New Hampshire Sunday News
November 14, 2004
Looking for Louise's murderer
By Lorna Colquhoun
GORHAM -- As winter folds over the higher reaches of the White Mountains, friends of a Canadian woman murdered three years ago returned to Pinkham Notch last week to remember a vibrant and adventurous woman.
Along for the ride with Denis Masson and Marie Pinault are the feelings of melancholy, nostalgia and anger that someone has gotten away with the murder of Louise Chaput.
It is the couple's second anniversary trip and accompanying them this year was Chaput's daughter, Corinne, a college student studying to become a school teacher. Her only other trip to the area was during the search for her mother.
"I never came back," she said. "Before, I was not ready, but now it's OK. I don't want to be afraid to come here."
Louise Chaput lived in Sherbrooke, Que., a couple of hours north of the White Mountains. On Nov. 15, 2001, she decided to spend the weekend doing some hiking and stayed at the Appalachian Mountain Club in Pinkham Notch. When she didn't return home that Monday, her friends and family reported her missing.
A search was quickly launched. While her car was found immediately, it wasn't until almost four days later that her body was found on the popular Glen Boulder trail, just off Route 16 and about a quarter of a mile from the AMC base camp.
Louise Chaput had been stabbed to death. Her killer has never been found.
Pinault and Chaput were longtime friends. It is Pinault and her husband, Masson, who now make an annual trek from their home in Ottawa to the mountains on the anniversary of Chaput's death, as a way to remember and to remind others that the case has never been solved.
There is also a hope that whoever is responsible will someday step forward and answer a simple question: Why Louise Chaput?
"It is amazing to me that someone is still walking around," Pinault said. "I think there is a sick person out there. I think there is a guy out there who will do this again anytime."
No new leads
Last year, on the second anniversary, the couple tacked up hundreds of flyers from Conway north to Gorham, asking for information.
State police Detective Chuck West said Friday that very few leads have come in recent months.
"We're still working on it, but there is nothing new," he said. "We used to get information in spurts, but it's been about six months since we got anything new."
Earlier this year, police got a warrant to search a Berlin flea market, looking for Louise Chaput's backpack, but it turned out to be nothing, he said.
Her backpack, which is blue with an internal frame and a Canadian flag on the outside, has never been recovered, nor have her keys to her Ford Focus or her sleeping bag.
"It's a challenge for us," West said. "Someone is out there."
West has also worked for the past nine months on the disappearance of Maura Murray, a University of Massachusetts nursing student who vanished following a minor car accident on Route 112 in Haverhill last February.
While both cases are troubling and remain open, West said there is nothing indicating that the two cases are related.
Pinault keeps in regular contact with West. While time has eased the sorrow of losing her dearest friend, Pinault says she will continue to do what she can to make sure Louise Chaput is not forgotten and to one day see someone arrested for her death.
Doubts about justice
It is a sentiment shared by Chaput's daughter.
"I have lost confidence in justice," Corinne Chaput said, "because we didn't find what happened. It has disturbed my life -- I am afraid to walk at night and when I am alone. She is not here in my life and I miss her. I don't have a mother anymore."
Masson and Pinault say they will return to the White Mountains every November until Chaput's killer is found.
Pinault said her other mission during these trips is to remind women, especially those who hike alone, that the person who killed her friend is still at large.
"This is our way of remembering Louise," Chaput said. "We are not going to put (the memories) in a box."
-- Anyone with information about Louise Chaput's murder is asked to call the state police at 846-3333.