Louise Chaput, a woman from Sherbrooke, Quebec, was no stranger to the White Mountains. She, along with her friend Louise Lachance, hiked often the wilderness in the shadow of Mount Washington. So there was no reason for her to expect that a weekend jaunt into the Whites on Nov. 15, 2001, would be any different.
But on Nov. 22, 2001, three days after Chaput’s family reported her missing, hikers found a bloodied Chaput off the Glen Boulder Trail south of Mount Washington. She had been repeatedly stabbed sometime in the afternoon hours of Nov. 15 and the killer fled. To where, no one knows.
Chaput, 52, was a self-employed psychologist and worked with an unspecified law firm, according to the Union Leader. She had traveled down for a solo hike through the Whites, a routine activity for her.
She arrived in Pinkham Grant, New Hampshire, around 3 p.m. and planned to bed at the Joe Dodge Lodge at the Appalachian Mountain Club visitor center.
An employee at the visitor center was the last person to see her alive. He recalled that a woman with a French accent had asked him for a recommendation for a short hike, as she had been driving for many hours. The man directed her to the Lost Pond Trail, which is down state Route 16. She thanked him and departed for what was to be a quick hike before darkness fell and she returned to rest.
When she arrived at the Glen Falls Parking Area, where her car would be found five days later, she opted, it seems, to climb the Glen Boulder Trail towards Mount Isolation, rather than the shorter, more leisurely stroll recommended at the visitor center.
It would prove to be a fateful decision.
Chaput never returned to check in at the lodge and was not reported missing for another four days until her family became concerned about her well-being.
With the discovery of her car at the parking area on Nov. 20, the search began and she was found only days later, stabbed and stashed off trail.
Authorities were troubled by the case as it presented many difficulties from the get-go.
As Jeffrey Strelzin, New Hampshire senior assistant attorney general, told New Hampshire Public Radio on the 10th anniversary of the slaying, investigators had to grapple with “the area where the murder occurred which is out in the woods.
“Second, there was a significant time lag between the murder and the discovery of Louise’s body. At least a week went by. Because of that the killer or killers essentially had a week’s head start on us that meant we lost some potential evidence out there as well.
“Third, something like this is probably more of a random-type killing, which are unusual in New Hampshire. But those tend to be more difficult to solve as well.”
Louise was victim of freak random violence. Why she was targeted or why the killer or killers chose the White Mountains as the setting for the deed have been unknowns for investigators. But such violence has been no stranger to the Appalachian Trail and surrounding trails. Randall Lee Smith killed two hikers along the Virginia stretch of the Appalachian Trail in May 1981, and then later shot and wounded two two fishermen in May 2008.
One motive may have been robbery. According to Strelzin, a search of Chaput’s car revealed that her blue Kanuk sleeping bag and blue backpack were stolen, probably along with other items like clothes. Her car keys were also not recovered. Strelzin and investigators have long held out hope that these items will turn up, as will information leading to the killer’s identity. As recently as May 2014 requests for public assistance in finding these items and other clues have been made.
In all likelihood, the killer spotted an opportunity to make a score but Chaput did not give in easily to intimidation. A scuffle ensued during which, in the fading light, the killer stabbed Chaput repeatedly, hid her, then made off with her keys.
But a robbery narrative has many holes in it. First, the items stolen were of little value and would not have fetched much cash, if that were the motive. Second, the killer took neither the car nor used Chaput’s credit or bank cards, as authorities found that the last transaction was at a convenience store in Coldbrook, New Hampshire, shortly before 1 p.m. on Nov. 15, 2001.
So why was Chaput killed? Could it simply be a killing in cold blood? Time has yet to yield answers to these questions. Answers much longed for by her family and friends.
Louise Lachance, Chaput’s friend and fellow hiker, said in the Union Leader that Chaput was sociable, friendly, and generous, to a fault.
Anyone with information should contact the New Hampshire Cold Case Unit at 603.271.2663.