Thursday, December 13, 2001

Scarborough’s connection to murder unfolds

Published in the Current; co-written with Kate Irish Collins and Brendan Moran

A Scarborough man who was linked to the murder of Amy St. Laurent by court documents left few footprints in town.

Portland Police Chief Michael Chitwood refused to name Jeffrey “Russ” Gorman as a suspect in the case Wednesday and said, “We’re not looking for him.”

But a handwritten note written at the bottom of a request to revoke Gorman’s probation on unrelated charges of burglary and theft, stated that he was a “prime suspect” in the case – a connection first reported by the Portland Press Herald on Monday and verified by documents obtained by the Current.

Police have one strong suspect and believe others may have helped conceal the body, according to Chitwood. He said he expects to make an arrest in the case “soon,” but declined to give a timetable.

Portland Police have not contacted Scarborough Police for information on Gorman, 21, or told them he was a suspect in the case, according to Scarborough Police Chief Robert Moulton. Moulton said police have stopped Gorman in the past, but only for traffic violations.

While court documents identify Gorman, whose last known address was 68 Country Road in Scarborough, as “dangerous, may be armed,” Chief Chitwood said Gorman is not believed to be in Scarborough or posing a danger to Scarborough residents.

Searchers discovered St. Laurent’s body Saturday afternoon just a few hundred yards from 68 County Road, which is Route. 22. Gorman’s home is less than a half mile from the intersection of County Road and Saco Street and less than a mile from the Westbrook line.

Police weren’t the only ones looking for St. Laurent in Scarborough.

Dennis St. Laurent, Amy St. Laurent’s father, was searching the Haigis Parkway four to five weeks ago, according to Michael Anton, the owner of Admiral Fire and Safety, which is on Haigis Parkway and where Dennis St. Laurent came asking permission to search the area.

A source close to the family confirmed that St. Laurent’s father and other family members had been looking for her in “various places at various times.”

“It’s really too bad,” said Anton. “It turns out, in the end, he wasn’t
that far off.”

St. Laurent, of South Berwick, disappeared in the early morning hours of Oct. 21, after a night of dancing in the Old Port. Her picture has appeared on the news and was posted around Portland after her disappearance.

A possible suspect
Gorman “is prime suspect in missing St. Laurent girl case. Is believed to be in Florida, having taken off (Nov. 16). Request this be placed in system as soon as possible, as Florida (police) are attempting to locate,” read a note at the bottom of a request to revoke Gorman’s probation, signed by David Redmond, Gorman’s probation officer.

Redmond refused comment Tuesday and referred calls to the Associate Commissioner of Corrections, who did not return calls from the Current.

Gorman’s probation resulted from the theft of a car stereo in September of 2000. Authorities issued three warrants on separate occasions for probation violations, recalling two of them.

Gorman had failed to notify his probation officer of a change of address. He also had failed to tell him he had been contacted by police on five separate occasions. The document does not indicate why police contacted Gorman.

In addition to those violations, Gorman failed to pay $500 restitution on the earlier charges and to report to his probation officer on Nov. 19.

The first warrant was issued Nov. 20 and recalled the next day, at the request of Portland police. The warrant was again issued Nov. 29, and recalled Monday, this time at the request of the Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office. The warrant was issued Tuesday, once again, on the same charge.

Clifford Strike, the lawyer who represented Gorman in the burglary and theft case, last heard from Gorman in August or September. He said he remembered Gorman as a young man without much of a criminal record.

Westbrook Police Chief Steven Roberts refused to comment on Gorman.

“I don’t have any intent of jeopardizing an investigation that’s ongoing at this point,” said Roberts.

A woman who answered the door Tuesday at 68 County Road, Gorman’s address according to court documents, said “no comment.”

Few footprints
The house is a few hundred yards down the road from the wooded lot where St. Laurent’s body was discovered.

Wanda Donovan, whose home is right next to the property where St. Laurent’s body was found, said the dirt road there can be busy.

“I see a lot of activity down that road,” she said. It’s mostly hunters, but she said she had heard that there is an old gravel pit back in there.

Donovan was unsettled by the discovery.

“I’m trying not to think about it too much,” she said.

Scarborough’s Chief Moulton said the area is not a so-called “dumping ground” for evidence criminals want to conceal. He recalls that there was a chicken coop in the area, where a runaway would hide years ago, but hasn’t heard anything suspicious about the property since.

Joan Deveau owns the house at 68 County Road, according to town records. Although neighbors said Gorman had been in the neighborhood for a couple years, none of the neighbors interviewed by the Current knew Gorman or his relation to the Deveaus.

Gorman, who was born in Troy, Ala., didn’t attend high school in Scarborough or Westbrook, according to school records.

Richard Hillock, who lives across the street from 68 County Road, said he had seen Gorman around, but never spoke to him. He said he hadn’t seen him in the last couple of weeks.

Although Hillock said he had spoken to the Deveaus on a few occasions, he didn’t know how Gorman had come to stay at the house across the road.

Gorman worked part time at 1st Stop convenience store down the road for a couple of weeks “a year or two ago,” according to Don Cook, the owner.

Cook couldn’t remember any details about Gorman. “I wouldn’t recognize him if he walked in here today,” said Cook. “You could be him.”

Cook couldn’t remember whether Gorman had quit, but he couldn’t remember firing him. “I think he just didn’t show up,” he said. Cook hasn’t seen him since then.

A fortunate find
The discovery of St. Laurent’s body came as a result of the efforts of the Maine Warden Service, according to Chitwood.

Wardens provided about 85 volunteers and several cadaver search dogs. They also used computerized search-planning software to design a search of the area in question.

“The warden service was unbelievable,” Chitwood said.

On Saturday afternoon, a volunteer came out of a line of trees and had to step down a bit. He put his foot into an area of soft dirt and took a step back to look more closely. He realized the area there was disturbed, according to Chitwood.

The searcher called others to the area. A Portland police detective got on his knees in the dirt. Digging carefully, the detective went down about 18 or 20 inches, at which point he felt a sweatshirt.

It was then that they knew they had something big, according to Chitwood. They set up lights and brought in a medical examiner, an archaeologist and other police officials to photograph and document the scene and recover evidence.

Three to four hours later, after dark and just before snow began to blanket the area, they were finished and removed St. Laurent’s body.

“Had we not found her body that day, we would probably have never found it,” Chitwood said.