DNA evidence is one of the most critical developments in the history of criminal investigations. Cold cases from the pre-DNA era are reviewed with new technology, new testing, new analysis in the hopes that newly developed science will bring new information to light in a long-unsolved murder.
But that’s not the only way DNA evidence is used in criminal cases. According to the Innocence Project, new DNA evidence and testing has exonerated 192 individuals wrongly convicted of crimes that DNA proved they didn’t commit. Could this be the case of Susan Randall and the man convicted of her murder?
Not so fast. I want you to hear the whole story — Susan Randall’s story. She deserves as much.
She’d just graduated — West High School class of 1970. 18-year old Susan Randall worked two jobs, one of them at the Holiday Inn in Manchester, New Hampshire where she lived, and squirrelled away the money she earned to pay for her fall semester at Chamberlain School of Design in Boston. She dreamed of becoming a fashion designer… And with her dedication and eye for design, she was equipped to make it happen.
It was Saturday, February 27, 1971, Susan Randall had the night off, likely a rare occasion for someone working two jobs. Her friend Judy Jenkins invited her over to hang out at her new apartment, and so Suzy picked the perfect outfit for a frigid New England winter night — blue jeans, a chunky sweater, a hip-length brown fur coat, and a brown floppy hat that perfectly accented her long dark hair. As an aspiring fashion designer, Suzy’s outfits were always impeccable. With one last check of her ensemble in the mirror, she flipped off the lights and stepped out into the night.
Judy lived on Manchester Street in Manchester, one of the perfectly gridded streets between the District B and Hanover Hill neighborhoods of Manchester’s downtown. Susan arrived at Judy’s place around 9:30 and they hung out for a while. Judy gave Suzy a grand tour of her apartment and they caught up on life since high school. After a few hours, the pair got hungry and so they ventured off in search of a late night pizza fix.
It would’ve been around 11:30 when the two girls polished off their slices and decided to call it a night. Saturday was quickly becoming Sunday. Judy and Susan left the pizza parlor together, walking down Elm Street, south towards Granite Street, and on to Granite Square. Judy’s dad was coming to pick her up for a ride home, and he told her to meet out front of Squog Fruit Store at 48 South Main Street.
Susan planned to hitch a ride home on her own. Her mother always warned that hitchhiking wasn’t safe, but this was New Hampshire. It was her hometown. There’s a sense of security that comes with living in your same hometown for so long. And besides, it was 1971 and hitchhiking was way more common and accepted.
It was after midnight by then, approaching the earliest hours of Sunday, February 28. Susan walked around the corner beyond the fruit store, and stood in the pooling light from the Chicken House Restaurant, thumbing for a ride back over the bridge to the neighborhoods east of the Merrimack River. She pulled her fur coat tightly around her body, keeping warm against the frozen air. Though spring was only a few weeks away, New England weather doesn’t show signs of it until much later.
Susan didn’t have to wait long to escape the chill of that early February morning. A passing car slowed and then stopped. Diners at the Chicken House Restaurant watched through the frosted glass windows as a girl with dark hair wearing a floppy hat and fur coat opened the door of a white car and slid onto the blue upholstered seats next to the driver, a tall broad shouldered man with a noticeably large head. The Chicken House patron returned to their meal, now an unwitting witness to the beginning of a tragic night.
Susan Randall never made it home that night, and when she didn’t show up for work the next day, her family wasted no time reporting their daughter and sister missing.
This case continues. Please listen to the full story via the player below or wherever you get your podcasts.
Episode Source Material
- Body of Girl Found in River, Nashua Telegraph, 03 Mar 1971
- Dunstable man indicted in murder of N.H. girl, The Lowell Sun, 07 Apr 1972
- Laconia lawyer quits case, Nashua Telegraph, 02 Aug 1972
- Dunstable murder suspect claims rights violated, The Lowell Sun, 22 Sep 1972
- Slain girl warned, Bangor Daily News, 11 Mar 1973
- Convict testifies Breest admitted killing girl, Nashua Telegraph, 16 Mar 1973
- Slain girl in accused’s car, government specialist, Nashua Telegraph, 17 Mar 1973
- Breest trial may go to jury today, Nashua Telegraph, 22 Mar 1973
- Jury finds Breest guilty of murder, Nashua Telegraph, 23 Mar 1973
- Court denies 8 appeals by convicted murderer, The Portsmouth Herald, 18 Dec 1976
- Judge considers prisoner’s DNA request, Berkshire Eagle, 01 Oct 2000
- Another Unsolved New Hampshire Murder by Robert A. Waters, Kidnapping, Murder, and Mayhem, March 2012
- Lowell man seeks new murder trial 42 years later By Kay Lazar, Boston Globe, 26 Apr 2013
- 42 years of protesting his innocence by Kay Lazar, Boston Globe, 27 Apr 2013
- 42 years of protesting his innocence, page 2
- Forty Years After A Murder, New Twist Could Set Man Free By TODD BOOKMAN, NHPR, 16 May 2013
- N.H. Supreme Court Rejects New Trial for 78-Year-Old Convicted in 1973 Case By PAIGE SUTHERLAND, NHPR, 17 Feb 2017
- The State of New Hampshire v. Robert Breest, Opinion Issued: Feb 17, 2017
- STATE OF NEW HAMPSHIRE v. ROBERT G. BREEST, Dec 17, 1976