DERRY, NH – Nine days after it happened, Derry Police first announced that Amanda Grazewski, 23, had gone missing from a friend’s Derry apartment on March 17.
They provided a description of the petite white woman with brown hair and hazel eyes, a photo of her wearing a pastel blouse, white cardigan and choker, a list of communities she is known to frequent and the details of her disappearance, most notably that she left behind her purse, cell phone and other belongings.
On April 8, police sent out the release again. The local news media had picked up the original story, but no useful leads had been generated. Police tried again on May 5, and again on July 17 with an updated release. Still no sign of her.
“It’s been four months and it’s gut-wrenching, really,” Amanda’s mother Jessica Grazewski said on Thursday.
Derry Police Det. Steve Clark led the investigation from the start, sifting through evidence and phone records, chasing down tips of possible sightings, checking with police departments in Nashua, Hudson and Salem to see if they knew anything. On Friday, Clark retired from the force, and the investigation was handed off to another detective.
In all this time, Amanda Grazewski has not been seen or heard from, and amid the cloud of uncertainty there is a solidifying sense that she is likely dead.
“I totally feel like there was foul play, in my eyes. Or something happened and someone did away with her,” she said.
Even when Amanda was actively using fentanyl and communication with her family was limited, she had never gone more than a whole week without contacting at least one family member.
“It’s totally not her. She would have called,” Grazewski said.
As every day passes without word from her daughter, Grazewski increasingly thinks she was either murdered or she died of an overdose, and someone hid the body.
“I hope. I always hope for a miracle, but I prepare myself for the worst,” Grazewski said.
Police have been exploring that possibility since early on in the investigation.
Capt. Vern Thomas said the majority of missing persons cases are resolved relatively quickly as domestic disputes, underage runaways and people who decide to cut off communication for one reason or another.
This case doesn’t fit those profiles, and the fact that Amanda left behind her phone and all her possessions suggests she didn’t just walk off.
Thomas said Amanda was virtually homeless at the time of her disappearance. Originally from the Hudson and Nashua area, she didn’t own a car. In mid-March, she was forced to vacate a hotel in Nashua and had brought her two backpacks of clothes, purse and phone to a friend’s apartment on Birch Street in Derry to stay the night.
That same night, she stayed up late with three or four others who were also staying there. Those were the last people who saw her. Thomas said they told police that Amanda stayed up when the rest turned in for the night. Someone allegedly woke in the early hours of the morning and noticed she was no longer there.
They waited two days before contacting a family member, and the family immediately contacted police.
Amanda’s cell phone was an important clue, but not just by the fact that she allegedly left it behind. Thomas said there were also text messages to an unknown person in which she discussed her desire to move to Salem.
“We don’t know what her destination was in Salem but we were thinking she was going to stay there instead of Derry,” Thomas said. “Her messages were brief.”
Many of the phone contacts were nicknames or missing surnames. Police tried to trace the number but it led to a prepaid burner phone.
Investigators have explored multiple possible scenarios; maybe she was picked up by a friend’s car, maybe she wandered off on foot, maybe she went out for some fresh air and accidentally got locked out. But if that’s all that happened, why hasn’t she turned up since then, and why would she leave her phone?
“That’s extremely unusual,” Thomas said.
Police have chosen not to publicize many of the details of their investigation to date because the stakes could be higher than a simple missing person case.
“With a missing person case, this could very well be a homicide,” Thomas said.
But Thomas shared some additional information in the hope that anyone who knows anything that could be helpful in locating Amanda will contact the police.
He said police conducted three searches with a K9 unit in wooded areas near the Birch Street apartment where she was last seen, and a fourth sweep in the area behind the police department off of Folsom Road.
A social security card belonging to Amanda was located on the ground outside Elliot hospital on March 26, the same day police first publicized her disappearance.
And multiple friends and acquaintances reported to police that Amanda was involved in prostitution. Police have not independently confirmed that, though it is not uncommon among people who have substance use disorder.
Investigators searched websites where people advertise sex work, but they were unable to find anything connected to Amanda.
A sober friend of Amanda received a vague but chilling tip from an anonymous friend of Amanda’s, Grazewski said, and passed it along to the family. This anonymous person said they know “what happened to Amanda and where she is.”
Some of the people Amanda was involved with have a violent past, she said.
Grazewski said Amanda had a long history of substance misuse. She was deeply affected by the passing of her father, who Grazewski said died of an alcohol-abuse-related heart attack when Amanda was attending Nashua High School South.
When Amanda was 15 or 16 years old, she started using hard drugs, and she dropped out of high school after 10th grade.
“She was strong-willed from day one, as a baby, being the youngest of six,” Grazewski said. “She made her place known, even from an infant.”
Even though she struggled in school, Grazewski said her daughter is smart, she has a passion for cosmetology and fashion, and has considered those for a career. When Grazewski had to dress up for a formal event, Amanda would find her the perfect outfit.
“That was her dream to get into that,” she said.
And whenever they would go to weddings, Grazewski said Amanda would be her “date.”
But Amanda was bedeviled by her addiction. Grazewski said they would bring her to recovery and treatment facilities but she wouldn’t stay.
Amanda’s 4-year-old daughter is now being raised by Grazewski.
Grazewski said she grieves a lot in private and tries to stay strong for the rest of her family as life goes on. In September, one of her sons is getting married.
“I have a lot of blessings that still go on,” Grazewski said.
She hopes against reason that her usual plus-one will return safely in time, or that at least she will get some answers.
If you have any information about what happened to Amanda Grazewski, please contact the Derry Police Department at (603) 632-6111 or submit a tip online.