ROCHESTER, Pa. — A 14-year-old vanishes. A mysterious letter surfaces. And not one, but two bodies are found near a lake in Ohio.
It’s a murder mystery with few clues and a lot of questions. But investigators have some new, promising leads that they’re hoping may ultimately help them solve this case.
It began in Rochester, Beaver County, 27 years ago. And ended with the discovery of two bodies near Berlin Lake in Ohio.
Was it the work of a serial killer, or was it someone they both knew?
“She was a quiet, introvert, shy, but she was just a sweet little girl,” said Kevin Boehm, Sarah’s uncle.
On the night of July 14, 1994, 14-year-old Sarah Boehm, who was at her home in Rochester, Beaver County, told her brother she was going to a friend’s home several blocks away for a sleepover.
She never made it.
The next morning, her mother, who was working that night, went to police and the family began a frantic search.
“We went down all over Rochester, went down to the bowling alley down to the river where kids would hang out. We went everywhere,” said Kevin Boehm.
The friend Sarah Boehm was going to stay with told police that she had talked to Sarah that night and told her she couldn’t come over because they had company.
Just days after Sarah disappeared, her family made a shocking discovery in her bedroom. Under a pillow, a letter written by Sarah. In it, she talked about running away and starting a new life. She also made another startling revelation. She said she was in an abusive relationship with an older man.
Sarah’s uncle read excerpts from the letter.
“I met an older guy who gave me love and whatever else I was not getting at home. He was a very, very abusive man. Didn’t anyone wonder why I always had injuries. And I said I fell. I’ve always said the day I walk out the door is the day I’ll never return. I thought everything over and it is best. Believe I’m just a burden,” read Kevin Boehm, who added that she was not a burden at all.
Kevin Boehm told Earle that he doesn’t believe there was ever an older man in her life. He says Sarah was distraught over her parents’ divorce. Just before she disappeared, Sarah also told police that a strange man had attempted to abduct her. Police investigated but never found any corroborating evidence.
“I just think it was just another cry for attention, and she was, she was hurting, and she really was a sad little girl,” said her uncle.
The days turned into weeks, then months and years.
Then in 2000, a possible break in the investigation. A Beaver County detective combing through missing person reports came across a sketch of a young girl who resembled Sarah. Hunters had found her body near Berlin Lake in Ohio in November of 1994, just four months after Sarah left her home in Rochester, Pa. Berlin Lake is about an hour’s drive from Rochester.
The detective made the connection, and DNA tests eventually confirmed it was indeed the body of Sarah Boehm.
“We could bring her home, put her to rest, but for us, it’s we have no rest until we find out who did that to her. We want justice for her,” said Kevin Boehm.
Investigators called it a violent death. She had been strangled. And the family soon got more disturbing and troubling information.
Several months before Sarah Boehm’s remains were found, the body of 17-year-old Kathryn Menendez of nearby Alliance, Ohio was found several hundred yards from Sarah Boehm. She had been missing only a few days. She was strangled and stabbed to death.
“We thought is there like maybe a serial killer or something I don’t know,” said Kevin Boehm.
Beaver County detective Michael Kryder has taken over the investigation. Earle asked him about a possible connection between Boehm and Menendez.
“You can’t rule a connection out. They’re both similar in age,” said Kryder, who indicated that at one point, investigators focused on Sarah’s now-deceased father, Jack, who was convicted of molesting a young relative and served time in prison.
But her dad was in West Virginia at a concert the day Sarah disappeared.
“Nothing ever panned out with that theory. Jack had a pretty solid alibi of where he was at the time she went missing. On his deathbed, I had asked him, I said, Jack, is there anything you need to say, anything you need to get off your chest, whether to do about Sarah and he just said no. He just wants to find out who did this to his daughter. I believe him. I do, I wholeheartedly believe him,” said Kevin Boehm.
On the wall next to Kryder’s desk is a constant reminder of the cold case, a poster with pictures of both teenagers.
And on a nearby bookshelf, a half dozen binders filled with forensic reports and interviews conducted during the past 27 years.
“Every spare moment we get, we go through the files. We look for people who haven’t been talked to, there’s been hundreds of people spoken to and there’s a lot of work that has been done, but there’s a lot more that needs done,” said Kryder, who also alluded to some new information that investigators are now tracking down.
“There’s some people we’ve found that have relationships between this area and the Berlin Lake area. So, we’ve been following, kind of following on that, the people who have the two connections. There’s a couple that I think could turn out good for us,” said Kryder.
“We pray that will happen. We need justice for her, " said Kevin Boehm.
Today, the family is still holding out hope that one day Sarah’s killer will be brought to justice.
Meanwhile, investigators tell Target 11 that the new, potentially promising leads, involve some people with connections to both Rochester, Pa. and Berlin Lake in Ohio.
Target 11 will continue to track any new developments in this cold case.
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