Finding Lisa: A Real-Life Murder/Mystery/Genealogy Story

A fascinating story by Shelley Murphy, published in the Boston Globe, seems to b almost too strange to be true. Sadly, it is not only true, but pieces of the whole story are still missing. Dozens of law enforcement officers around the country, social workers, investigators from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, genealogists, and others have worked together to find as much information about a serial killer as possible. There may be even more information waiting to be found. Law enforcement officials feel there may be even more victims than are known so far.

A man of many aliases seems to have murdered a number of wives, girlfriends, and children. At various times, he lived in New Hamshire, Texas, California, Idaho, and probably in other states as well.

Genealogists became involved when there was a need to identify the ancestry of one little girl who was abandoned, but not murdered, by the serial killer. Working with DNA and with public records, the volunteers spent thousands of hours building her family tree of some 19,000 people, just on her maternal side. The list of people who descended from just one ancestor, the one with 18 children, filled a line of letter-size sheets that, taped together, extended 11 feet.

The serial killer eventually died in prison (for other crimes) and yet little is known about him. He was smart, fluent in French, and, according to one witness interviewed by police, also spoke Spanish, Chinese, and Arabic. Investigators suspect he may have served in the military, but they have been unable to identify him. They don’t know where he was born and raised, or where he was before he surfaced in New Hampshire in the late 1970s, when he appeared to be in his late 20s or early 30s. Perhaps you can use your genealogy skills to help the investigation.

You can read this fascinating story at

My thanks to newsletter reader Bill Kelleher for telling me about this story.


I was just thinking about this case. I’m very happy Lisa/Dawn was rescued and has had a good life. My heart hurts for the unidentified and missing victims.

I’m still dumbfounded that Denise and Lisa/Dawn’s family never reported them missing. I guess I’m luckier because I know my family would have spent their lives looking for me.


What an interesting story! I love reading about mysteries like this.


Great story, writing, and awesome police work…makes you think about how many more are out there…


I couldn’t get into the Globe story without paying.
Sue P.


I enjoyed the whole story and couldn’t stop reading until I finished the whole thing.
Thanks so very much for a great read!


Great story! I just read it without being asked to pay


When I went to the story there was a popup asking to login via Facebook or sign in to the Globe. However, that popup has a very faint Close link on the top left corner. Click that, it goes away and the article is right there.


As a NH native, this story has haunted me for decades, ever since the first bodies were discovered. So much speculation and so little hard evidence for the longest time, until finally a breakthrough in the last year or so gave the investigation some legs, but still no ID on some of the bodies found. My heart aches, especially for the unidentified victims and their families.


Boston Globe online allows you to use it a number of times, then asks you to subscribe and after that does not allow unless you sign up. Understandable but also a scam of sortrs. A lure.


No DNA workup going to be done to determine the series killers family, like Lisa’s?
The mere fact he spoke French, he too was likely French-Canadian.
A woman and 3 children murdered, not likely that was his first killings. Sloppiness, he must have wanted them found eventually.
The story of Lisa was wonderfully written. I wish her and her family a long and happy life.


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