Interviews with nearly 50 witnesses have failed to produce a clear suspect in Saturday’s stabbing death of a Gorham High School student, and Portland police on Monday appealed for new information in the case.Interviews with nearly 50 witnesses have failed to produce a clear suspect in Saturday’s stabbing death of a Gorham High School student, and Portland police on Monday appealed for new information in the case.

“It’s a very frustrating investigation, ” said Police Chief Michael Chitwood of the probe into the death of Robert Joyal, 18, of Gorham.

Joyal died early Saturday morning of multiple stab wounds suffered during an altercation outside Denny’s Restaurant on Congress Street. The dispute involved several dozen teen-agers and is believed to have begun earlier in the evening at the Metropolis dance club on Forest Avenue.

“We interviewed up to 50 people, and we can’t get one of them to tell us who did the stabbing, ” Chitwood said. “I think that some of these people are not telling us the whole truth.”

He appealed for new witnesses, more information from existing witnesses and the intercession of parents, who Chitwood said could help persuade their children to provide new details in the killing.

In Gorham on Monday, high school administrators designated special rooms for students who wanted to talk with one another or with counselors about Joyal’s life and his death, as well as the unrelated killing of a service station attendant in Gorham just hours after Joyal was stabbed.

“Privacy was provided as needed, ” said Roy Bishop, superintendent of Gorham schools. “The whole day had what I’d call a sense of flux.”

He said a significant number of students came together at a special assembly late in the day to share tears of grief, celebratory stories of Joyal’s life and fears springing from last weekend’s two violent deaths.

Several hundred gathered again Monday night to hold a candlelight vigil for Joyal.

Placing their lighted candles in a small area on the sidewalk in front of the school, along with mementos such as a baseball cap, students hugged, cried and spoke out against senseless violence.

Meanwhile, Portland police revealed for the first time Monday that they believe they possess the weapon used to kill Joyal. Chitwood described it as a 10-inch-long, double-edged knife.

“This is not a kitchen knife that you use to butter your bread, ” Chitwood said during a news conference. This weapon and another knife confiscated at the scene “were there for one reason – and one reason only – to hurt people, ” he said.

Police confiscated the knives at the scene of the stabbing Saturday, but officers had previously declined to say whether one of the knives was used in the killing.

Chitwood declined to say whether police believe the second knife played any role in the killing or the events leading up to Joyal’s death. Forensic tests on the knives are under way.

Chitwood also gave new details on what police believe happened early Saturday morning:

Joyal and another person became involved in a fistfight in the parking lot of Denny’s, probably a continuation of a dispute over a young woman that began earlier at the Metropolis, Chitwood said.

“The victim was fighting with another guy, ” Chitwood said. “They were on the ground rolling around, hitting each other.

“Preliminarily, it appears someone else came up and stabbed (Joyal) in the back while he was on the ground, ” Chitwood said.

Several dozen people were either watching the fight or standing nearby, often pushing and shoving one another, Chitwood said. The large number of potential witnesses suggests that someone knows more than he or she is telling, he said.

Chitwood said a combination of factors – including fear, misplaced loyalty and a desire not to be a snitch – all may be making witnesses reluctant to provide more information.

Finally, Chitwood criticized the managers of Denny’s and the Metropolis for not providing better security in their parking lots.

“They are going to have to share some responsibility, ” he said.

Police have responded to 82 calls during the past year from Denny’s, including 22 for groups of people fighting or otherwise causing disturbances in the parking lot, Chitwood said. Police also have been called to the parking lot at Metropolis, he said.

Chitwood plans to ask the management of both establishments to beef up security.

The Denny’s manager, Michael Ferris, declined comment Monday. The Metropolis manager, David Cole, could not be reached for comment.

Finally, Chitwood told parents that they need to do a better job of keeping their children indoors late at night. The kind of roving teen-age groups that ended up in Denny’s parking lot last weekend often lead to gang formation, racial incidents and random violence, he said.

“If you don’t know where your kids are when they are 15 or 16 years old, there’s going to be problems, ” Chitwood said.Caption: