Hey, fellow sleuths!
I am a journalist from Vermont working on a podcast investigating the unsolved murder of Denise Hart. Denise, a black 24-year old mother and student from Hartford, CT was visiting friends in the small southern Vermont town of Sudbury when she went missing. The car she was driving was found engulfed in flames the morning after her family stopped hearing from her, but local police did not share this, or any real information with Denise’s mom, she found out on the news.
Vermont State Police made Denise’s mom wait 72 hours, after initially telling her incorrectly that she’d have to report her daughter’s disappearance to the Hartford Police because she was from there, even though she’d gone missing in Vermont. As the days passed with no search, Vermont experienced multiple snowstorms.
Denise’s body was not found for 11 months. Her skeletal remains were discovered on Dec. 22, 2015, on the side of Gap Road in Brandon, 13 miles from where the car was found, by someone walking their dog.
Once her body was found and the investigation moved from missing person to murder, police contact with Denise’s family completely stopped. Her family has no answers to what happened that weekend in Vermont, and as her son (now 9 years old) gets older he asks more questions that have no answers.
Vermont is the whitest state in the nation, the town Denise visited is 98.9 percent white. Her case is the most recent unsolved murder in Vermont and one of two from the past 10 years. The area, Rutland county is also one of the biggest opioid hot spots in the nation, and police made assumptions about the killing being drug involved right off the bat, but her family and friends have told me there is no way this is the case.
I am interviewing Vermont State Police on the case this week and will be questioning what work they did to mitigate racial bias in their investigation, and what went wrong in this case. Since it is an open investigation my FIOA requests for her case files have been denied. If you have any ideas, theories or information about the case, or Vermont State Police, please comment or send me a message.