Who Killed Hazel Drew?: The True Crime Story That Inspired Twin Peaks

A common television crime series plot follows a detective unraveling the clues to a murder of a female jogger who disappears near a wooded area. As the investigation unfolds, more confusing information appears, leading to multiple theories and suspects. The detective’s intellect and hard work are no help against the complex details and secrets surrounding the case, so it remains unsolved. 

Many consider Twin Peaks, a well-known 1990s television mystery drama, one of the great mystery series of all time. FBI agent Dale Cooper investigates the murder of Laura Palmer, a popular and innocent homecoming queen in the town of Twin Peaks, Washington. 

At first glance, Palmer epitomizes the girl next door, but as the story unfolds, it becomes clear she secretly lived a life of danger. As Agent Cooper digs into the details surrounding the murder, he discovers Palmer wasn’t anything like she appeared. 

This mystery echoes many factors in the true, unsolved case of Hazel Drew, a young woman who tragically lost her life in 1908. Drew's murder occurred in Sand Lake, New York, a town that has become a popular tourist destination for fans of the TV series. The town of Sand Lake entertains many fans of the show who attempt to learn more about Hazel’s unsolved murder.


The Legend of Hazel Drew

Born in Poestenkill, New York, Hazel Drew lived a simple farm life until she turned 14. Her life changed when she became a domestic servant for the City of Troy’s mayor. By all reports, she was reliable and committed while working for the mayor. 

She left behind the city of Troy and returned to her hometown of Sand Lake when a local professor hired her as a governess. During her employment with the professor, she met a horrible end.

On the evening of July 7, 1908, Drew went for a stroll along Taborton Road in Sand Lake. A striking blonde 19-year-old, she carried her hat in hand and picked raspberries along the way. Witnesses noticed Drew walking by herself because it was uncommon for women to walk alone. She was later found dead, floating in a nearby pond.

Hazel Drew's Double Life

In the course of the investigation, it came to light that the day before her murder, Drew quit her governess job and took a trip to the city of Troy. The professor’s family that employed her as a governess mentioned that Drew’s clothing seemed out of place for a young girl on a restricted salary. Her clothes were stylish and expensive, not the sort they thought appropriate for her earnings.

Drew’s complex life continued to alarm investigators. They learned that Drew traveled frequently and they found a collection of handkerchiefs belonging to different men in her baggage. They discovered Drew had received a proposal from a married man and suspected she had another relationship with an affluent gentleman from Albany.

Drew’s double life, like that of Twin Peaks character Laura Palmer, surprised everyone, including her employers and those closest to her. The more details investigators uncovered, the more surprises they found.

To this day, Drew’s death remains a mystery with many outstanding questions. Detectives never found out conclusively who she was visiting in Troy, nor what caused her to return to Sand Lake. In the end, the investigators determined that her death appeared accidental, despite the oddities surrounding her double life.

Theories Abound

Regardless of the official findings, the death was the talk of the town. If tabloids had existed at that time, her death and the mystery surrounding it would have remained in the headlines for months.

The Herald Democrat, published an article on July 17, 1908 entitled “Mystery of Hazel Drew Death Probably Accidental”.  The journalist related that the police found no discernible evidence indicating foul play. The article suggests that a vehicle accidentally struck Drew and, in a panic, the driver took her body and threw it in the mill pond. 

Others believed that someone murdered her. Rumors suggested the married businessman got her pregnant and killed her. Several homicide theories, including a number of different suspects, all of whom allegedly had a reason to kill her, surfaced. 

Nevertheless, Drew’s double life and potential murder mystery lingered on, almost forgotten, until the creators of Twin Peaks used her story to help create the plot of their TV series.


A Mystery Still Unsolved

It is not surprising that a show like Twin Peaks had millions of fans. Real life mysteries terrify many and leave room for continued curiosity, concern, and a lack of closure. From television shows such as Unsolved Mysteries to Cold Case Files, people marvel over the unknown. 
Regardless of the various theories of how Hazel Drew died, her death remains unsolved. Last seen picking raspberries on the side of the road, Drew’s short life remains a well-known mystery to this day. 

Sand Lake receives many Twin Peaks fans eager to explore Drew’s case in hopes of solving her death. Perhaps one of them will stumble upon something that will support the finding of accidental death by the authorities. Conversely, maybe a citizen investigator will uncover new evidence that one of the suspects, or someone heretofore unknown, murdered her.

Harry is the content manager over at Arcadia Publishing. While he spends most of his time being a bookworm, he enjoys anything outdoors, especially if it involves the water.