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Renewed Heidi Allen search opens door for convicted kidnapper to have case overturned

Heidi Allen

Federal investigators, New York State Police and the Oswego County Sheriff's Department have been searching a collapsed cabin in Mexico for the remains of Heidi Allen, an 18-year-old woman who was kidnapped and murdered 20 years ago while working at a New Haven convenience store.

Allen had opened the D&W Convenience Store alone on Easter Sunday, 1994, when she was abducted sometime before 8 a.m. Hundreds of supporters, police and military members looked for her, but she was never found. Months later, Richard and Gary Thibodeau were arrested and charged with the crime. Gary Thibodeau was convicted in June 1995 for the kidnapping, but Richard Thibodeau was found not guilty of the same charge that September.

Lisa Peebles, a federal public defender for Gary Thibodeau, who is serving 25 years to life for the crime, says newly discovered evidence could help exonerate her client.

"They haven't found anything that hurts my case for Gary Thibodeau," Peebles said. "As far as where they are and what they're doing, I have no idea. I do know that they have the medical examiner from Onondaga County examining the site on Rice Road, but as far as where they are in that process, I don't know."

Peebles wrote in a 22-page motion she filed Wednesday that several pieces of evidence were left out of Thibodeau's trial, including evidence that Allen was a drug informant, that she provided information to sheriff's deputies and that her informant file was not kept confidential.

"I know that Joe Fahey was representing him (Gary Thibodeau) at the time, prior to him becoming a judge," Peebles explained. "And he had never seen or heard about this information about Heidi Allen being an informant and then dropping her information on the parking lot of the D&W."

She also says several people that are believed to be involved in the disappearance now were intentionally left off an interview list that included about 200 individuals and groups.

Those names include James Steen, Michael Bohrer and Roger Breckenridge, who are now considered to be associated with Allen's disappearance. Steen is serving a life sentence for killing his estranged wife and her boyfriend in 2010.

Peebles wrote in her motion that because of the new information that has become available recently, Gary Thibodeau would likely have received a more favorable verdict, and therefore his conviction should be vacated.

Peebles says her main focus now is getting Gary Thibodeau out of prison.

"All I care about is Gary Thibodeau being released," Peebles said. "And it would be nice if we could find the remains of Heidi Allen, so we could satisfy the family because they haven't had closure. So, those are my primary objectives."

The Oswego County District Attorney's Office says it is not commenting on the case.