UNSOLVED: Who Is The Connecticut River Valley Serial Killer & Could He Strike Again?

(The seven known victims of the CT River Valley Killer: Top from left: Cathy Millican, Ellen Fried, Lynda Moore. Bottom from left: Bernice Courtemanche, Eva Morse & Barbara Agnew. Pictures credit: Philip E. Ginsburg)

For decades, the real identity of the cold and sadistic serial killer who was behind the brutal murders of 7 women in the Claremont (New Hampshire) and Connecticut River Valley areas in the USA, has remained a mystery. Some people will say that they know who is behind the killings, some people say he's still alive and lives among them to this day. Others will say that he took his own life after allegedly murdering his first wife (who still remains missing to this day) as well as his second wife and step-daughter. Whatever the story or people's thoughts on this case or the killer's true identity, it continues to remain a haunting conversation for many people. 

I will be delving into this case a bit more in this post as part of my Serial Killers of The 1980s series but first I want to give a quick shoutout to Shilo, otherwise known as The String Theory, who knows Connecticut well and was kind enough to email me some maps of the area. He's awesomely talented, be sure to check out his music and have a banter with him on Twitter. 

Now, what we know of the elusive CT River Valley Killer is that he is reportedly responsible for 7 murders, all female with the youngest being 17 and the oldest being 38. Six of the victims were abducted but one was murdered in her home. Each of the crime scenes painted a shocking similarity as the deaths occurred as a result of stab wounds. 

The investigation remains open to this day and there was a potential eighth victim who thankfully survived. Jane Boroski was seven months pregnant when she nearly lost her and her baby's life at the hands of who police believe to be the CT River Valley Killer. It was through her bravery and detailed description of her attacker that gave investigators an idea of who they were looking for. They were also able to put a profile together with the help of a psychologist by the name of John Philpin. John is a famous criminal profiler and author who has worked on many cases, he isn't just a professional with a passing interest in the criminology and psychology field, he actually cares about the cases that he studies and cares about the victims. John will go to each crime scene and study them thoroughly as well as spending hours pouring through documents and autopsy findings. 

There have been various suspects over the years and one in particular, Michael Nicholaou is who Jane originally believed was responsible for her ordeal that summer night of 6th of August 1988. 

So I'm going to go into a little bit of the background of each of the victims and Jane's horrific attack as well as the frightening story of Michael Nicholaou who was painted as the number one suspect. Michael is no longer alive but other people who were around at the time believe that the real killer is still living among them but people are either too scared to speak up or have no way to prove it. 

The first known victim of the CT River Valley Killer was said to be 26 year old Cathy Millican. Cathy was a talented photographer and was a keen lover of animals especially birds. It was a hobby that she enjoyed very much and she would regularly go for walks in wooded areas taking pictures without any problems. However, on this particular day of autumn, in October of 1978, Cathy didn't return home, her loved ones grew concerned as it was completely out of character for her. She was reported missing the next day and sadly, it wasn't long before her deceased body (she had been reportedly stabbed 20 times in a ferocious attack) was found along with some of her belongings in a wooded area.

Although this was 1978, the police would not make a connection with Cathy's murder to the rest of the victims until later on so that is why CT River Valley Killer is often spoken about as being an active serial killer of the 1980s. As is usually the case, a victim of a serial killer will be discovered and that leads investigators on a trail which often leads far back, so you often find that the killer may have murdered someone during their teenage years. The six other murders and the attempted murder of Jane Boroski all took place in the 1980s. After the shocking discovery of Cathy's murder, the police appealed for information but nothing was leading them in the right direction. At that point they obviously couldn't see into the future that they had a potential serial killer on their hands but they certainly knew that this was a vicious murder of an innocent young woman and it shocked the public, not just in the area where it happened but far beyond as well. 

According to investigators, the killer didn't strike again until July 25th 1981 when 37 year old Mary Critchley went missing. Mary was a university student but was known to be a regular hitchhiker. On the day that she went missing she had informed friends that she planned to hitch a ride to continue her journey after they had dropped her off. Mary vanished without a trace until her deceased and badly decomposed body was found in a wooded area. The true nature of her death could not be determined due to the level of decomposition, her remains were found on the 9th of August of 1981 and they had been exposed to the elements. Because of the nature in which she was found and location, investigators believe that Mary was a victim of the CT River Valley Killer. 

17 year old Bernice Courtemanche went missing on the 30th of May 1984 and tragically her remains were not found until two years later. As you can imagine (or don't want to imagine understandably) her remains were skeletal on discovery but remarkably, forensic investigators were still able to determine that she died as a result of continuous stab woulds. Bernice was just an innocent high school student who had dreams of becoming a nurse. Like Mary, she had a habit of hitchhiking and she had told friends that she was planning on visiting her boyfriend, she never arrived and was reported missing. 

On July 22 1984, 26 year old nurse, Ellen Ruth Fried had stopped off at a grocery store after a late shift in Claremont and whilst there she used the payphone to call her sister. It was 2am when she had last been seen and her sister later mentioned to investigators that Ellen had mentioned seeing a car continuously driving around the parking lot. When she got off the phone from her sister, Ellen never returned home that night and seemed to just have vanished into thin air. It wasn't until the 19th of September 1985 that sadly, Ellen's remains had been found in some wooded area next to a beauty spot known as the Sugar River. Again because of the time that had passed and being exposed to the elements, the nature of Ellen's death could not be determined but the forensic team did say that they believed she had been sexually assaulted. 

Eva Marie Morse was a 27 year old single mother who decided to hitchhike after work on the 10th of July 1985. Sadly Eva never made it home. It was really sad to see when researching the circumstances surrounding Eva's disappearance and death, some of the comments and judgments by some of the investigators working on the case. Eva was larger lady who wore glasses and because she didn't appear (in their opinion) as a typical 'victim' (serial killers usually abduct and murder victims who are smaller and lighter in weight than they are) and didn't fit the 'pretty' aesthetic as the other victims did, they didn't believe that she could be a victim of the CT River Valley Killer. But as John Philpin said during his research of the case, the killer is not selecting the victims and stalking them, he's choosing victims from convenient locations. The killer is spontaneous so he is abducting anyone who happens to be in an easy location for him. It was as if he didn't seem to care who it was as long as the victim was female. 

Eva's remains were found of the 25th of April 1986 just 500 feet from where Mary Critchley was found. There was evidence to suggest that Eva had been sexually assaulted. Her death was determined to have been caused by multiple stab wounds. 

Lynda Moore was a 36 year old mother of two children and chillingly, her murder happened on her own doorstep. Lynda had been working on her garden, she often spent time sunbathing there too, police believe that her killer may have been watching her on this particular day of the 15th of April 1986. Lynda was an attractive woman and some of the officers working on the case had commented that they did sneak a glance over at her house if they happened to ever drive by and saw Lynda sunbathing in her garden. Whatever happened that day of April, nobody but the killer and Lynda knows but her heartbroken husband returned home to find his beloved wife deceased in their living room. It was a horrific sight and there had obviously been a struggle. Investigators believe that the killer had seen Lynda in her garden and chased her into her house where he stabbed her a reported 25 times. There was also evidence that Lynda tried to fight off her attacker. Her husband, being in shock, had acted in a manner in what the police believed to be suspicious but he had an alibi and it soon became apparent that he had nothing to do with his wife's death. 

(A witness description of a man seen in the area at the time Lynda was murdered. Picture credit: Philip E. Ginsburg)

The final deceased victim of the CT River Valley Killer is said to have been 38 year old Barbara Agnew. Barbara was a bit of a tom boy who never liked to carry a handbag and preferred to carry things around in her pockets as well as partaking in activities like skiing. She had been spending time at a ski ranch in Stratton Mountain when she disappeared on her way home on the 10th of January 1987. 

On the 10th of January there had been a blizzard but she still insisted on driving home, she never returned and her car was later found. Chillingly, there was blood found on the steering wheel, evidence of a struggle  and her belongings were found in a bin close to her car. Her body was eventually found on the 28th of March 1987 in a wooded area. Like the other victims, there were similarities at the crime scene together with a similar method of killing. Barbara had been repeatedly stabbed and had various defensive wounds where she had tried to fend off her attacker. 

Jane Boroski was just 22 years old and seven months pregnant when she decided that she needed to stop by a late night grocery store to grab a quick drink from the vending machine as the shop was closed. She'd been to a fair and was alone at the time. As she sat in her car having her drink she noticed a car pull up beside her and didn't think anything of it. She was just about to get ready to leave when a strange guy got out of the vehicle parked next to her and proceeded to walk around her car to where her driver's side door was. Before there was any time to react, the strange man mumbled something about enquiring if the payphone worked. The man then threw himself forward and tried to drag Jane out of her car, she begged him not to hurt her and that she was pregnant, he didn't seem to care. 

Despite being seven months pregnant, alone and terrified, Jane fought with everything she had to protect herself and her unborn child. There was a scuffle with the attacker pulling the door open trying to grab Jane, in the fracas, Jane started to kick him and her car windshield. Realising that Jane was not a woman to be messed with and would not go down without a fight, he suddenly pulled out a knife and said ''Maybe this will persuade you to get out of the car?''

Jane did as he said and asked him what he wanted. He responded with a bizarre reply accusing Jane of beating up his girlfriend. Jane had no idea what he was talking about and told him so. He then asked about her car, enquiring if it was a Massachusetts car, she told him that it wasn't. Without a word he walked around to the back of Jane's car to check out the licence plate before calmly walking back to his vehicle. 

Jane, at this point claimed that she wasn't scared of him and believed that this had simply been a misunderstanding because he'd previously accused her of beating up his girlfriend. She thought he had suddenly realised that she wasn't the person he thought she was and that was going to be the end of it. 

Jane being annoyed that the whole thing took place in the first place, mumbled ''Hey a**hole, what about my windshield?'' (She later spoke of how she deeply regretted saying this at the time but she was so wound up). He heard what she said and it angered him, before she knew it he was holding a knife up to her throat. In an episode of Unsolved Mysteries, they featured this case and for some reason a lot of what had taken place that night had been cut and told in a different way. I know that they had consulted Jane about the segment and she had been on set but the whole version of events was not broadcast, maybe because they only had a certain time slot for each case? The show had featured other stories not just the CT River Valley Killer case. 

Anyway, Jane had spotted a car off in the distance and being a heavily pregnant young woman and let's face it, a tough, determined cookie, she ran towards that car screaming and yelling for help to no avail, they simply drove past (who ignores a pregnant woman screaming for help being chased by a psycho?). The attacker caught up with her and managed to get her on to the ground and proceeded to stab her but it was in locations that were not too close to the baby. She struggled at first but he soon overpowered her, she was exhausted and gave up. Seeing her lack of fear, her exhaustion, her lack of reaction to what he was doing seemed to have had an impact on him. It seemed that he was getting a thrill when he believed her to be in fear but had simply lost interest in carrying on the attack any further because she had given up fighting him. Psychologist John Philpin believes that to be the case, that the fear from the killer's victim's is what drives him. 

After repeatedly stabbing her 27 times and seeing the bloody mess he had created before him, he simply got up and walked back to his car as if nothing had happened. Jane laid there, beyond exhausted, beyond pain and beyond fear as she made eye contact with him as he drove away leaving her to bleed to death. It is believed that this was his method, a stabbing frenzy then leaving the victims to bleed to death. Investigators believe that this man who carried out this evil attempted murder on Jane and her baby was indeed the CT River Valley Killer.

Astonishingly, once Jane thought that the attacker had gone, she managed to get to her car and pull herself into the drivers seat. Dripping with blood and running on fear and adrenaline, Jane put her foot down and drove as fast as she could. She was making her way to her friend's house and she couldn't get there fast enough, the trouble was, in another moment of sheer horror like you would see in a movie, Jane found herself driving right behind the monster who had just tried to kill her and her baby. It's hard to imagine how she must have felt and it is incredible that she and the baby were able to survive that utter nightmare. She managed to drive to her friend's house and stumbled to the porch shouting for help. Terrifyingly, the psycho was hovering about outside in his car watching for a few moments before taking off. That was the last she saw of him.

Jane went to the hospital, had tests, treatments and was able to make a full physical recovery, the baby was born without anything physically wrong. Jane was able to give the investigators a physical description of her attacker but when it came to remembering the exact licence plate number it was a problem because the plate had been too dirty. She was able to give them a description of the car which they followed up and tracked down a number of owners but that lead to no leads. 

(Jane's description of her attacker. Picture credit: Philip E. Ginsburg)

There are the seven victims that are confirmed to have lost their lives at the hands of the CT River Valley Killer, Jane who survived and the possible unidentified victims who'd remains might still be out there yet to be discovered. There's so many theories and opinions as to who the killer really is. A few of the possible suspects have been guys who have behaved in a creepy fashion in the past, guys who have stalked local waitresses or retail assistants. A few people have been looked at as possible suspects. The main name that has come up, time and again is that of the late Michael Nicholaou, Michael, who was 56 at the time of his death in December 2005 was said (and still is considered) to be one, if not, the main suspect in the Connecticut River Valley murders. Unfortunately he isn't here to face investigation and I don't say that in sympathy to him, I say unfortunately, because this man was a narcissistic monster who left a trail of deceased women behind him. He was said to have been a nightmare of a man, a control freak, the sort of guy you would cross the street to avoid and the reason he isn't alive right now is because he took his own life after murdering his wife and his step daughter in cold blood. His first wife also mysteriously vanished without a trace after a hellish marriage to him. To this day, nobody knows the whereabouts of his first wife Michelle Marie Ashley. Michelle had been through hell with Michael and told friends and relatives that she was terrified of him. She and her children had fled to a secret location to get away from him but he managed to track them down. The kids were fine and ended up staying with relatives but nobody knows what happened to Michelle and you don't have to be Albert Einstein to figure it out. 

At first for a long, long time, Jane believed that Michael Nicholaou was the man responsible for her vicious attack that night in 1988 but she has since changed her mind. Other people believe that Michael is not the CT River Valley Killer. He may have been an evil man who took innocent lives and it's a sure bet that he murdered Michelle but was he really responsible for the deaths of the seven victims too? Who can really say but any DNA tests have proved to be inconclusive so it remains a theory. 

(Michael Nicholaou. Picture credit: murderpedia)

Various names have been mentioned when trying to identify the real killer. Delbert Tallman was a convicted child molester who's name was thrown in because of the sickening and evil crimes that he had committed but after thorough investigation it was determined that he couldn't have possibly been responsible. There was no evidence and nothing tied him to the crimes as well as the fact that he corroborated alibis. 

So as of 2023, we are still no further in finding out who exactly is or was the Connecticut River Valley Killer. After the attack on Jane he suddenly stopped, there was no more murders that fitted his Modus Operandi.

Sadly, as I was researching this case I stumbled across so many serial killer cases from Connecticut and surrounding areas. It seems that Connecticut has seen it's fair share of murders and tragedies. I have made a note of all the other cases that popped up during my research including the cases of William Devin Howell and Gary Schaefer. 

I have decided that after this series I will start work on an Unsolved Serial Killer series. Any type of serial killer story that I have covered is always traumatic and quite frightening but we tend to rest a bit easy when we read about cases where the monsters have been caught and brought to justice. But what about the numerous cases where the murderer is still out there, possibly waiting to strike again? I wrote about Dennis Rader - BTK (Bind. Torture. Kill) in my last post and how he would take breaks in between murders and had managed to evade justice for 30 years. It's frightening and I can't even begin to imagine what it must be like for the relatives of the victims, never knowing, never having the answers you so desperately need, no closure and no proper justice. I've covered so many cases where murderers have not faced justice until decades later and you can really see how it has taken a toll of so many relatives of victims and the survivors. The hunt for the serial killer and the never ending hope of the killer of your loved one takes it's toll on people, they lose a big chunk of their lives because of it. It's really not fair. My heart always goes out to them but if there's anything to take away from cases like BTK, The Green River Killer (a case that I will be covering soon) and The Grim Sleeper, it's that there is always a hope that one day, no matter how many years and decades do by, that thanks to the advances in DNA technology that we have today, there is always the chance that these monsters will finally be caught and face their day in court. 

My thoughts and condolences to anyone who has lost a loved one or friend to a serial killer or to any act of crime. RIP to the known victims: Cathy Millican, Mary Critchley, Bernice Courtemanche, Ellen Fried, Eva Morse, Lynda Moore and Barbara Agnew. RIP also to the innocent women who lost their lives to Michael Nicholaou. Thoughts are also with Jane Boroski and her daughter, such an inspiration and example of strength, bravery and endurance over the unimaginable. I'm also thinking of the many potential victims that we do not know about. I hope one day this case is completely solved as I'm sure you do too. 

If you are interested in delving more into this case please check out the incredible bookThe Shadow of Death: The Hunt For The Connecticut River Valley Killer by Philip E. Ginsburg

Also check out John Philpin's website

The segment on the Unsolved Mysteries episode featuring this case can be found here

Thank you again to Shilo for his assistance in maps/locations. 

Further Reading & Sources: 

(Jane with her daughter Jessica. Picture credit: Philip E. Ginsburg)

I hope you have found this latest post informative and if you have any thoughts or theories to who the CT River Valley Killer is, I would love to hear your views. You can leave any comments below or contact me via email: jocaledoniankitty@gmail.com or message me on my social media platforms

If you enjoy my blog and would like to donate to help it up and running, please donate to my PayPal: @CalKittyTrueCrime or CashApp me at £CaledonianKitty. Thank you so much!!

Take care of yourselves and thank you as always for stopping by. I hope you will join me in the next case, this one will be a little bit closer to home for me and quite a disturbing serial killer to say the least. 

Hope to see you next time x


  1. Good evening Jo,

    I finished reading your latest instalment of your True Crime serial killers series. Thank you so much for your brilliant work Jo. This is not a case that I was too familiar with. John Philpin was a tremendous help and I hope that one day, they will find who the killer was.

    I was so relief and glad to read that Jane Boroski survived with her baby. I don’t know how she was able to survive this vicious and gruesome attack, being stabbed 27 times but thank God, she did, so as her baby. It must have been a total nightmare for her. I was so scared when I read that when she was trying to escape, she was driving right behind the monster. I couldn’t be happier to read that she was able to survive this horrendous attack. That it’s amazing and miraculous that she fully recovered and the baby too.

    Michael Nicholaou is a narcissistic monster and such a coward. I don’t know if he is the Connecticut River Valley killer but what he has done to his second wife and step daughter are monstrous. He probably killed his first wife in cold blood too.

    RIP to these 7 women and the victims of Michael Nicholaou. I couldn’t agree more with you Jo about Jane, she is an inspiration.

    I’m crossing my fingers that one day, the killer will be found and the families will be able to find some closure

    Your serial killers series is masterpiece Jo and I’m obviously looking forward to read your upcoming Unsolved Serial Killer series in the near future.

    Thank you for everything as always.

    1. Thank you so much for your kind comments and for checking out the post, much appreciated

  2. I'd like to start my comment about this incredible true crime case with a quote from H.P. Lovecraft... "The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown."

    The reason that quote comes to mind is that this is an unsolved serial killer case which always leaves one's mind racing with possibilities, wandering the passageways of thought of what if and what could be. And in that passageway, on that trail of thought in regards to a serial killer on the loose we come to the slippery slope of fear and trepidation.

    First, I'm humbled and speechless at your shout out for my help as it was so miniscule and minor in the grand scheme of such an amazing post and I'm honored that I could be of some help no matter how minor.

    Second, the ferocity of the attacks is staggering and incomprehensible! To stab someone so many times in such a manner is unfathomable! Which brings me to the heartbreaking and horrifying death of Bernice Courtemanche. Not to be graphic but for the forensic team to establish that the cause of death was by stabbing and that determination to be made with nothing left but her skeleton it just truly shocks one to the core. My heartbreaks and I felt sick to my stomach reading that, I couldn't imagine that poor woman's fear as those last moments came on that horrible night.

    Third, this was definitely a killer that looked for easy opportunities as he picked women that were either hitchhiking, pregnant or alone. Every one of these murders as I was reading left my stomach dropping further and further as I was reading the details of each case. My heart breaks for all the families that lost a wife, a sister, a mother at the hands of such a brutal monster.

    I'll try to make this the end of my comment as I don't want to take away from anything on your incredible post, but I feel compelled to say a few things. Having read the harrowing and in all reality miraculous situation that happened with Jane Boroski. And I use the term "miraculous" because she survived when by all accounts so few people could have survived such a brutal attack like she faced. To find that drive and determination and grit to push herself after her body had been through such an ordeal is something that is a miracle.

    Too often when you read these cases there are so few silver linings or positive moments that happen, but to read that her baby was born without any problems and that she recovered from her attack physically is something of a shining bright light in a case of fear and darkness.

    I do believe that Michael Nicholaou was the person involved in all these sickening and terrifying murders, even though there is no conclusive DNA evidence to back it, the fact that the murders seemed to stop after the attack on Jane seems to solidify this. But are there other murders in the New England area that he had committed that are not known about? And was it really him that did this? Hopefully some day we'll get an answer.

    Thank you again for the shout out and again I truly do love your work. This serial killer series has been insightful and riveting, I look forward to your unsolved serial killer series when you get to it. Everything I've ever read of your work has been truly amazing! Intense, frightening, thought provoking and just truly incredible! 🙏❤

    1. Thank you so much as always for such an amazing comment. I really do appreciate it and the quote you used at the beginning really hit home too. Thanks again for your help with the locations and everything, you were a huge help and I'm glad you are finding the series informative. You are awesome x