When James Baysinger pulled the partially buried trash bag out of the ground, tore into it and found it contained bones, he said there was one word that came to mind: “Nancy.”
He carefully gathered the small pieces of bone, saying later that he took some time to determine whether they were only sticks. Sticks, when coated in dried mud, he thought, can look deceptively like a bit of skeleton.
He gathered the bits of bone into the bag, and started trudging out of the woods, up the embankment and to a nearby road where Dr. Maurice Godwin and a couple other members of his crew waited.
It took Godwin no time at all to identify who the bones belonged to: a deer.
“Your heart drops,” he said, when asked how he was feeling.
Baysinger is the creator and host of the podcast “Hide and Seek” — a true crime series analyzing the disappearance of Tenino woman Nancy Moyer, who was last seen March 6, 2009.
Since the podcast’s launch earlier this month, Baysinger, a Kennewick, Washington resident, has been conducting most of his research and interviews from a distance. But, he and his crew travelled to Tenino for March 14 to 18 to do some in-person interviews and meet locals with tidbits to share.
On March 16, Baysinger told The Chronicle they had received a couple off-the-record tips about places a body might be hidden. They canvassed one of those spots the day before, he said, and were planning to search the other later that day.
But first, the crew converged on the house Moyer was living when she went missing. Baysinger said he was able to figure out who lived there, and had reached out via Facebook, to see if they could record some content in the house and take pictures.
Sam Moyer, one of Moyer’s daughters, was 9 when her mother went missing. She had agreed to an interview for the podcast, and she went to the house along with the crew.
“It’s been really surreal,” she said of her experience. “It’s been so long since I’ve been here.”
Inside the small, one-story house on Bucoda Highway Southwest, several people sat around a table — Baysinger; Godwin; Sam Moyer; her boyfriend, George Payne; and Aaron Huntley, who had a personal relationship with Moyer.
Their conversation spanned from how the house has changed and its logistics — Was the table sitting over here or over there? Which bedroom was Nancy’s?
They picked up previous conversation from where it had left off, all with it being recorded to possibly be used for future episodes of “Hide and Seek.”
Eventually, Baysinger asked for certain individuals — including a Chronicle reporter — to leave the house so they could go over some things “off the record.”
Outside the house, videographer Edward Lee and photographer (and Baysinger’s sister) Terra Nyce talked about Moyer’s disappearance, the theories they’ve heard thus far and their personal thoughts on what happened.
The crew has these conversations constantly, they said.
Moyer’s disappearance has been ruled a no-body homicide as authorities feel confident that she’s dead, according to past reporting on the incident.
Moyer was last seen March 6, 2009. She was 36 at the time.
On March 8, 2009, her husband reported that he found the front door of her home open. Her car was still parked in the driveway and her purse was still in the house.
The case captured the attention of locals and beyond — it was featured on the Investigation Discovery Channel last year. Yet, closure has yet to find its way to Moyer’s family and friends.
One of those friends — Bev Poston, who worked with Moyer, has been instrumental in the search parties that canvassed the area after her disappearance. She came to Nancy’s house with another key searcher, Kim Collins, to talk with the “Hide and Seek” crew.
Sitting on the porch outside the house, the two were outfitted with microphones that were clipped to their clothes. At one point as they talked, Colin Dale, who monitored audio levels and edits the podcast, asked them to halt their conversation as a train rumbled past.
“Nothing panned out, but, I thought, at least I can live with myself,” said Poston. She said the search parties would meet at the market in town, and decide where to go. She researched searching techniques extensively, she said.
The process was strenuous and tough, given the rough terrain. She consulted a forensic anthropologist about what state the body would be in.
She was contacted by a psychic, who said she sensed a location the body might be hidden.
“So many people asked me how can you do this week after week, and I thought, how can you not?” she said.
Acting on an off-the-record tip, the podcast crew, Poston and Collins drove to a remote wooded area where a body may be hidden. Poston said the body would likely be scattered at this point. A skeleton wouldn’t be sitting there, fully intact 10 years later, she said.
The property owner drove by just as the caravan of vehicles pulled over to the side of the winding, gravel road. He gave them permission to walk through the woods.
That’s when Baysinger happened upon the trash bag containing deer bones. A large heap of other bags were piled up next to a stream. Just off to the side, though, there was another bag that was tied differently. It was mostly buried, with a small part showing through the dirt.
To find out the bones inside belonged to a deer was a disappointment, he said. Diving into a case the way he has had made him emotionally tied to it. In a previous interview with The Chronicle, Baysinger said he’s a life-long fan of mysteries and the true crime genre. As podcasts became increasingly popular, he decided to make one of his own. That’s how he found stories about Moyer, and became fascinated.
As locals in Tenino found out about the project, the response has been positive, he said. Folks have reached out to talk — some of them on the condition of anonymity — about things they’ve heard about Nancy’s case.
After the crew had canvassed a part of the woods, Poston and Collins parted ways with the group.
“More than anything, I just wanted her to be found,” said Poston, wishing them luck and saying goodbye.
Later, sitting at a table at Scotty B’s for a late lunch with the crew, Godwin said these cases prove quite the burden to bear. With each case, he can feel a sample of the burden placed on families. It’s quite emotional, he said.
With decades of experience as a criminal forensic investigator, Godwin has worked as a profiler in the Washington D.C. sniper case and the Casey Anthony case. His work with the acclaimed podcast “Up and Vanished” led to charges being filed in a cold-case homicide.
He flew out to Tenino from North Carolina after Baysinger reached out to him several months prior. Moyer’s case was right in his wheelhouse, he said.
“It has a lot of twists and turns,” he said.
He’s confident untapped answers lay in Moyer’s case file, and some fresh eyes can find them.
“But you gotta shake some trees in this town,” he said.
Tenino Mayor Wayne Fournier and former Tenino cop — and current Centralia cop —Adam Haggerty joined the table at Scotty B’s. They were there to talk about Bernard Howell.
Howell was convicted of killing 60-year-old Vanda Boone by slitting her throat while she walked or rode a bike on the Yelm-Tenino Trail in 2010. With the murder coming about a year after Moyer’s disappearance, Howell naturally became a person of interest in the earlier case. Some authorities with the Thurston County Sheriff’s Office have since discarded the thought.
Haggerty, Fournier and the “Hide and Seek” crew drove to the trail, and talked about their experience with the Howell case. Haggerty assisted in pulling Howell over, after someone reported Howell had asked him to help load a body in his truck. Fournier was with the fire department at the time, and responded to the scene once the body was discovered.
The interview for the podcast was a roving one, starting with a leisurely stroll down the trail, moving to the block where Howell was arrested and ending at his house.
Haggerty said Howell had specks on his face that he suspects was blood. The body was shoved head first, naked, into a sleeping bag crammed in the cab of the truck.
Baysinger asked Haggerty what was going through his head when he saw the body.
“Holy s***,” he replied.
As Howell was cuffed and sitting on the sidewalk, Haggerty said he had a grin on his face and a distant “1,000-yard stare.”
“I got the feeling that he was enjoying it,” said Fournier.
Haggerty said Howell, who was living with his dad at the time, had trenched beneath the house, making a space deep enough to stand up in. There were candles in the trench, he said.
Fournier said there were rumors around town that Moyer’s body was hidden beneath the house. But, he said, police got a search warrant and checked it out. There wasn’t a body.
“I think it’s great that they’re putting so much effort into this, and putting some extra eyes so many years later, trying to put some closure to the case,” said Fournier.
“Hide and Seek” is a weekly podcast. You can find it on iTunes, Spotify, Google Play, Soundcloud, Tunein, Stitcher and Podbean.