LIHUE — The remains of a Hanalei woman who was abducted in the middle of the night 34 years ago after her boyfriend was slain have been discovered, authorities said Thursday.
The partial body of Nancy Ellen Baugh, 20, was found in Waioli Stream in March 2012 by a passerby after heavy rains flooded the North Shore area. It was confirmed through DNA testing just over a year later to be Baugh, Kauai County Prosecutor Justin Kollar said.
“We’re looking for anyone in the public who may have information to contact us and let us know what they know,” Kollar said. “The other big thing were happy about is we’re able to give some measure of closure to Nancy’s family, although we know the job isn’t done yet.”
The discovery is the first breakthrough in the case that went cold three and half decades ago.
Baugh disappeared in the early morning hours of June 2, 1979. Witnesses reported that the woman had been dragged out of a house on Weke Road in Hanalei by force, screaming into the night.
The abduction, police said in news reports, occurred shortly after her boyfriend, 27-year-old Paul Wayne “Sonny” Featherman, died from a single shotgun blast to the face in the house in what some investigators speculated at the time was a failed drug sale.
There were no arrests in the case. It was named one of Kauai Police Department’s three most noteworthy missing person cases because of the unusual circumstances surrounding it, according to a Dec. 4, 2000, Garden Island article. It was posted on Unsolved Mysteries as well as North American Missing Persons network websites.
Steve Baugh, Nancy’s brother, said the discovery brings some closure to the family.
“Thirty-four years of not knowing — sure we had speculation, people telling us things, but not ever knowing … it will be a huge relief and closure for my mother and our family,” the New Jersey resident told The Garden Island in a phone interview Thursday. “Thirty-four years of not knowing is the worst torment imaginable.”
He said the family will begin planning a memorial for Nancy Baugh in New Jersey next summer.
According to Steve Baugh, authorities notified the Baugh family in March 2012 that they had found the lower half of a body that had been determined to belong to a Caucasian female. Family members later submitted DNA samples to authorities, and in late August they were notified that the samples matched.
“Even though this is a horrible thing to say, we wanted the test to be positive. We wanted some sort of closure,” said Steve Baugh, 57. “All the thoughts, ‘What could have happened?’” … There’s just too many things that go through your mind.”
Kauai police ask anyone with new information to contact Lt. Bryson Ponce at (808) 241-1681.
Kollar couldn’t comment on whether the department has any new leads.
“Solving cases like this really helps when we get information from the community. There are a lot of theories and ideas and knowledge in the community about how this happened, and who did this, so we’re asking anyone with information to come forward and share that with us,” he said. “We want people to know these kinds of cases are never forgotten about or put on the back burner.”
Steve Baugh said he’s optimistic the discovery will lead to more developments.
After his sister’s disappearance, the family received anonymous letters saying they knew who was responsible for the crime.
The alleged perpetrators were people well-connected on the small island and the crime was covered up, he said the letters stated.
A major theory was the crime was done by some brothers, who Steve Baugh didn’t name, but said have since passed away.
“Someone knows,” he said. “Someone needs to come forward.”
Kollar said he couldn’t address any alleged cover-ups from 35 years ago, but said the case is active.
“I can say that Hanalei was a very different place in the 1970s,” Kollar said. Investigators “are combing through the investigation that was done at that time, following up anything we possibly can in terms of folks who might still be around.”
Steve Baugh said after the discovery, authorities excavated the area around the stream and found more human remains.
Those are being tested now to determine if they also belong to Nancy Baugh.
The prosecution’s office couldn’t comment on whether anything else in relation to the case was discovered at the site.
Steve Baugh said his sister had been living on Kauai for about two or three years before she disappeared.
She had moved with her boyfriend from Florida because she had always wanted to live on a tropical island, and Featherman aspired to become a horticulturist.
He said the Baugh family hasn’t been back to Kauai since his sister disappeared, and they had vacationed to Hawaii once when they were teenagers before Nancy Baugh moved out.
“We definitely closed a chapter,” Steve Baugh said. “We know the beginning chapter of the story, we know the ending chapter of the story. But there’s a big gap in the middle we know nothing about.”
“I’ll never feel comfortable,” he added. “There will always be that big hole in the middle that will always be a hole in me. There will be an emptiness for her sake … But I still have hope. I have a lot of hope.”
Info: Additional information may be viewed at http://www.kauai.gov/ProsecutingAttorney/ColdCases
• Tom Hasslinger, Managing Editor, can be reached at 245-0427 or firstname.lastname@example.org.