Kittery police Detective Brian Cummer points to a photo in which Reeves K. Johnson III is on the right, holding a can and wearing a suit jacket and tie. Cummer publicized the investigation into the 40-year-old missing persons case in March 2023 and has been pushing for more information. Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer

More than 40 years after Reeves K. Johnson III mysteriously disappeared, investigators in Kittery have uncovered new information that they hope will help find more people who knew him – and what happened to him all those years ago.

Johnson was 31 and working as a welder when he went missing from the Kittery area in 1983. The investigation into his disappearance was dormant for decades until a new detective started digging into it three years ago and teamed up with a true crime podcast to highlight the case.  

Investigators recently found out that Johnson had worked as a dishwasher at the Borderline restaurant on Route 1 across from the Kittery Trading Post in 1981 and are now looking for people who worked there around the same time and remember Johnson. The restaurant went into foreclosure in 1982. At other times, the restaurant was known as Dragon Seed and Captain’s Table.

“Every clue is one step closer to figuring out what happened to Reeves,” Detective Brian Cummer said. “There are people who care about him who have had to live without knowing for the past 40 years. No piece of information is too small.”

Cummer and podcast host Kristen Seavey, who has helped in the investigation, found the new details about Johnson’s restaurant job while looking through dispatch logs from 1983. After Johnson was reported missing, officers called surrounding police departments to see if anyone had information about him. The York Police Department reported back that they had Johnson’s 1981 address on file and that he worked as a dishwasher at Borderline, Seavey said.

The dispatch log did not say why York police had that information, but it could have been from a minor incident like a speeding ticket, Seavey said. Johnson did not have a criminal record.


Throughout the investigation, Cummer has found few people who knew Johnson and can provide insight into what his life was like in Kittery.

The information about Johnson’s job as a dishwasher is the first break in the case since last year when investigators digitized the case file and uncovered a letter Johnson wrote in 1978 that referenced a girlfriend named Cheryl.

Cheryl, whose last name is unknown, was in her 20s or early 30s when she dated Johnson and would be between 60 and 80 years old today, Cummer said. She was not dating Johnson when he disappeared and is not a suspect, but Cummer believes she could answer some questions about Johnson.

“We just need more eyes on the story. Someone has to remember Reeves, and they might know something and not even realize it’s part of this puzzle,” said Cummer, who does not believe Johnson is alive.

A letter Reeves K. Johnson wrote to his father in 1978 mentions a woman named “Cheryl.” Detective Brian Cummer wants to locate Cheryl, hoping that she could connect investigators to others who knew Johnson before he disappeared. Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer

Johnson, who rented a small cabin on Jewett Court near the traffic circle, tended to keep to himself. But he talked with his parents and siblings, who lived out of state, on the phone every Sunday.



When Johnson didn’t answer his phone on two consecutive Sundays in February 1983, his family grew concerned and reported him missing. Investigators determined that Johnson had last been seen 12 days earlier when he left his job as a welder at Donnelly Manufacturing in Exeter, New Hampshire. When a police officer went to Johnson’s one-room cabin, he found the door was open, the pipes were frozen and most of Johnson’s belongings were missing.

Police confirmed that Johnson last showed up for work on Feb. 3 and later uncovered a string of purchases in the Portsmouth area that overdrew his bank account. Johnson’s bright red Volkswagen Beetle was later found at a local repair shop. A detective asked Donnelly Manufacturing to hold Johnson’s last paycheck until he came to get it so someone could confirm he was OK, but it was put in the mail after someone identifying themselves as Johnson called looking for it.

Johnson’s parents, who came up from Philadelphia to look for him, staked out his post office box in hopes their son would show up for his check. Instead, a man they did not know came in with the key to the box and, when confronted by Johnson’s mom, said her son was at an apartment in Portsmouth. He took off running and was never spotted again.

During that encounter, Johnson’s mother snapped a single photo. The man threw his hand up as she took the photo, perfectly covering his face. The only visible distinguishing detail was a bright red hat.

A photo taken by Barbara Johnson at the Kittery Post Office in 1983 shows a man police believe may have been involved in the disappearance of her son, Reeves Johnson.

With no solid leads to follow, the case went cold.

In October 2021, Cummer started working the case and wanted to draw public attention to it. He teamed up with Johnson’s siblings and Seavey, host of the podcast “Murder, She Told,” to feature the case in an episode. Kittery police released nearly the entire case file.

A $6,000 reward is being offered for information that leads to Johnson’s recovery or whereabouts.

Anyone with information that could help with Johnson’s case is asked to call Kittery police at 207-439-1638 or email Cummer at

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