When James Baysinger, creator and host of the podcast “Hide and Seek,” began investigating the 2009 disappearance and cold case of Nancy Moyer, he came across a brutal murder that also took place in the small, quiet town of Tenino, Washington — the slaying of Vanda Boone.
Boone’s killer, Bernard K. Howell III, was a 26-year-old door-to-door meat salesman who lived less than a mile from Moyer’s home, the last place the missing mother of two was seen alive.
“Bernard Howell came on my radar because Nancy went missing March 6, 2009, and Vanda Boone’s murdered by Bernard Howell in 2010,” Baysinger told “Searching For,” an original series on Oxygen.com. “In a population of 1,700, does lightning strike twice?”
On Aug. 8, 2010, Howell was pulled over by a Thurston County Sheriff’s Deputy, who found Boone’s remains in the passenger seat wrapped in a sleeping bag, sheets and plastic bags, according to a probable cause affidavit obtained by Oxygen.com. Her murder was so gruesome that Baysinger theorizes Howell is “somebody who was going to have a taste for [killing] and like it.”
Although Howell has never been charged in connection with the 36-year-old's disappearance, he was named a person of interest and later interviewed by detectives in 2011, after he pleaded guilty to Boone’s murder and was sentenced to almost 27 years in prison.
Thurston County Sheriff's Office Detective Mickey Hamilton told Oxygen.com that investigators had found the same brand of meat Howell had been selling in Moyer’s freezer, and that her daughter, Sam Moyer, had picked Howell out of a photo montage as the man who had once sold Nancy meat.
“I do remember her buying like lemon pepper chicken, and I remember she also bought seafood. She got like either shrimp or prawns off of Bernard Howell,” Sam, who was 9 years old at the time, told “Searching For.” “I kinda do wonder if he came back because they found steaks in her freezer, and I don’t remember her ever buying steaks.”
While speaking with retired Thurston County Sheriff's Detective David Haller, Howell denied any involvement in Nancy’s murder and said he never sold her meat, according to Det. Hamilton.
Still, the family questions why Nancy had the steak in her freezer, and if Howell could have been the person who sold it to her.
“Nancy was kinda almost vegetarian. And so all of a sudden, I look and she’s got shelves worth of meat in there. I was like, ‘What is this for?’” Nancy’s estranged husband, Bill Moyer, told “Searching For.” “It didn’t really fit, didn’t make sense because it’s not something she would have typically purchased.”
To date, no evidence has linked Howell to Nancy’s disappearance, and no further charges have been brought against him. Her case remains unsolved.
If you have any information regarding the Nancy Moyer investigation, please contact the Thurston County Sheriff's Office at 360-786-5279.
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An original series that dives into disappearances across the U.S., "Searching For" hopes to raise awareness about the victims' cases and seeks help from their communities through local town hall screenings. Join the discussion and connect with other viewers.