Real Name: Rena Rene Ferland Paquette
Nicknames: No Known Nicknames
Location: Hookset, New Hampshire
Date: February 3, 1964
Details: Fifty-four-year-old housewife Rena Paquette lived with her family in the town of Hooksett, New Hampshire. In January 1964, the body of fourteen-year-old Pamela Mason was found in Hooksett--four years after the body of Sandra Valade was discovered. Both girls had disappeared during snowstorms and were found raped and murdered, their belongings scattered around town. Rena claimed to know the identity of the girls' killer, but the police did not act on her tip. She told family that she was receiving disturbing calls from a French-speaking woman about the case. The caller directed her several times to the farm's pigsty to look for clues in the case.
On the morning of February 3, Rena's thirteen-year-old son Danny came down for breakfast and found that Rena was not home. He called his uncle and the two searched for her throughout their farm. They figured something was wrong because it was a cold morning and she had left her winter clothing behind. After searching for over an hour, Danny noticed smoke coming from their barn, which was one mile from the family home. Inside the barn's pigsty was Rena's charred body; this was the same barn that she claimed one of the girls was murdered in.
Surprisingly, the police ruled her death a suicide; they claimed that she was despondent over the deaths of Pamela and John F. Kennedy. However, her family believes that she was murdered by the same man that killed Pamela and Sandra. A few weeks after Rena's death, a local delivery man named Edward Coolidge was arrested and charged with Pamela's murder. He was the man that Rena believed was the killer. He was later convicted of the murder and sentenced to life in prison.
Danny was deeply affected by Rena's death. As he grew up, he became closer to his brother, Victor. Danny's adolescence and adult life were troubled. He married and became a father, but in 1981, he and his wife divorced. In a bitter legal battle, he lost custody of his children. In the summer of 1981, after becoming frustrated that he could not see his children, he went to his ex-wife's home and demanded to be let in. She called the police and he was taken into custody.
After the outburst, Danny was sent to a psychiatric hospital. Under hypnosis, Danny revealed that he had seen Rena arguing with a delivery man on the day that she was killed. He later claimed that the man was Edward Coolidge, the murderer of Pamela Mason. However, Rena's case was not re-opened.
Five months later, Danny was released from the hospital and tried to change his life for the better. On November 9, 1985, he was repairing a bulldozer while his two friends were working in the garage. At around 11am, his friends heard a loud pop. They found him lying on the ground; he was shot in the back and had been killed instantly. Near the site where Danny was killed, police found footprints that they believe belonged to the killer, who had apparently ran from the scene.
The bullet that killed Danny was found in a nearby telephone line. The authorities investigated the possibility that Danny had died accidentally and was shot by hunters in a local gravel pit. The gravel pit was approximately one mile from the area where he was shot. However, the theory was later discounted because of the distance between the pit and Danny and the fact that the bullet would have had to go through various obstacles in order to reach him.
Some of Danny's friends and family now believe that the same person who killed Danny was responsible for Rena's death years earlier. However, Danny and Rena's deaths remain a mystery.
Suspects: Rena's family believes that Edward Coolidge was responsible for her death. She apparently had information that led her to suspect him in the deaths of Pamela Mason and Sandra Valade. She had even received a phone call from someone who claimed that Pamela had been killed in the Paquette's barn.
Extra Notes: This segment originally aired on the October 24, 1990 episode of Unsolved Mysteries.
Results: Unresolved. In November 1991, Rena's body was exhumed and her cause of death was changed from "suicide" to "undetermined". The medical examiner noted that homicide was a possibility. After the exhumation, an employee for the medical examiner's office located the original autopsy report. It stated that semen was found on Rena's body and there was evidence her arms had been bound. Also, someone had placed two logs outside the door of the barn so it could not be opened from inside. Furthermore, a retired officer stated that he and other investigators did not believe Rena committed suicide when they investigated back in 1964. However, they were ordered to "forget" their suspicions of murder.
Edward Coolidge, the man serving time for Pamela Mason's murder, was released in March 1991 due to a legal technicality.
In 2005, a man named Eric Windhurst was arrested and charged with Danny's murder. At the time of the murder, he had been dating Danny's step-daughter Melanie Paquette Cooper. When originally questioned, the two claimed that they were at a field hockey game at the time of the murder. However, Melanie later admitted to being with Eric when he killed Danny. She also claimed that Danny had sexually abused her, and that Eric killed him because of this. Surprisingly, Eric's family members told police that they had known about him committing the murder, as it had been an "open secret" among the family.
Melanie served fifteen months for hindering the investigation into her father's murder. Eric pleaded guilty to murder and was sentenced to fifteen to thirty six years in prison. In 2020, he was released on parole.
Rena's death is still a mystery; however, her family is convinced that Coolidge was responsible.
- Mother of 5 Found Burned Dead in Shack - February 4, 1964
- Possibility of suicide in fiery death of woman - February 4, 1964
- Family rejects suicide verdict - February 5, 1964
- Rule Suicide In N.H. Death - February 5, 1964
- Woman's Death: Maynard Blasts Rumor Mongers - February 12, 1964
- Family hopes autopsy will show murder - November 8, 1991
- Family has woman's body exhumed - Witness contends death was suicide - November 9, 1991
- Brother of N.H. woman says Rena Paquette was murdered - November 13, 1991
- Author: Woman's death may have been murder - November 14, 1991
- Old files shed new light on Manchester woman's death - November 14, 1991
- New autopsy reveals no new evidence - November 14, 1991
- Doctor rules out Rena Paquette suicide - November 15, 1991
- Searching for truth about a mother's death - December 22, 1991
- Family searches for the truth about death of their mother - December 22, 1991
- Two deaths haunt a N.H. family - December 19, 2005
- Mysterious deaths shake up family - December 19, 2005
- Family of murdered man cannot forgive killer - October 24, 2020
- Rena Paquette at Find a Grave