The Murder of Sarah Hunter (Vermont)

Sarah Hunter was only 15 minutes late for work when her coworker called police to report her missing. But despite his swift action, Sarah’s case would go cold and stay that way for years.

Decades later, an individual known to the case from the earliest days of the investigation became a prime suspect, and advanced DNA testing even led to an arrest. Yet Sarah’s murder still awaits a conclusion to this day after almost 40 years.

If you have any information relating to the unsolved homicide of Sarah Hunter, please contact Captain Scott Dunlap of the Vermont State Police Major Crime Unit. His email is You can also submit an anonymous tip at, or text VTIPS to 274637.

September 18 & 19, 1986

It was 8pm on Thursday night, September 18, 1986 and 32-year old Sarah Hunter was just leaving her boyfriend’s house in Manchester, Vermont. According to reporting by Joyce Bassett for the Times Union, Sarah had been studying for a new Ladies Professional Golf League certification and was on her way home that night to review some material for the upcoming test. As the head golf pro at Manchester Country Club, Sarah was passionate about golf and liked staying sharp on her skills and knowledge of the game that became her livelihood.

On top of the test, the next was going to be busy for Sarah with early morning lessons to teach plus she was playing in a tournament that afternoon. But before heading back to the house where she rented a room in Manchester Village that night, Sarah stopped by Leo’s Motors off Route 7A to grab a six pack of Coors Light beer. She cashed out by 8:30 and left the store.

Around 8:15 the next morning, Sarah’s fellow golf pro Todd McIntosh was growing uneasy. In the history of Sarah’s employment at the club, she was a dependable, punctual employee. Now she was 15 minutes late to her first lesson and she hadn’t so much as called to give a heads up. Todd had a gut feeling that something was seriously wrong, and it only took that 15 minute window for Todd to pick up the phone and call Manchester Police. However, he was told they had to wait 24 to 48 hours before any kind of investigation would be done.

Meanwhile, not far away down route 7A in Manchester, employees at the Citgo service station and car wash arrived for their shift to an unusual sight. There was a car wedged into the narrow back alley behind the building. It had to have been pushed to the spot, because there were only a few inches on either side of the doors, definitely not enough for someone to get in or out if they drove it in. The employees called police to report the strange vehicle. When officers arrived and ran the Florida license plate, the 1984 beige Nissan came back registered to Sarah Hunter.

Manchester police tried contacting Sarah, but they couldn’t seem to track her down at home and she still hadn’t shown up for work at the country club either. An adult taking an unannounced trip or missing work without notice isn’t itself always cause for alarm, but something was off about all of it. Despite initially dismissing her co-worker’s call of concern, saying they had to wait a day or two to start looking for Sarah, the discovery of her car seemed to change everything. Manchester police towed and impounded Sarah’s vehicle that morning and it was dusted for fingerprints the very same day.

Sarah is Missing

Mike Donoghue reports for the Burlington Free Press that other than where and how it was found, police didn’t find anything suspicious or concerning about Sarah’s car. There were five unopened cans of Coors Light in the cab, but that’s all they’ve really said publicly about the contents of the car. They drilled out the lock on the trunk to get it open but said they didn’t find anything significant inside. I don’t know if that means it was empty or if the items were inconsequential, but either way the source material I have access to doesn’t specify. If fingerprints were successfully pulled from any surface in or outside of the car, it doesn’t seem like they were able to match them to any unknown person.

The same day, police also searched Sarah’s room in Manchester Village. Nothing was out of place and there were no signs of forced entry. There was a partially unpacked suitcase sitting on a stand and other clothes hanging in a closet. A small amount of cash sitting on Sarah’s dresser was untouched. Next to the money was a single can of Coors Light.

Marlene Roderick reports for the Bennington Banner that everyone police spoke to about Sarah that first day said they weren’t aware of any plans she had to leave town. They also couldn’t come up with anything that would have triggered an unplanned trip without checking in with co-workers or family. Going radio silent just isn’t something Sarah would do, but she hadn’t been in touch with anyone that morning and she didn’t show up for the golf tournament that afternoon either.

Among the questions was the suggestion that maybe Sarah left on her own accord without telling someone, possibly to harm herself. But Sarah’s friends and family were quick to shoot that down. Though she was recently divorced and the process was difficult for her, she was faring well and moving forward with her life. She’d recently put money down on a new condo in Manchester and had secured a raise for the following season at the country club, and she was planning to take a vacation later that year. She had every reason to stick around and so much to look forward to. If Sarah was missing, it wasn’t because she wanted to be.

Early Investigation

Manchester police spent the weekend interviewing Sarah’s friends and coworkers to develop a timeline of her movements after she bought that 6-pack around 8:30 p.m. on Thursday night. The five cans of beer in Sarah’s car and the one at her apartment were all Coors Light, so she must’ve gone home after stopping to buy the beer. But what happened next? The Citgo station where her car was found closed at 9:15, so investigators thought that the employees would’ve noticed Sarah’s car in the back alley as they locked up Thursday night, but they didn’t report it until the next morning. So when did her car actually end up there?

Police and firefighters searched wooded areas around the Citgo station where her car was discovered on Friday morning as well as spots near Leo’s Motors looking for clues. Meanwhile, friends and family began printing and distributing posters around town offering a $15,000 reward for information. By the fourth day of the search, Vermont State Police were called in to assist the investigation and the day after that, a local FBI agent began monitoring the case, too, in the event an element of the case crossed state lines.

But just two weeks into the search for Sarah the trail was already growing cold. Paul Teetor reports for the Rutland Herald that the previously announced reward did nothing to generate new viable tips and investigators were frustrated by the lack of progress. A ton of in and out of state resources were devoted to the search effort, including a helicopter and search dogs from New York State Police. Investigators scanned wooded areas from the sky while trained dogs sniffed for clues near the Grand Union supermarket in town Manchester and around several area ponds. Still, nothing turned up to direct the investigation any further.

But then on Saturday, October 4, two weeks and one day after Sarah was last seen, a clue turned up in a nearby town. Marlene Roderick reports for the Bennington Banner that two boys riding bikes down a road that connects the two tiny rural towns of Pawlet and Danby, Vermont discovered a purse on the side of the street. When the boys reported their finding to police, investigators were able to determine that it belonged to Sarah Hunter. Unfortunately, it rained that day and the purse was soaking wet so it would be difficult to determine how long it had been there exposed to the elements.

The purse was turned over to the Vermont State Crime Lab for testing in hopes it would reveal something, anything about what happened to the missing woman.

Paulette Crickmore

Finding Sarah’s purse about 15 miles away from where she was last seen was a significant development and a foreboding piece of evidence suggesting a nefarious element to Sarah’s disappearance, but nothing further developed in the coming weeks. By the end of November, investigators considered the very real possibility that Sarah had been abducted or possibly harmed. Yet not a single tip or lead came in with sightings or more information for police to follow. Manchester Police Chief Manfred Wessner said to reporters for the Rutland Herald, “I can’t recall a case with no leads at all like this.”

With so little to go on, investigators were willing to consider any possible theory. So, detectives working on Sarah’s case began comparing their notes with investigators working on another active case in Vermont, wondering if the circumstances were simply coincidental or evidence of a meaningful connection.

Yvonne Daley reports for the Rutland Herald that on September 10, just eight days before Sarah Hunter disappeared, a 15-year old girl named Paulette Crickmore seemingly vanished without a trace on her way to school in Richmond, Vermont. She’d gotten off the bus in town to cash her babysitting check and to buy a snack and then would’ve tried to catch another bus to Mount Mansfield Union High School where she was a freshman, but she never made it to class that morning.

When police searched for clues along what would have been Paulette’s route down Jericho Road, they didn’t find any of her belongings – not her bag, her books, or a flute case that a crossing guard later said she saw Paulette carrying as she hurried down the road towards school. Paulette was still missing when Sarah disappeared the following week and leads in her case had fizzled out by early October, too.

On the surface, it’s hard to draw any meaningful connections between the two cases. Richmond is almost two and a half hours away from Manchester and Sarah was more than twice Paulette’s age, but two suspicious disappearances in the same state within an 8 day span was worth closer scrutiny. Investigators on both cases weren’t ruling anything out, especially given the lack of evidence they had in either direction.

There was hope that hunting season would lead to new developments for both Sarah and Paulette’s investigations. Hunters in search of turkey, deer and other game would soon be covering areas of the woods that might not get much foot traffic any other time of year. Police believed having people out there covering more ground could produce new clues. And that’s exactly what happened.

Stephen Casmiro reports for the Burlington Free Press that on November 20, a hunter in the woods near Duxbury, Vermont discovered the badly decomposed remains of Paulette Crickmore. The autopsy results revealed she’d been shot more than once. What started as a suspicious disappearance was now labeled a homicide investigation. Seven days later, another discovery changed the status of Sarah Hunter’s case, too.

Sarah Hunter’s story continues on Dark Downeast. Press play to hear the full episode wherever you get your podcasts.

Episode Source Material

  • Local golf pro missing; case said suspicious by Marlene Roderick, Bennington Banner, 20 Sep 1986
  • Woods searched for missing pro by Marlene Roderick, Bennington Banner, 22 Sep 1986
  • Police probe disappearance of female golfer, AP via Burlington Free Press, 22 Sep 1986
  • Search expands for missing golf pro by Marlene Roderick, Bennington Banner, 23 Sep 1986
  • FBI joins in Hunter case by Marlene Roderick, Bennington Banner, 24 Sep 1986
  • Concerns grow each day Hunter is missing by Marlene Roderick, Bennington Banner, 26 Sep 1986
  • Reward offered for information on Hunter by Marlene Roderick, Bennington Banner, 27 Sep 1986
  • Arlington searchers find nothing by Cole G. Libby, Bennington Banner, 29 Sep 1986
  • No word received of missing golfer by Paul Teetor, Rutland Daily Herald, 03 Oct 1986
  • Police still searching for two missing persons by Mike Donoghue, Burlington Free Press, 06 Oct 1986
  • Clue found by Marlene Roderick, Bennington Banner, 06 Oct 1986
  • N.Y. police helicopters join search by Marlene Roderick, Bennington Banner, 08 Oct 1986
  • A month later, leads grow scarce in case of missing golf pro by Marlene Roderick, Bennington Banner, 21 Oct 1986
  • Families hope hunters will find evidence of missing persons by Yvonne Daley, Rutland Daily Herald, 16 Nov 1986
  • Disappearance still baffles police, Rutland Daily Herald, 26 Nov 1986
  • Hunter finds woman’s body in Pawlet by Marlene Roderick, Bennington Banner, 28 Nov 1986
  • Missing Bennington golf pro found dead in Pawlet cornfield by Marlene Roderick, Brattleboro Reformer, 29 Nov 1986
  • No leads in reported killings by Mike Donoghue, Burlington Free Press, 30 Nov 1986
  • Family to remember slain woman by Monica Allen, Rutland Daily Herald, 01 Dec 1986
  • Obituary: Sarah L. Hunter, Bennington Banner, 01 Dec 1986
  • Hunter probe goes on, Bennington Banner, 01 Dec 1986
  • Increase seen in purchases of guns for self-protection by Yvonne Daley, Rutland Daily Herald, 03 Dec 1986
  • Sarah Hunter remembered for a legacy of joy given by Paul Teetor, Rutland Daily Herald, 07 Dec 1986
  • Slain golf pro remembered as ‘one wonderful woman’ by Cole G. Libby, Burlington Free Press, 07 Dec 1986
  • Murder suspect arrested by Gayle Hanson, Rutland Daily Herald, 09 Dec 1986
  • Towne may be suspect in Hunter case by John Donnelly, Bennington Banner, 10 Dec 1986
  • Wright’s link to second killing difficult to prove by Mark Johnson, Burlington Free Press, 25 Dec 1986
  • Death penalty gains support by Cole G. Libby, Bennington Banner, 06 Jan 1987
  • Files studied for link to Hunter case, Bennington Banner, 13 Jan 1987
  • Children find Lofaro’s body; murder suspected by Cole G. Libby, Bennington Banner, 23 Mar 1987
  • Authorities say Agnew stabbed to death by Timothy Cornell, Rutland Daily Herald, 30 Mar 1987
  • ‘Serial killer’ feared in murders by Susan Reing, Brattleboro Reformer, 05 May 1987
  • Hunter case will be solved, police say by Marlene Roderick, Bennington Banner, 28 May 1987
  • N.H., Vt. teams search for murders’ link by John Donnelly, Burlington Free Press, 13 Sep 1987
  • Sharing leads in Hunter case by Marlene Roderick, Bennington Banner, 19 Sep 1987
  • Judge rebukes Towne lawyers by Debbie Bookchin, Rutland Daily Herald, 20 Nov 1987
  • Brattleboro man suspect in killings by Norman Runnion, Brattleboro Reformer, 24 Nov 1987
  • Police still pursue Hunter case clues by Tim Donahue, Rutland Daily Herald, 26 Nov 1987
  • Psychiatrist profiles a serial killer by Norman Runnion, Bennington Banner, 30 Nov 1987
  • Brother-detectives pursue leads in unsolved homicides by Jill Arabas, Rutland Daily Herald, 17 Jun 1988
  • Sarah Hunter clinic a success, Rutland Daily Herald, 08 Jul 1988
  • Still no arrests in Hunter murder by Marlene Roderick, Bennington Banner, 19 Sep 1988
  • Psychic tries to help in Sarah Hunter case by Marlene Roderick, Bennington Banner, 20 Sep 1988
  • Suspect linked to Hunter, Bennington Banner, 12 Oct 1988
  • Police: Ignore Hunter hype, Bennington Banner, 13 Oct 1988
  • State homicide probe does not net suspect, AP via Burlington Free Press, 19 Oct 1988
  • Murder arrest stymied by Paul Teetor, Rutland Daily Herald, 19 Oct 1988
  • Recalling a true Vermont original by Dottie O’Brien, Rutland Daily Herald, 20 May 2006
  • Press conference set in ‘86 homicide, Rutland Daily Herald, 02 Jul 2012
  • Police plan arrest in 1986 murder by Patrick McArdle, Rutland Daily Herald, 03 Jul 2012
  • Hunter’s memory lives on in Manchester by Patrick McArdle, Rutland Daily Herald, 03 Jul 2012
  • Calif. Officer helps solve Sarah Hunter case by Joe Little, Rutland Daily Herald, 05 Jul 2012
  • Former boyfriend reflects on news of arrest in Hunter case by Patrick McArdle, Rutland Daily Herald, 06 Jul 2012
  • Man to return for 1986 murder case by Patrick McArdle, Rutland Daily Herald, 03 Apr 2014
  • Man accused of 1986 murder is on the road back to Vermont by Patrick McArdle, Rutland Daily Herald, 03 Jul 2014
  • Morrison denies slaying of Vt. woman by Patrick McArdle, Rutland Daily Herald, 16 Jul 2014
  • DNA called key to 1986 slaying by Lisa Rathke, Burlington Free Press, 20 Jul 2014
  • Morrison agrees to delay in murder trial by Patrick McArdle, Rutland Daily Herald, 01 Oct 2014
  • Police conduct forces dismissal in 1986 homicide case by Mike Donoghue, Burlington Free Press, 14 Feb 2015
  • Murder case dropped by Patrick McArdle, Rutland Daily Herald, 14 Feb 2015
  • Murder of Vermont golf pro Sarah Hunter still drives Capital Region women’s support by Joyce Bassett, Times Union, 19 Sep 2016
  • All In: Murdered golf pro Sarah Hunter’s case deserves closure by Joyce Bassett, Times Union, 23 May 2022