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Beaten to death with wine bottle: Authorities finally solved the cold case rape and murder of Laura Kempton in New Hampshire 1981

Ronney James Lee, left, and Laura Kempton. (Photo: New Hampshire Attorney General’s Office)

Laura Kempton, rape slay victim and beaten to death with a wine bottle (Photo: Manchester Ink Link)

A woman was beaten to death with a wine bottle after being raped

According to a published article from Law&Crime, when Laura Kempton was raped and killed in her Portsmouth, New Hampshire, home in September 1981, she was only 23 years old. Police claim to have finally solved the long-mysterious Granite State cold case after more than 40 years, a woman was beaten to death.

In a victim impact statement, Laura Kempton’s family expressed their gratitude to the Portsmouth police department for cracking the case. “Over several years, their determination and dedication, as well as an extraordinary level of personal commitment, have brought Laura to this point.”

However, the guy accused of committing the terrible act passed away in 2005, according to a news statement from the New Hampshire Attorney General’s Office, so justice will likely prove difficult to come by.

On September 28, 1981, Kempton was last observed alive before being beaten to death in the early morning hours. After a night out with a buddy, she came back to her apartment by herself. According to the AG’s office, the shocking finding was uncovered the following morning by a policeman who was trying to deliver a court summons.

20 Chapel St., as seen in 2001. (Photo: Office of the Attorney General)

In a statement released by the AG’s office, “[Officer Ron Grivois] noticed that one of the boards on the wooden entrance to her residence was missing and a piece of thin metal covered most of the opening in the door” when he drew near. The final remaining gap in the door panel allowed him to view a body lying on the ground.

Officer Grivois saw that the legs were bound with a white cord, but the upper part of the body was covered with a blanket. He could also make out what looked like blood splatter on the apartment’s far wall.

A green pillowcase that had been wrapped over her head and neck was also discovered.

An autopsy revealed that Kempton was beaten to death with a wine bottle and caused blunt head trauma. Wine bottles are thought to have been the murder weapon.

The wine bottle allegedly used to murder Laura Kempton. She was killed by a blow to the left side of her head. (Photo: NH Atty. General’s Office)

The case became unsolved after several years. According to the AG’s report, a significant breakthrough occurred in 2002 when technology allowed the testing of tangible evidence retrieved from the crime scene to generate a male DNA profile. The case then became unsolved once more.

Two more decades for the woman beaten to death rape case

According to a published article from ABC 5, Erik Widerstrom, a detective with the Portsmouth Police Department, was informed in May 2022 that a profile posted to a third-party, open genetic genealogy database would be useful in resolving the case.

The suspect’s biological parents were found by investigators thanks to that profile. With the aid of forensic genetic genealogy technology, a task force made up of many law enforcement agencies from New Hampshire and Maine and Identifinders International was able to establish that those parents only had one son, Ronney James Lee.

Ronney James Lee, the suspect (Photo: NH Atty. General’s office)

Law enforcement later found out that Lee, 45, passed away on February 9, 2005, from acute cocaine intoxication.

In June, a DNA expert directly compared Lee’s DNA profile, which was retrieved from a “blood card” obtained during his autopsy, to sperm found on Kempton’s green pillowcase, a cigarette butt, and thigh scrapings. He was a match.

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According to the AG’s office, if Lee were still alive, they would press charges of first-degree murder for intentionally killing Kempton, beaten to death by striking her with a blunt object after, while engaged in committing, or while attempting to commit, aggravated felonious sexual assault.

According to John Formella, the attorney general of New Hampshire, “I hope that this conclusion and announcement will be the long-awaited first step in providing what closure the criminal justice system can provide for Laura Kempton’s family and community.”

The Portsmouth Police Department deserves praise for its dedication and tenacity in pursuing justice for Ms. Kempton and her family.


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