Poetry in Justice: A brilliant chemist is murdered while working on a new DNA method. Years later, that very technology will trap her killer.
After the Fire: Donald had only just met Judith when he asked her to marry him. He barely lived long enough to regret his mistake.
The Killer Upstairs: The man at the door said that he lived upstairs and asked if he could borrow a cup of sugar. Felicia let him in. That was a mistake.
Evil Eyes: A savage murder in a small town goes unsolved for decades. When the killer’s identity is finally uncovered, it will leave the community stunned.
Goodbye, Krystal Jean: Krystal Jean bore a stunning resemblance to her famous aunt, Marilyn Monroe. Like Marilyn, she’d meet a tragic end.
Living the Low Life: The discovery of charred bones solves a decade old missing person case. But does the hiker who found them know more than he’s saying?
Repertoire of Lies: Jane never expected to love again after the sudden death of her husband. But then there was Tom. Smooth-talking Tom. Lying Tom.
Cold Cases: Solved! Volume 5
At around 9 a.m. on the morning of Sunday, September 16, 1973, two Maine State Police detectives arrived at the Dill residence in West Gardiner. Robert and Janice Dill were asked to step outside so that the officers could speak privately with them. What they had to share was devastating. The body of a young woman had been found beside her car on Whippoorwill Road in nearby Litchfield, a location so remote that the locals called it Purgatory. The car was registered to the Dills’ oldest daughter, Debbie, and the police needed them to come down to the morgue to identify her body.
Thus began a descent into hell for the Dill family. The body at the morgue was badly beaten, her facial features battered and bruised. Janice and Robert only recognized their 18-year-old daughter by a small scar on her forehead. Questioning the officers, Robert learned that his daughter’s car had apparently run off the road and that she had then been attacked with a hammer, beaten so savagely on the head that there were holes punched through her skull. Debbie had never stood a chance, but she’d put up a fierce fight. Blood and skin cells were retrieved from under her fingernails. Since the body was found with its lower garments removed the suggestion was that this was a sexually motivated attack although the autopsy results would be inconclusive.
Robert and Janice Dill returned to their home that day broken. Still, there was a terrible duty to perform. They had to tell their children that Debbie was dead. That task fell to Robert, but he could not bring himself to utter the word ‘murder’ in reference to his oldest child. He told Debbie’s siblings that she had died in a car accident. That family secret would prevail for the next seven years.
In the meantime, there was a homicide investigation to run, a brutal killer to be taken off the streets. The obvious place to start the inquiries was with those closest to the victim. According to the Dills, their daughter had recently become engaged to a young man named Kenneth Gillman, who happened to be a Lewiston police officer.
Brought in for questioning, Gillman said that he’d last seen Debbie when she left his apartment just before 1 a.m. Sunday morning. Debbie had brought along some wedding invitations to show him, and this had led to some tension between them. Ken had told her that she was moving too fast. He wasn’t sure if he was ready to settle down just yet.
Might that have been a motive for murder? Had he and Debbie argued about their conflicting relationship goals? Gillman said no and he had the perfect alibi to back up his denials. He’d been working a shift and had attended to several verifiable complaints, including a domestic disturbance. That eliminated him as a person of interest.
The next suspect to emerge in the Debra Dill investigation came straight out of left field. Two days after the murder, on September 18, police received a report of a man ‘behaving strangely’ at a local restaurant. Taken into custody, the man continued his bizarre ranting, telling the officers that he had gotten into a fight with a man and had struck him with a hammer. Then he said that he’d argued with a woman wearing brown slacks. That caused the officers to sit up and take notice. Debra Dill had been killed with a hammer and had been wearing brown slacks at the time of her death. Had the police just lucked out in trapping their killer?
The answer to that question was no. The man did have a hammer, which the police found lying beside his car. That hammer had blood on it, but it was not Debra Dill’s blood. The police had learned in the interim that the suspect was a former mental patient. His known movements at the time of Debbie’s murder meant that he could not have killed her. Since they could not link him to any crime, he was free to go.
There would be one more serious suspect over the course of the investigation. His name was Frank White, and he was Debbie Dill’s former boyfriend. By all accounts, he’d been upset by their breakup, madder still when he learned that she was engaged to be married. That, of course, gave him a strong motive but he also had an alibi. He’d been partying with friends on the night of the murder. At least six people could vouch for his whereabouts.
White was cut up over Debbie’s death, certainly more affected than Ken Gillman. Two months after he was questioned by police, Frank White took his own life. Some in West Gardiner believed that he was driven to suicide by guilt. Others held that he could not deal with the death of the woman he still loved.
In any unsolved homicide, there comes a point where investigators can go no further. All of the leads have been run down, all of the suspects questioned and eliminated. The Dill case had been worked hard, generating a ton of paperwork that included over 400 recorded interviews. It had reached the point that all investigators dread. The trail had gone cold. It would remain so until 1986 when it landed on the desk of Detective Steven Drake, newly assigned to the Maine State Police’s cold case division.
Eager to make his mark on a case that most considered unsolvable, Drake worked the clues hard, keeping at it for two years solid, going over every scrap of evidence. Then, in 1988, he got an unexpected break. It came via a telephone call from the Bridgeport Correction Center in Connecticut, where a prisoner had confessed to killing a man in a bar fight in Maine back in 1973.
The inmate who’d made this admission was a habitual criminal named Michael Boucher, a name that meant nothing to Drake at that time. And the confession that he’d made appeared false. Try as he might, Drake could find no record of a fatal bar fight during the time frame mentioned. Then Drake started looking into Boucher’s background. What he found, made him sit up and pay attention.
For starters, Boucher was a man with a long history of violence against women. Second, he was a native of Lewiston and had been living in the area at the time that Debbie Dill was murdered. Was it possible that he might have been involved? To test that theory, Drake tracked down one of Boucher’s victims, a woman named Emily Campbell.
The attack on Emily Campbell had occurred in the early morning hours of June 4, 1974, nine months after Debbie Dill was bludgeoned to death. Emily had worked a late shift that night and was driving home when she was rear-ended by another vehicle. Thinking that it was an accident, she pulled over. The other vehicle then stopped behind her, with the driver remaining inside. Emily took a notepad out of her glove compartment and got out of her car so that she could write down the other driver’s license plate number. She was doing that when the driver suddenly emerged, holding a length of steel pipe.
Emily was struck several times but managed to get back into her vehicle. She kicked at her attacker as he tried to drag her out and was able to fend him off while she got the passenger door open. Then she was out the other side and running before her attacker could round the vehicle to stop her. Fortunately, she could remember his license plate number and later passed it on to the police. She was also able to pick out Michael Boucher from a photo array.
This technique, called ‘bump and run’ by the police, is a common tactic employed by certain rapists. They deliberately drive into the vehicle of an intended victim, hoping they’ll take it as an accident and pull over. Now Det. Drake had to wonder whether the same technique had been used on Debbie Dill. An examination of the crime scene photos confirmed that it had. There were noticeable impact marks on the rear bumper of Debbie’s car. That confirmed the M.O. Now, Drake had to see if he could place Boucher at the scene.
And so, Det. Drake tracked down one of Michael Boucher’s former wives, a woman named Anita. She was more than willing to cooperate and what she had to say was illuminating. In the early morning hours of September 16, 1973, Boucher had arrived home covered in blood, his hands cut and bruised. He claimed that he’d been involved in a fight and handed his bloody clothes to his wife, telling her to wash them right away. Later that morning he asked her to help him clean his car. While doing so, she discovered a hammer under the driver’s seat. It was covered in red, rust-like stains and so she asked if she should wash it. Boucher said no. He was going to get rid of it.
Months later, Boucher would confess to his wife that he’d lied about the fight. He told her that he’d driven a woman off the road and beaten her to death. The woman, he claimed, had insulted him after they met in a donut shop. Anita wasn’t sure if she believed him, but she knew what her husband was capable of. In fact, she was so terrified of Michael Boucher that she continued to keep his secret, even after they divorced.
This was explosive evidence. But Drake knew that he would need something to corroborate it, some means of linking Boucher to Debbie Dill. And so, the detective obtained a warrant for Boucher’s last known address. It was here, in the garage, that he found what he was looking for. The killer had kept trophies from the many women he’d victimized over the years. Among those was an invitation to an event that would never happen, the wedding invitation that Debbie had so excitedly shown to her fiancé on the night that she died.
Investigators now believed that they could piece together the last hours of Debbie Dill’s life. After leaving Ken Gillman’s apartment, the young woman had driven towards her parents’ home in nearby West Gardiner. On the way there, she’d made the fateful decision to stop at a donut shop. She wanted to surprise her siblings with a treat at breakfast. It was at the donut shop that Michael Boucher spotted her. When Debbie drove away, he followed.
Whippoorwill Road was a familiar shortcut for Debbie but on this night, it played right into the hands of her pursuer. Had she taken the turnpike, he would never have had the opportunity to run her off the road. As it was, he hit her from behind, causing her to pull over. Then, as Boucher approached her vehicle, Debbie must have had a premonition of danger because she drove off again.
But that only served to anger Boucher. When he rear-ended Debbie for a second time, it was with enough force to send her vehicle careening off into the bushes. Boucher then approached, holding a hammer. He pulled Debbie kicking and screaming from the car and launched a frenzied attack, causing irreparable damage to her skull. Then, according to what he later told his wife, he raped her, inflicting the final indignity as she lay dying or already dead.
The Maine police were now confident that they had their man. However, it would take a laborious two-year process before Boucher was eventually extradited to stand trial. Court proceedings began in the summer of 1991 and resulted in a guilty verdict and a sentence of life in prison. The sentence, however, fell under the statute in place at the time of the murder. That meant that Boucher would be eligible for release in just ten years.
Michael Boucher has come up for parole five times. On each of those occasions, Debbie Dill’s siblings have appeared before the board to oppose his application. They have vowed to continue the fight until Boucher eventually dies behind bars. Now in his seventies, Boucher remains in prison, serving his own form of purgatory.
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