seven comrades, with strafing
civilians while on a reconnaissance
mission in the Mekong Delta
later, military acquaintances would describe Nicholaou as having,
on at least one occasion, abandoned his camp to seek hand-to-hand
individual combat with the enemy, armed only with a knife, stating
that he was going "hunting" for humans.) Murder and attempted murder
charges were ultimately
dropped, and Nicholaou returned home disgraced and bitter,
subsequently filing suit against the US Army. During this time and
throughout the remainder of his life, Nicholaou received treatment
from the Veterans Administration for Posttraumatic stress
living in Virginia, Nicholaou opened and operated a sex shop called The Pleasure Chest.
store was raided twice and he and his business partner were charged
with selling obscene materials; in one instance, they were
convicted, and in the other, there was a mistrial. At the time,
Nicholaou remarked to the The Progress
, "Evidently the
police don't have enough serious robberies, murders and rapes to
occupy their time."
It was in
Virginia that Nicholaou met Michelle Ashley and soon after moved to
Massachusetts, where the couple had two children, Nick and
Michelle's family, who lived in New England, regarded Michael Nicholaou as strange and
As his marriage to Michelle became more troubled,
Michelle attempted to leave him, taking her two children with her.
This prompted Nicholaou to pursue Michelle's whereabouts, making
contact with her family during this period. Michelle, who told
family members that she feared for her life, eventually returned to
Nicholaou, but expressed intentions to family to leave him for
good. In December 1988, Michelle's mother dropped by the home of
Michael and Michelle to check on her daughter after weeks of no
contact; she found spoiled food in the refrigerator, an abandoned
baby book, and the apartment vacant. There was no trace of
Michelle, Nicholaou, or the two children.
Shortly after being hired by Michelle's mother in 2001, Carty was
easily able to obtain Nicholaou's contact information with some
research. She called Nicholaou,
who was living in Georgia, and he answered.
Nicholaou initially asked
how she had found him and denied knowing anything about the
family's whereabouts. Eventually, he stated that Michelle was a
"slut" who had been doing drugs
and ran off, abandoning the
children. He stated that the children were fine, and Carty
confirmed this by reaching Nick the following day, who tearfully
described life with his combat-traumatized father, who had since
By 2005, Nicholaou's second wife, Aileen, had also sought to escape
him after he'd attacked her. On December 31 of that year, Nicholaou
tracked down Aileen to her sister's home in Tampa,
Wearing a black suit and tie and carrying a
guitar case filled with guns, Nicholaou led his wife and
stepdaughter, 22-year old Taryn Bowman, into a bedroom while his
sister-in-law fled to summon police. While awaiting for the arrival
of the SWAT
team, Nicholaou shot Aileen, Taryn,
and himself. Aileen and Michael Nicholaou died at the scene; Taryn
died at the hospital a short time later.
Carty read about the tragedy in the newspaper and was compelled to
investigate Nicholaou's past, as well as explore other New England
crimes around the time of Michelle's disappearance. It was then
that Carty began reading about the Connecticut River Valley
killings and suspected that Nicholaou could have been the
perpetrator. Among many points of interest to Carty was that
Michelle Ashley was a nurse, a profession shared with three of the
Connecticut River Valley victims.
Nicholaou's residence in Holyoke was about from Claremont, Carty
was able to determine that Michelle had relatives in the area, and
a note in the abandoned baby book placed her in 1986 at the same
Hampshire, hospital from which Barbara Agnew would disappear
a year later.
It was also determined that Michael Nicholaou
owned a Jeep Wagoneer in the 1980s, which is consistent with the
vehicle described by Jane Boroski.
Carty began communicating with Boroski shortly after Nicholaou's
murder-suicide (both were interviewed in a 2008 episode of
Investigates: Serial Killers on the Loose
that focused on
the Connecticut River Valley killer). Carty shared her findings
about Nicholaou with Boroski. Boroski was shown pictures of Michael
Nicholaou and expressed that there was "some resemblance" between
him and the man that attacked her. The culmination of Carty's
interactions with Boroski was that Boroski is now convinced that
Michael Nicholaou was her attacker and, by extension, the
Connecticut River Valley killer.
New Hampshire cold case detectives, in 2007, stated that they were
in the process of examining surviving physical evidence
, as well as Michael
Nicholaou's possible connection to the case. To date, no
conclusions have been publicly announced, and Nicholaou has not
been conclusively linked to the crimes of the Connecticut River
It's worth noting that Nicholaou's candidacy as a suspect is
hampered by the fact that he appears to have been living in
Virginia at the time of the Courtemanche, Fried, and Morse murders
(reinforced by the date of his obscenity trial), and likely both up
to and beyond that time. Furthermore, online sleuths have variously
posited Nicholaou as being the Colonial Parkway Killer
, the Route
29 Stalker, the Blue Ridge Parkway Rapist, and the murderer of
Julianne Williams and Lollie Winans at Shenandoah National
Park.There is no physical or compelling circumstantial evidence
presently available to the public which factually connects
Nicholaou to any of the "Connecticut River Valley" cases or other
case in VT or NH beyond his slight resemblance to some
Gary Westover's deathbed confession
October, 1997, a 46-year old Grafton, New Hampshire paraplegic named Gary
Westover related to his uncle, retired Grafton
sheriff's deputy Howard Minnon, that he had a confession.
Westover told Minnon that, in 1987, three buddies picked him up for
what was described as a night of partying. Allegedly, they loaded
Westover and his wheelchair
and set out to Vermont, where they abducted,
murdered, and dumped 38-year old Barbara Agnew, who had long been
considered a victim of the Connecticut River Valley killer.
Westover provided the names of the three friends and Minnon
recorded them on a piece of scrap paper. Thereafter, Minnon shared
Westover's information with his wife, daughter, and law
enforcement. Minnon felt, however, that authorities were not
interested in his information. Westover died in March 1998, and
Minnon died in 2006.
In August 2006, one of Westover's aunts wrote Anne Agnew, sister of
the victim, with the information originally given by Westover to
Minnon. Agnew forwarded the letter to Carty, who ran the name of
Michael Nicholaou by Westover's aunt, who stated that the named
"sounded familiar." Carty believes that authorities are in
possession of the names Westover provided to Minnon, and further
speculated that Westover may have become acquainted with Nicholaou
at an area Veterans Affairs hospital, although none of this has
been confirmed and the Connecticut River Valley killings have not
Other possible victims
Joanne Dunham, 14, was sexually assaulted and strangled on June 11,
1968, in Charlestown, New Hampshire. Ginsberg cites Dunham as a
Connecticut River Valley victim in Shadow of Death
although this inclusion is primarily his own and is made on the
basis of geographic proximity to the later crimes.
October 5, 1982, 76-year old Sylvia Gray was found bludgeoned and
stabbed to death in a wooded area, a few hundred yards from her
New Hampshire home, a day after having been reported
Hunter, 36, was employed as a golf
pro in Manchester Center, Vermont.
On September 19, 1986, her car was
discovered parked at a gas station off Route 7A
and she was subsequently reported
missing. Two months later, her remains were stumbled
upon in a brush at the edge of a cornfield in Pawlet,
She had been strangled. At the time,
Hunter's death was being reviewed by Vermont and New Hampshire
authorities as being possibly connected to other unsolved homicides
in the area.
old Steven Hill was last seen on June 20, 1986 retrieving his
paycheck from his Lebanon, New Hampshire employer.
On July 15
Hill's body was found with multiple stab wounds in Hartland,
Vermont, across the Connecticut
from where Sylvia Gray's body had been found four years
25, 1989, 14-year old Carrie Moss of New Boston,
New Hampshire, left her parents' home to visit friends in
Goffstown and disappeared.
Exactly two years later, on July
24, 1991, Moss's skeletal remains were found in a wooded area in
New Boston. While her cause of death could not be determined, she
was thought to be the victim of a homicide.