The Cases of Sandra Valade, Pamela Mason and Rena Paquette

It was February 3rd, 1964. The icy, wintery snow of New England had taken over Manchester, New Hampshire. Before long, the story of Rena Paquette would take over the city as well. That morning, the body of the 52 year old mother of five had been found by her son and his uncle. Since that day, her family and the community have been haunted by her mysterious death. 

Since February 1964, rumors have swirled across New Hampshire about the death of Rena Paquette. Despite the infamy of the case, which was brought to a growing global audience in the October 24, 1990 episode of Unsolved Mysteries, it has been almost sixty years, and still the truth remains unknown.

But Rena Paquette’s story actually begins with two other deaths — 18-year old Sandra Valade and 14-year old Pamela Mason. All three were murdered between the winters of 1960 and 1964 in Manchester, New Hampshire. To this day, only one of these killings has been officially solved. Even then, whether or not the one man accused of these crimes ever truly faced justice is up to debate even now.

These are the complex cases of Sandra Valade, Pamela Mason, and Rena Paquette. Press play for the full episode wherever you get your podcasts right now.

Anyone with information about any unsolved New Hampshire homicide and missing persons cases is urged to contact New Hampshire State Police at (603) 271-2663 or leave an anonymous tip via this form.

About Manchester, New Hampshire

The city we now call Manchester, New Hampshire is located on the ancestral land of the Pennacook people. It has become the largest city in Northern New England, a region including Maine, Vermont, and New Hampshire. 

Manchester has long been a town focused on manufacturing as its biggest source of commerce. According to local lore, the city was founded in 1751 and built solely for this purpose. Originally named Derryfield, the area was renamed Manchester during the Industrial Revolution. Since then, it has adhered to its manufacturing roots, becoming a significant producer of cotton, wool, and locomotives, effectively echoing its namesake back in England.

But despite its fidelity to its largest source of employment, for Manchester, the 1960s were a manufacturing downswing. Though the city was on the verge of urban renewal, it and its people did not thrive during the late 1950s and early 1960s. These times were difficult for the city, and were only made darker when young women and girls began to go missing. 

Sandra Valade

Sandra Valade was born July 12, 1941. Little is published about her childhood, though assumption can be made that she spent most if not all of it in the greater Manchester, New Hampshire area. In 1960, Sandra was 18-years old and lived with her parents just outside of the city limits. She was very involved in her community. She attended swim classes with her friends at the Young Women’s Christian Association. And Sandra had recently graduated high school and begun working full time as a secretary at one of the factories in Manchester. 

Monday, February 1st was a frigid day in Manchester. It had snowed recently, and the wind chill brought temperatures far below their usual point for that time of  year. Sandra Valade ended her work day around 4:30 PM and went to a swim class and a movie with her friends before finally heading home to her parents. It was Sandra’s usual routine to walk the mile home from the bus stop. But after stepping off the bus around 9:30 p.m. on February 1, 1960, Sandra Valade was not seen alive again. 

Sandra was a very responsible and reliable young woman. When she did not arrive home as planned, her parents immediately began to worry. In a February 5, 1960 Nashua Telegraph article, Sandra’s father, Mr. Charles Valade, expressed his concerns. He was worried that someone had seen her walking in the cold and had offered her a ride home. Mr. Valade recalled, “That happens a lot around here.”

If that was indeed what had happened, then whoever had offered a ride to Sandra had not taken her home. Sandra Valade was missing.

Search for Sandra

New Hampshire police sent out an alert across New England, notifying other states that the young Manchester woman was missing. By February 10th, multiple state agencies, volunteers, and the National Guard began to assist in the search for Sandra. These searches and the police investigation looking for Sandra went on for over a week. 

Although Sandra’s family and members of her community held out hope that she would be found alive, the more evidence that was discovered, the worse it appeared the outcome would be.

Just a few days after she went missing, police found personal items belonging to Sandra. Her wallet, her red purse, and one of her winter boots. They were apparently discarded in a 15-foot-deep canal that led to a pond described as 500 feet wide and 30 feet deep. Searches of waterways continued in hopes of finding more evidence. 

Soon, investigators also found Sandra’s coat. It was in a snowbank, surrounded by bloodstained snow. Worries for Sandra’s safety increased. According to local papers, investigators attempted to drain the pond in hopes of finding more evidence.

But on February 10th, searchers found Sandra’s body in a snowbank in Derry, New Hampshire, about ten miles away from where she had gone missing. Sandra had been sexually assaulted, beaten, and stabbed. She had been shot four times, and was ultimately killed by a bullet wound. 


The investigation continued now with the evidence of Sandra Valade’s murder. Police focused on the weapons used in her murder. Based on wounds and other evidence on her body, including ballistics, police were able to identify the weapons as a knife and a .22 caliber pistol. Police continued to search the canal where they found Sandra’s belongings in hopes of locating a discarded firearm or knife. 

Meanwhile, investigators also began questioning several people in the area, focusing on those who owned or used a .22 caliber pistol and those in possession of knives. The Nashua Telegraph reported that they also searched for a dark colored vehicle with blood stains which had been reportedly seen driving by Sandra’s house on the night of her disappearance. 

According to the local papers, multiple young men were questioned in connection with Sandra’s death. One was questioned after reportedly being seen with a knife. Although he did plead guilty to the possession of a switchblade, the police did not find any link between him and Sandra’s murder. 

Another man was a friend of a friend of Sandra. He resided in Massachusetts at the time and was taken in for questioning due to his connection with Sandra, but the lead ultimately went nowhere. 

Two years after Sandra’s death, police apprehended a young man after witnessing his violent attitude toward a woman. Although it had been a couple of years, his behavior made the police suspicious. Still, they found that he had nothing to do with Sandra’s murder.

Across all the interrogations and questioning of men in the area, including a high school student and hospital escapee from the psychiatric ward, police found no connections to the ongoing homicide investigation. With leads drying up, Sandra Valade’s case went cold. But in January of 1964, the disappearance and death of another New Hampshire girl would reignite the investigation. Her name was Pamela Mason.

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