By PHILLIP BANTZ
The Keene Sentinel: February 04, 2009
The world is a different place today than it was when a West Chesterfield mother and daughter disappeared eight years ago.
New wars, presidents and technologies mark the passing of time. Each tick of the clock slowly covers the remaining tracks of Tina and Bethany Sinclair like footprints disappearing in the snow.
No bodies. No activity on bank accounts. The house they lived in off Mountain Road has been demolished.
The only remaining traces of the Sinclairs are haunting photographs, forgotten belongings, a slew of questions and a lingering sadness among those they left behind.
Family members of Tina Sinclair, who was 34 when she disappeared, and Bethany Sinclair, who was 15, remain vigilant in their quest for answers and some sort of closure to a painful mystery that has dragged on far too long.
Tina Sinclair worked at the Keene Beauty Academy and as a visiting nurse for a quadriplegic man. She picked up her daughter, a Keene High School student, from a local movie theater and drove her home the night of Feb. 3, 2001. They were never seen again.
“I still look at their pictures and talk to them. I’m not crazy, but you do that. I miss them terribly and I still wish they would come home,” said Tina Sinclair’s mother, Mary E. Lewis.
“Just the idea of them being gone for eight years … I get discouraged sometimes, but then I think, ‘Maybe we’ll find them.’ You just have to keep going.”
Searchers with the police, private organizations and the Sinclair family have combed forests and explored the Connecticut River with divers and sonar equipment, but remain empty-handed.
One private search party brought in cadaver-sniffing dogs in the fall of 2007. They trekked over hundreds of square miles in Chesterfield for seven days, eventually locating a spot where their dogs detected the scent of human remains.
“We ended up getting an excavator and going out and digging in the woods off Route 9 in the Old Chesterfield Road area,” N.H. State Police Sgt. Russell B. Lamson said. “We must have cut four or five cords of wood just to get the excavator back there. We were there all day, but we didn’t discover any evidence.”
Police investigators have entered the Sinclairs’ dental records and other identifying information into a national database that is used to match unidentified remains with missing persons, Lamson said.
“A few unidentified remains have popped up on the radar. Any time a police agency finds something they call us because they know we’re looking. It happened a couple times last year. Nothing matched,” he said.
“We’re also still getting tips and we always follow up on those. It’s just with each year the number of tips we get decreases.”
The desperate Sinclair family consulted a California psychic a few years ago who claimed to have seen a pair of bodies in a cave on the side of a mountain in Chesterfield. The vision never panned out.
They also hired award-winning private investigator Gil Alba, who worked for 27 years as a New York City police detective.
“We’re still active on the case,” Alba said. “Every time we get a lead we follow it up. I went to Chesterfield in April and did some more interviews. We’re also looking for evidence: body parts, clothing, maybe a murder weapon. Anything we can find.”
Alba is also looking at Eugene V. Bowman Jr. Bowman was dating and living with Tina Sinclair before she went missing. Police have called him a person of interest in the case.
“The problem with a case like this is joining the evidence together with the person of interest,” Alba said. “You have to keep working on them and that’s what we’re doing.”
Bowman is still living in New Hampshire, according to Alba. He said he has not spoken with Bowman. Attempts to reach Bowman for comment were unsuccessful.
Police searched Bowman’s residence a few months after the Sinclairs disappeared, but what they seized and what they were looking for may never be made public because the state Attorney General’s Office refuses to release the warrants.
The Keene Sentinel won an argument in the city’s District Court to view warrants that detailed the search, but the state’s Supreme Court reversed the decision. The Court ruled that the warrants should stay sealed while police are working the case.
Tina Sinclair’s sister, Sharon Garry, stated in an e-mail that she and her family remain disturbed by the disappearances and are frustrated by the lack of information.
“The anger, hatred, confusion and nightmares have shredded through me and made me into a person I don’t even recognize anymore,” Garry wrote. “The holidays, birthdays and family gatherings were like a bad dream because Tina and Bethany weren’t there.”
A memorial for the Sinclairs will be replaced at a bend in the Connecticut River off Route 9 in West Chesterfield to mark the grim anniversary, Garry said.
The first two memorials, a cross and a photograph of the Sinclairs mounted on a plaque, were stolen.
Garry urged others to visit the memorial and light a candle in memory of her sister and niece.
She said she will never stop searching for them.