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November 24, 2012

Family photo

Samantha Folsom holds her kitten, Gadget, in this 2010 photo.

Who killed Samantha? A year later, friends and family still don't know

By Scott Dolan
sdolan@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

LEWISTON - Their adult daughter had been missing for three days last year when Jon and Joline Turner took matters into their own hands.

"We had a really bad feeling even before we left the house," Joline Turner said. "I knew something was wrong," she added, but nothing could prepare them for what they would find.

Samantha Folsom, a young, single mother with a drug problem, was supposed to have gone back into rehab. She was supposed to have called. And when days passed and they hadn't heard from their daughter and they'd filled her voice-mail box with messages, the Turners went to her apartment at the Place Ste. Marie complex on Oxford Street.

They asked a maintenance worker to unlock her door, and when they went inside, they found the television and the lights had been left on. Though it was a cold day in November, the windows were open and a window fan whirred.

They walked through the two-story apartment. Upstairs, they found Gadget, their daughter's cat. No one else appeared to be home.

Then they opened a closet door by the front entryway downstairs.

Samantha Folsom lay inside, curled up in a fetal position, her face turned away. The Turners' 26-year-old daughter was dead.

"It felt like someone had punched me," Joline Turner said.

That was Nov. 9, 2011.

More than a year later, police have yet to charge anyone with the slaying, nor have they named any suspects. It was only this month -- on the first anniversary of her death -- that authorities even revealed that her death had been ruled a homicide.

Folsom's death has torn her family apart and confounded those who knew her.

Now, the longer the investigation drags on, the more frustrated her family and loved ones become at the thought that her killer will never be charged. And without answers, acquaintances and neighbors at Place Ste. Marie live in fear about what happened to Samantha Folsom.

Joline Turner, who with her husband had been caring for her daughter's young son, said she had expected to hear from Folsom on the night she died and became even more concerned the next day, when there was still no communication.

"She was supposed to go back in rehab the next day. She had said, 'I'd been clean.' " Turner recalled. "She sounded really good, positive, like the old Sammy again trying to kick the habit so she could get her son back."

A PROMISING LIFE DERAILED BY DRUGS

In the year since their daughter's killing, grief has driven the Turners apart. Jon Turner still lives in the split-level ranch home where Folsom grew up in Greene, but his wife has moved to an apartment in Lewiston. They remain on good terms and still talk to each other, but they no longer take care of Folsom's son, now 4 years old, as they were doing before their daughter died. The boy now lives with other relatives on his grandmother's side.

"It was too much for her," Jon Turner said of his wife's grief. They separated after 32 years of marriage.

But on Thanksgiving morning last week, they came together to share photos and stories of their daughter's life, including photos from Folsom's funeral, and to talk about the harrowing memory of finding her body.

Born Samantha Elizabeth Turner, she grew up inseparable from her older brother, Jonathan. They did everything together, from Campfire to karate, swimming and soccer. Folsom even tagged along to her big brother's Boy Scout events, her parents said.

In middle school, she became a cheerleader. When she was at Leavitt Area High School in Turner, she cheered for the Portland Pirates hockey team and was captain of the junior varsity cheerleaders.

"She was really popular," her father said.

In school, Folsom always stuck up for kids who couldn't defend themselves. She always rooted for the underdog, her parents said.

She loved animals, too. In second grade, she brought home her first cat, Moo Moo. Now 20 years old, Moo Moo is still part of the family, sitting on the couch between Folsom's parents as they talked. Later, there were more cats, some of which live with her father now and others at her mother's apartment.

Folsom also loved music, especially the rap group Insane Clown Posse, but she even liked the disco music that her parents listened to.

"She was really funny," said Sam York, her best friend from high school, who now lives in Colorado. "She was a fun person to be around. She didn't want anyone to be sad."

After high school, York set her up on a blind date with Jesse Folsom, who was a year younger than she was, at the Schemengee's pool hall in Lewiston. Within weeks, they were a couple.

Jesse Folsom finished his high-school equivalency with help from the Turners and joined the Army. Samantha and Jesse married on Dec. 29, 2005, and moved to Fort Irwin in Barstow, Calif., where he was stationed.

"It was kind of a rush wedding," said Jesse Folsom, who now lives with his family in Buckfield. "We didn't have much money. I had just finished basic (training)."

When they moved to California, he said, they were excited to leave Maine. In photos from that time, Jesse is clean-cut, with a military bearing. Samantha smiles in every picture.

"We got out," he said. "We had our own life. We had a house."

They traveled frequently to Las Vegas. They walked along Hollywood Boulevard in Los Angeles. There were cookouts at the Army base.

But they also started using heroin, and Samantha got hooked.

"Sam was a good soul," her father said. "She really was a good girl, but she was addicted to a really bad drug."

Along with the bad came one of the best moments of Jesse Folsom's life: The young couple had a son, born in June 2008.

"That was one of the best times of our life," he said.

But it all fell apart when they moved back to Maine in 2009. Jesse Folsom wanted to return to his home and family, but Samantha wanted to stay in California. He left active duty in the Army but stayed in the Army Reserves, he said. They lived with the Turners in Greene for a while until their marriage failed and they separated, although they never followed through with a divorce.

"Drugs are a bad thing," Jesse Folsom said. "It's the one thing that really ruined us."

Initially, their son lived with Samantha Folsom as she moved into her apartment at Place Ste. Marie, but as she struggled with her addiction and rehab, the Turners took over the care of their grandson.

"She loved that little boy," Joline Turner said. "She loved him enough to give him up."

WHAT THE NEIGHBORS KNOW

Place Ste. Marie at 64 Oxford St., the apartment complex where Samantha Folsom lived and died, has two identical buildings. Folsom lived in apartment S3E, one of nine apartments on the third floor.

Kitty Schmutte, a retiree, has lived in apartment S2C, directly below Folsom's apartment, for 13 years. She said she was shocked when she heard Folsom had been killed in the building.

"I heard nothing, no arguments, no fights, nothing," she said.

She said Folsom was always neighborly, and often the loudest noises in Place Ste. Marie were the sounds of children playing.

"It's very peaceful," Schmutte said. "It was a shock to everyone."

Schmutte said police interviewed her, as they did the other tenants, but she heard nothing the night Samantha Folsom died.

Folsom's next-door neighbor, Crystal Murphy, said the apartments at Place Ste. Marie are so close together that everyone knows each other's business. The front door of the apartment where Murphy lives with her three young boys is only about 10 feet from Folsom's.

"Her boy was the same age as my middle boy," Murphy said. "She'd let him out to play, and I'd let my boys out to play."

Murphy said she first learned about Folsom's death when her eldest son, then a first-grader, came home from school and told her that "police were everywhere."

Police questioned Murphy, who said officers showed her a photo of a man and asked if she had seen him.

"They didn't give me a name," Murphy said. She was not shown any other photos.

Murphy said she remembers the man in the picture: He was well-dressed, wearing a button-down shirt and tie. He also wore an identification badge around his neck, she said.

"He is a man who must obviously be in some position of authority," Murphy said. She described the man in the photo as dark-skinned and appearing to be in his late 20s or 30s.

Murphy said she knew Folsom had been away for some time in the months before she died. Folsom had gone into rehab -- to become fit again to be a mother to her son, she said -- and then kept to herself when she returned.

"It's extremely unfortunate," Murphy said. "It's definitely not something she deserved."

On the day his estranged wife died, Jesse Folsom was in jail. After he and Samantha separated, he started getting in trouble with the law, mostly motor vehicle offenses in the beginning. But Samantha started dating another man after they separated. Jesse Folsom assaulted that man and was serving time in jail for that attack at the time of her death.

He was told of her death on Nov. 9, the day she was found, at exactly 10:38 p.m., he said. The news hit him hard.

"I've never felt something like that in my life," he said.

Since 2010, Jesse Folsom said, he has stayed clean and drug-free.

POLICE: 'WE HAVE SOME LEADS'

Neither Lewiston police nor Maine State Police will say much about the hunt for Samantha Folsom's killer.

Lewiston Police Lt. Detective Michael McGonagle said the investigation into her death is open and active.

"We're still investigating it. We're working with the Maine State Police detectives," McGonagle said. "We have some leads."

He deferred further comment to the state police. Steve McCausland, the Maine Department of Public Safety spokesman, declined to say anything about the investigation other than to confirm that the case had been considered a homicide long before that was announced.

"We had never publicly announced that until recently," McCausland said, adding that it was designated a homicide at the beginning of the year.

The public acknowledgment coincided with the first anniversary of Folsom's death, but police aren't releasing any other information.

"We've said very little about the case and continue to do so," McCausland said.

He would not say whether police have identified any suspects or a motive. He also declined to say how Folsom died.

"The Medical Examiner's Office is not releasing any information on this case at the request of the Attorney General's Office," McCausland said.

Folsom's parents said it is frustrating to wait and not learn anything new about how their daughter died or who is responsible for her death.

Jon Turner said he hopes his daughter's killer is found and brought to justice, but he and Joline take solace in other things.

"We just keep our faith in God that he'll take care of it on his end," he said. "Sammy's in a better place. At least we know where she is." 

Staff Writer Scott Dolan can be contacted at: 791-6304 or at

sdolan@mainetoday.com



Scott Dolan/Staff Writer

Folsom’s parents, Jon and Joline Turner, talk on Thanksgiving morning about the day last year when they found their daughter dead, and the toll it has taken. “It felt like someone had punched me,” Joline Turner said. Investigators ruled Folsom’s death a homicide early this year.

Scott Dolan/Staff Writer

The apartment complex where Samantha Folsom lived is called Place Ste. Marie, located at 64 Oxford St. in Lewiston.

Scott Dolan/Staff Writer

Folsom’s next-door neighbor, Crystal Murphy, stands in the doorway of the apartment where Folsom was killed. She says everyone in the complex knows each other’s business.



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