Online sleuths hope posters turn up heat on Renee Freer’s killer


Monroe Police Detective Jim Rancourt’s frustration over eight-year-old Renee Freer’s unsolved murder still haunted him into retirement, according to his brother, Norman, who recalls the stack of notes he compiled while working with a group of former town detectives, as they continued to pursue the case on their own.

On June 22, 1977, the lifeless body of Renee Freer was found in a wooded area, about 300 yards from her family’s Williams Drive home. The little girl was bludgeoned to death and despite the determined efforts of Jim Rancourt and other investigators, no one was ever charged for her murder.

“The murder of a child is something that doesn’t sit well with people,” Norman Rancourt said in a recent phone interview, adding of his brother, “it drove him crazy, because they really had it down to two different youths living in the area. Then after a long investigation they narrowed it down to one.”

However, a combination of factors served as a roadblock to resolving the case once and for all, according to Rancourt.

Norman, who had worked for the U.S. Marshall’s Office, then in security for the FBI, has a strong writing background. The Rancourt brothers were going to team up to write a book together on four Monroe murders, including the Freer case, to put it back in the public spotlight.

“We never got to write the book,” Norman said. “We got together and outlined the book, but then he got pancreatic cancer and died. I was going to be the writer and he would proofread it after I wrote it.”

Jim Rancourt died on October 18,2018 at the age of 66.

The Monroe Police Department has never closed its investigation.

Earlier this year, Chief Keith White issued a statement revealing their main suspect in the 47-year-old case was a male juvenile at the time, who knew Freer. White urged him or a family member to come forward.

Different detectives have led the investigation over the years. Most recently, Lt. Kevin McKellick assigned the case to Det. Jeff Marcel, who is now the lead investigator. He urges anyone with information to call Marcel at the Monroe Detective Division, 203-452-2831.

Pieces to the puzzle

Norman Rancourt is currently an English Language Arts teacher in Norwalk, as well as a track and field coach. He used to teach at Masuk High School, where he coached Rick Canfield Jr.

It was through Canfield that Rancourt learned of the renewed effort to help police solve the Freer case.

Erik C. Hanson

This year, Canfield teamed up with author Erik Hanson, who is working on a book on the Renee Freer case in hopes of it garnering new leads for Monroe detectives and pressuring the killer to confess.

Canfield and Hanson both grew up in town and have been friends since they were first graders at St. Jude School.

The duo once climbed Mount Washington together, beating a massive thunderstorm, and have built a high level of trust in each other over the years, Canfield said.

Both were born after Monroe’s infamous murder. Canfield in October of 1977 and Hanson in 1978. Prior to this year, Canfield said he knew nothing about it.

“It wasn’t until Erik gave me a call and said, ‘Rick I’m getting into this true crime genre. Did you hear about Renee Freer?’ and I said, ‘who?,'” Canfield recalled.

“I think it’s a very bold move to write a book about it and that’s what Jim and I talked about,” Rancourt said, adding they thought it would be therapeutic to Jim and other retired detectives who had also worked the case.

Canfield has been helping Hanson compile information for his book and both have been tenacious in their research.

“A lot of people are coming forward, helping us put together the thousand piece jigsaw puzzle,” Canfield said. “We’re not law enforcement. We’re looking at things from a pragmatic standpoint, the window of opportunity. We know everybody who lived on the street and were able to reach out to every single person.”

The researchers used Ancestry.com and incorporated public records, such as land purchasing and rental agreements, into their project.

“Our mission statement is, ‘a rising tide lifts all ships,'” Canfield said. “We’re creating a network. People we’re in contact with are really pissed off that somebody got away with this.”

He said he is amazed at how many people are in the circle of the family and residents who lived on the street at the time, either as relatives or people who knew them.

Who Killed Renee Freer?

This poster is displayed on a bulletin board inside Last Drop Coffee Shop, 435 Main St. in Monroe.

News of Hanson’s book project inspired many in the public to get involved. He started the Facebook group, Who Killed Renee Freer?, which now has 638 members. Hanson is now taking more time to work on his book, while Canfield serves as administrator of the Facebook page.

“One member who’s helping us has an accounting analyst background,” Canfield said. “She is ferocious with information, compiling background information of people in the area and certain families.”

Among the social media efforts to get the word out about Freer’s unsolved case was a TikTok video someone made and linked to Instagram.

“Erik and I focus on Facebook,” Canfield said. “Erik said, ‘we really need to expand to Instagram.'”

Elisabeth Medaris, of Monroe, a member of the Facebook group, designed a poster with Renee Freer’s picture and a message urging those with information to call Monroe police. After some discussion, Canfield said he and Hanson decided to pursue the grassroots, “feet on the ground” campaign.

He said 200 posters were printed for the first wave, about a quarter of which were distributed to Last Drop Coffee Shop and Starbucks in Monroe, and many other destinations throughout the region, including in the town of Southbury.

“We’re trying to put the posters in public places, like community boards,” Canfield said. “People who are older are used to that. Not everybody’s on Facebook. It’s another forum to get the word out.”

“The goal is to continue to reach out and bring awareness,” he said. “Erik is focusing on the book. I’m focusing on internet activity, growing the group, getting people to feel comfortable to go to the police with information.”

Those interested in distributing posters can reach out to Canfield on Facebook or email him at [email protected] . “I have a pdf. They can print it themselves, in black and white or color,” he said.

‘We’re relentless’

“There’s a reinvigoration,” Canfield said of the old case. “We started from scratch, followed old roads of people who put this together. Police are doing a good job. They have their lane and we have our lane, but we have the same goal.”

“We narrowed it down to three candidates and it could have been a combination,” Canfield said of their own research, adding he and Hanson will not release names of people, unless criminal charges are first brought by police.

Canfield said he and Hanson are confident there are still people out there who know something, but do not feel comfortable or safe enough to come forward.

“I think there are still some gems of information that would connect this thing and get the desired results people have wanted for over 47 years now,” Canfield said.

The longer the killer refuses to come forward or anyone tries to cover it up, the longer they will endure pressure from Hanson, Canfield and others in their quest for answers.

“We’re relentless,” Canfield said. “It would be easier to come in now. It’s growing and it will make their lives a whole lot easier, because we’re not going away. People in our group, one had success solving a similar situation. There is some momentum building. We have a few people who are very motivated by this.”

Even if the killer confesses, Rancourt said his name may never be made public because he was a minor at the time of the crime.

“I don’t really care about the person’s name at all,” Rancourt said. Of solving the case, he added, “I think it’s important to Monroe, especially the people that were in school with Renee and knew her. It is important to the neighbors who knew her and to the police to know that justice was served — and to the family members who are still alive.”

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