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A true-crime podcast is working with detectives to get some answers in the 38-year-old case of a missing man from Maine.
Reeves K. Johnson III, then 31, was reported missing on Feb. 3, 1983, when he failed to show up for work at Donnelly Manufacturing in Exeter, New Hampshire, according to police.
The creator and host of the podcast "Murder, She Told," Kristen Seavey, told Oxygen.com that she hopes telling Johnson’s story will bring long-awaited answers to his family.
“I hope that the family, at least, has a clearer picture of what happened to their brother,” said Seavey. “I think they’re very realistic in that they’re not necessarily trying to find Reeves; they’re trying to find out what happened to Reeves.”
The podcast generally focuses on lesser-known open cases in New England.
According to the episode’s page — filled with photos and reports about the case — Reeves Johnson III was an introspective man with few friends who spent his spare time reading about philosophy.
“[He] didn’t have a whole lot of friends,” Detective Brian Cummer of the Kittery Police Department in Maine Cummer told Oxygen.com. “It wasn’t that he couldn’t make friends. I just think he really didn’t need them.”
Seavey had reached out to Cummer, and now says their work was “such a unique experience” because of the detective's eagerness to help raise awareness of the case and his willingness to share everything he had.
“This case was one I kept picking up and looking at,” Cummer told Oxygen.com, explaining he had been frustrated by the lack of information about the case. “I wanted to round out the case file and find out who Reeves was, who his family was, who his friends were.”
But they had little information with which to work.
Johnson lived alone in a small Kittery cabin that no longer exists today, according to the podcast.
His family reported him missing after he failed to contact them for their weekly phone call. While there was nothing extraordinary to suggest foul play could have been a factor in Johnson’s disappearance, there were events in the weeks following their report that drew his family’s suspicions.
Beginning on Feb. 9, 1983 — six days after he was reported missing — someone used Johnson’s checks to make strange purchases. According to Seavey’s findings, the items included designer thermal wear and expensive speakers from Radio Shack.
“You start seeing a lot of money coming out of his account through check writing,” said Cummer.
And, according to the initial police report, someone walked into the Ocean National Bank and withdrew most of the cash from Johnson’s account, leaving just a few dollars to his name. The original detective on the case spoke with the bank manager, who claimed it was Johnson himself.
On Feb. 15, 1983, a Kittery Police officer and Johnson’s landlord found his cabin empty. The door was unlocked, the pipes had frozen over, and the snow surrounding the cabin was undisturbed. But police noted that someone had cleared the home of Johnson’s valuables, including a TV set, a guitar and his clothes.
More red flags were raised when Johnson’s parents went to the Kittery Post Office in the hopes that their son would show up to pick up his paycheck. Instead, an unknown man went to Johnson’s mailbox and collected his mail.
Johnson’s mother used her tourist camera to get a shot of the man, who covered his face.
The unknown white male was described as being about 5’10” with longer, reddish-blonde hair and a beard. He wore dark green overalls over an orange T-shirt and a short-brimmed red baseball cap with a white logo.
Johnson’s mother confronted the man, who claimed Johnson was with him in a Portsmouth, New Hampshire apartment. He promised to take Johnson’s parents in their car but then fled the post office on foot.
“They could have had answers,” Seavey told Oxygen.com. “I think the photo adds a fascinating element. … There’s something else going on, and somebody else knows something.”
“Had she [captured] his face, this wouldn’t be an issue,” said Cummer. “We’d have this solved by now.”
“Murder, She Told,” also thoroughly examines an unknown hitchhiker named “Richard” who stayed with Johnson in the weeks before he vanished.
“Someone came up from Boston to retrieve [Richard],” the podcast explains. “And according to the police report, he left while Reeves was at work with a key to Reeves’ cabin.”
Reeves Johnson III was about 5’7” tall and weighed around 130 pounds at the time of his disappearance. He had severe hypoglycemia and required corrective eyewear to drive at night. Today, he would be 70 years old.
Anyone with information is asked to contact the Kittery Police Department at firstname.lastname@example.org or 207-439-1638.
You can listen to the entire episode of “Murder, She Told,” including Seavey’s interviews with Johnson’s relatives, here.
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