The Concord, N.H., couple Djeswende Reid and Stephen Reid (Niger 1979-81) were murdered while walking along a hiking trail last week. The Marsh Loop Trail, a 1.5-mile hike within the wetlands of the Broken Ground trail system in Concord.
Stephen and Djeswende, who went by Steve and Wendy, were reported missing before their bodies were discovered near the Broken Ground trails on April 21. Autopsies showed that both died from multiple gunshot wounds. No arrests have been made.
Stephen Reid was a native of Concord, but his humanitarian work brought him to several corners of the world. He joined the Peace Corps after graduating from Notre Dame, spending four years in West Africa teaching English to middle-schoolers. But it was in Washington, D.C. that he met Djeswende where she was attending college on an athletic scholarship.
“They bonded over their mutual love of adventure and fitness,’’ the family statement said.
Stephen’s career in international development sent him overseas often. Djeswende was often by his side on these far-flung postings.
“Steve’s thirty-plus year career as an international development specialist in service to the world’s most vulnerable through USAID humanitarian projects could not have been made possible without the love, care and support of Wendy who also helped recently-resettled refugees acclimate and thrive in the United States,’’ the family said in the statement.
In Niger Steve as a PCV met Cass and Mike Naugle, a couple who were already serving in Niger when Steve arrived in 1979.
Mike called Steve, who taught English classes to middle school-aged students in the town of Madawa, the “epitome” of a Peace Corps volunteer. While all the volunteers learned French, Steve also immersed himself fully in the local language, Hausa. He was honest, hardworking, a good listener and just plain nice.
“I think if anyone would represent our country anywhere, he would be the perfect person,” Cass Naugle said.
In the days before cell phones, Mike would give a bit of extra money to anyone traveling to Madawa to get a message to Steve that the volunteers miles away in Maradi were planning a party for the upcoming weekend. Somehow, the messages always made it through.
“I wouldn’t call him outgoing, he wasn’t the big person at the party or anything like that, but everybody always gravitated towards him because they felt comfortable being around him,” Mike said.
Wendy and Steve met in Washington D.C., where Wendy was studying. Wendy grew up in Togo, Mike said, and spoke Mooré as well as French and English. Steve and Wendy were both great basketball players, and they loved adventure and fitness.
The Naugles met Wendy and the couple’s two children at informal gatherings for Peace Corps volunteers that they hosted over the years at their home in Maryland.
The couple lived in Senegal, Chad, and Niger, the Naugles said.
They both worked to help others around the world and in Concord.
“Steve’s thirty-plus year career as an international development specialist in service to the world’s most vulnerable through USAID humanitarian projects could not have been made possible without the love, care and support of Wendy, who also helped recently-resettled refugees acclimate and thrive in the United States,” the Reid family wrote in the statement.
Susan Faretra, who graduated from Concord High School with Steve in 1973, remembered that Steve and Wendy had attended a reunion together decades ago where Steve had been given an award for traveling the farthest distance – from Africa to Concord.
“They were just a nice couple,” Faretra said. “This whole thing is just senseless.”
Police and the New Hampshire Attorney General’s Office have not said whether they have a suspect for the double homicide. The Reids left their apartment complex for a walk on Monday April 18, just before 2:30 pm, police said. The Broken Ground trails are about two miles away from the Alton Woods apartments off of Loudon Road where the couple lived.
Family members reported the Reids missing on Wednesday, after Steve failed to show up to his weekly tennis game. When a property manager allowed worried family members into their apartment, there was no sign of foul play, according to an email to the Monitor last week from the couple’s son Brian Reid.
“The bed was neatly made and a window was open. Both their phones are still in the apartment. My Dad’s wallet is also still in the apartment, and both their cars are here,” Brian wrote.
As Cass and Mike Naugle reeled at the news of the Reids’ deaths, they exchanged shocked messages with fellow former Peace Corps volunteers on an email distribution list.
“He raised the reputations of all of us,” one friend on the list wrote of Steve’s international aid career. “Steve didn’t waste any of his 67 years.”