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Remembering Craig Lane: Peterborough’s unsolved murder, 30 years later

  • The scene of Craig Lane’s 1989 murder at the Texaco station in Peterborough. File photo

  • Craig Lane's grave in Peterborough's Pine Hill Cemetery. Staff photo by Ben Conant



Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Tuesday, January 08, 2019 8:53AM

Thirty years later, and there are still few answers for the family of Craig Lane.

On Jan. 8, 1989, Craig Lane, 17, was about half an hour from finishing his shift at the Texaco station on Route 202, when he was killed in an apparent robbery.

His killer has never been caught. But his father, Albion “Skip” Lane, a former Greenfield police chief, said he hasn’t given up hope that one day, the case will be resolved.

“I know, as a former police officer, that sometimes it takes an awfully long time,” Lane said during an interview Monday. “I’ve put my trust and faith in the Cold Case Unit and in God that it will happen.”

Jan. 8, 1989

At around 5:30 p.m., Massachusetts resident John Carter Jr. was driving down Route 202 with his daughter, when he nearly hit a man running across the road, coming from the Texaco station and heading toward the bike path.

Carter turned into the gas station to fill up and get directions, but after several minutes, the attendant was nowhere in sight. He got out of the car to check, and found Craig Lane in a pool of blood.

Carter used a payphone at the station to call the operator – 911 not being widespread in the United States yet – and call for help. Not knowing the area, it took several minutes for Carter and the operator to figure out the location of the gas station.

Peterborough Police Chief Scott Guinard, who was a corporal on the force at the time, said he remembers the night “vividly.”

When he got the call, he and fellow Peterborough officer Brian Giammarino, who is now the Greenfield Police Chief, were at the scene of a utility shed fire on Union Street. He was in the middle of examining what was believed to be an incendiary device that started the fire – a tennis ball with a firecracker stuck in it – when the call came over the radio that there had been a stabbing at the Texaco station.

“We sprinted to our cars,” he said.

Skip Lane said when he got the call that night, it was from his sister-in-law, who was working at the Peterborough Police Department at the time.

“She said, ‘Craig’s been stabbed,’” Skip Lane said.

His father rushed to the hospital and spent an anxious half-hour in the Emergency Room before a doctor who had been working on his son came out.

“He just looked at me, and kept going,” he said. When a second doctor came out and asked to speak to him in a separate room, he knew his son hadn’t made it, Skip said.

“I couldn’t believe it,” he said.

In fact, it wouldn’t become reality for him for several weeks, Lane said. Though even now, it sometimes doesn’t feel real to him that Craig is gone.

From the witness descriptions, police were able to put together a composite sketch and began looking for the man who Carter and his daughter saw running across the road. The man was described as white, in his late teens or early 20s, about five feet, 10 inches tall with a slim to medium build, brown, medium-length hair and wearing a red ski jacket with a blue stripe around the chest, dark baseball cap and jeans.

Police brought in a state police bloodhound to search the bike path where the suspect was seen running to, and found several pieces of blood-stained currency. The police dog was able to track the trail to Noone Falls, where it lost the scent.

For months following the murder, both Peterborough and state police chased down leads from the tips generated from the police sketch, Guinard said.

“We were working on it daily for the better part of 1989,” Guinard said. “It went well on into the fall and the winter months.”

Lane said he has theorized the person who killed Craig may have known him, as he was let into the attendant’s booth, and probably knew the area, as he knew to run in the direction of the bike path. Police haven’t ruled any theories out, Guinard said.

“It could be someone who knew Craig, or it could have been a transient passing through who saw an opportunity, or anything in between,” Guinard said. “We just don’t know in this case.”

Remembering Craig

An engraving of a train chugs across Craig Lane’s gravestone in Pine Hill Cemetery in Peterborough. It represents one of the foremost passions Craig had in life.

Craig has a love of trains as a child that never went away, his father said. He even wanted to become a train engineer.

There are times, Lane said, when Craig’s memory returns strikingly. One of Craig’s younger sisters, who has since moved out of state, lives close enough to a train station that you can hear the trains running from her home.

“I think about how much he would have loved that. I don’t think we would have ever gotten him to leave there,” he said.

Craig was an avid Red Sox fan, and it was a continual source of teasing rivalry between him and his father, a Yankees fan. The two had a often-revisited argument about the best player of all time – Carl Yastrzemski of the Red Sox or the Yankees’ Mickey Mantle. Ironically, Yastrzemski was inducted into the Hall of Fame on the same day Craig was killed.

“I never knew whether he knew that,” Lane said. “It’s things like that, those questions I still have.”

Lane said the family has kept Craig’s memory alive. Candles are lit for him on his birthday, Christmas and the anniversary of his death. Lane releases balloons in the name of nieces and nephews Craig never got to meet at his grave in Peterborough as a way for him to “meet” them. The family keeps a framed memorial with Craig’s picture and some of the reminders of his favorite things – Red Sox ticket stubs, a Celtics patch, a photo of a train and a John Deere tractor – hanging in his house.

His stepmother, Edith Lane, put up a model steam train on the door frame in their kitchen. One day, Lane said, a stain appeared above the train’s smokestack, trailing back over the cars, mimicking smoke. The family never found the cause, he said, and he takes it as a sign from his son.

“It was like he put it there,” Lane said. “It was him saying he’s there and he’s still watching over us.”

The case today

Today, the case in the hands of the Cold Case Unit, a division of the New Hampshire State Police headed by the Attorney General’s Office senior assistant attorney general Susan Morrell.

“We have over 128 cold cases and many of them are very old,” Morrell said Monday.

The Cold Case Unit often rotates through cases and uses significant anniversaries to remind the public that these cases remain unsolved, she said.

“We’re looking to bring it back to the community’s attention,” Morrell said. “We are hoping that someone will come forward with information they had from the past. … Or we’ll jog people’s memory.”

The suspect would be 30 years older, she said. “It was believed, the suspect that was profiled at the time was believed to be in his teens or early 20s, and now we’re 30 years later so now he would be in his early 50s.”

Morrell said being labeled a cold case, doesn’t mean the details of the investigation so far are released. So any advances in the case over the years remain under wraps.

“We treat the cold cases just as we do our homicide investigations, they are ongoing until they are solved,” she said.

Though the passing of time makes an eventual prosecution a challenge, it is not impossible, she said, adding a 30-year-old double homicide case out of Nashua was recently prosecuted successfully.

“Every year that goes by there will be more challenges to prosecuting this case,” she said, including the death of witnesses. “But being 30 years old would not prohibit us from prosecuting.”

The Cold Case Unit still regularly meets with members of the Lane family and the Peterborough Police Department to discuss the case.

“You want to stay directly involved, but it’s reassuring to know that it’s in the hands of the Cold Case Unit and it hasn’t been forgotten about,” Guinard said.

If you have any information about the Lane murder, you can contact the Cold Case Unit at coldcaseunit@dos.nh.gov or their tip line at 271-2663, or the Peterborough Police Department by emailing Guinard at sguinard@peterboroughnh.gov or calling 924-8050.

Ashley Saari can be reached at 924-7172 ext. 244 or asaari@ledgertranscript.com. She’s on Twitter @AshleySaariMLT.