Wednesday, December 11, 2013
By BETTY ADAMS and CRAIG CROSBY Kennebec Journal
AUGUSTA – Police know how Blanche Kimball was murdered 36 years ago, and now they believe they have found her killer.
In this file photo, the Kimball house at 352 State Street in Augusta, near the Hallowell city line.
Augusta Deputy Police Chief Jared Mills, left, and State Police Lt Chris Coleman answer questions on Tuesday afternoon in Augusta about the arrest in Seattle of Gary Raub, 63, who allegedly stabbed a 70-year-old Augusta woman to death in 1976. Blanche Kimball was found dead in her 352 State St. home June 12, 1976, after neighbors called to say she hadn't been seen for several days.
Joe Phelan / Staff Photographer
But the woman at the heart of the investigation remains a mystery. She left behind only a few distant relatives and a small paper trail of her life.
State police Lt. Christopher Coleman said police are compelled to investigate cold cases like Kimball's even when there aren't many loved ones seeking justice.
Gary Sanford Raub, 63, who has spent at least the past several years living on the streets of Seattle, has been charged with murdering Kimball, who was stabbed to death. Raub made his first court appearance Tuesday and is being held in the Seattle Correctional Facility on $1.5 million bail.
Even as DNA evidence and investigative work have given authorities what they believe to be a clear picture of the killing in Kimball's home in June 1976, investigators are trying to learn basic details about the first 70 years of Kimball's life.
"We're hoping some of this publicity will help us find out where her family was and what her background was," Coleman said. He hopes that family members will come forward to speak to police.
Coleman said Kimball's only known relative, who doesn't want to speak to the media, is pleased that someone has been charged with her murder.
Much of what is known about Kimball comes from a brief obituary, which says she was a practical nurse and a dental technician and worked at the Veterans Administration Center at Togus. She retired in 1973.
Kimball was born in Albany Township on March 27, 1906.
The only surviving relatives listed in Kimball's obituary are two aunts -- Gladys Swan of Melrose, Mass., who died in 1989, and Tessie Godfrey of Santa Cruz, Calif. -- and several cousins whose names weren't included. "Investigators struggled even back then to find her next of kin," said Deputy Chief Jared Mills of the Augusta police. "They finally found her aunt in Massachusetts."
Attempts Wednesday to find residents in Albany Township who knew Kimball or her family were unsuccessful. The township is an unorganized territory outside Bethel, in western Maine.
Meanwhile, longtime residents of the area in Augusta where Kimball lived said Wednesday they didn't recall her. Most had no memory of the murder, although one man said he recalled reading about it in 1976.
Even if investigators never learn what Kimball was like, Mills said they never forgot who she was. "She's a human being," he said.
Police have shared little more information about Raub. An affidavit filed in Kennebec County Superior Court indicates Raub, who rented a room from Kimball, was a suspect early on but police couldn't find the evidence to charge him.
Augusta and state police detectives specifically searched for shoes to match to a blood print left on a box. Raub, who went by the name Gary Robert Wilson at the time, said he had just one pair of sneakers, which he had bought shortly after the date that police believe the killing occurred. Raub said he threw his old shoes in the dump. Police searched, but never found the shoes.
A turning point in the search for Kimball's killer came in October 2011, when Raub was charged in connection with a Seattle stabbing. DNA from his chewing gum led to his arrest in the murder of Kimball.
The state of Maine has more than 60 open murder investigations. Each one is assigned to a detective who is responsible for knowing the details of the case, Coleman said.
Detectives are always looking for the next piece of evidence that will complete the puzzle.
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