SACO — Police searched a home in rural Saco on Thursday, looking for clues in the killing of a 15-year-old Thornton Academy student.

Detectives say the mobile home on Mast Hill Road is the last place Ashley Ouellette was known to be seen alive. She got there around 12:30 a.m. Wednesday, they said, 3 1/2 hours before her body was found face down in the middle of Pine Point Road in Scarborough.

“She arrived there in the early morning hours intending to stay the night. We’re trying to retrace her footsteps of the last night she was alive,” said Stephen McCausland, spokesman for the Maine State Police.

No one has been arrested. The results of an autopsy performed Wednesday have not been released.

At Thornton Academy, sophomores collected a notebook of letters offering condolences to the Ouellette family, and filled a banner with messages to Ashley. “I’ll miss your smile,” one student wrote.

Students were quiet during a short, all-school assembly to help them deal with the loss of the outgoing, compassionate and sometimes rebellious schoolmate.

During the gathering, several of Ouellette’s female friends sobbed. When Headmaster Carl Stasio finished his brief talk, the students sat motionless on the bleachers until faculty dismissed them.

“There are no right feelings or wrong feelings today,” Stasio said. “It is a grim day at our school.”

Thirty investigators from the state, Scarborough and Saco police departments and the Violent Crimes Task Force have interviewed 150 people. By the end of the day, they were calling Ouellette’s death a murder.

Police would not say what they were looking for in the mobile home. The residents were interviewed by police. Some interviews were held at the Scarborough police station.

The day before, police impounded an Eagle Summit belonging to the owners of the home.

Detectives stopped cars along Pine Point Road between 3:30 and 4 a.m. Thursday, hoping to find anyone who might have seen something around the same time the day before, said state police Sgt. Matthew Stewart. He said the effort provided helpful information, but wouldn’t elaborate.

Police in helicopters took aerial photos of the Pine Point Road area where Ouellette’s body was found, and of the neighborhood around Mast Hill Road.

Michael Lopes of Old Orchard Beach, the motorist who found Ouellette’s body Wednesday morning and performed cardiopulmonary resuscitation, has said he noticed a small amount of blood around her nose and mouth.

The parents of the girl, Robert and Lise Ouellette, did not know until midday Wednesday that their daughter was missing. They found out after friends saw a noontime newscast that included a description of the body.

The Ouellettes thought their daughter had been at school.

The night before she had called home around 10:30.

“She was spending the night at a (female friend’s) house less than a mile away,” said Robert Ouellette, a well-known Saco realtor. “She said she was in for the night and said goodnight to her mother. We don’t know what happened after 10:30.”

Ashley Ouellette didn’t participate in extracurricular activities, but she recently found academic success in Thornton’s alternative education program. She liked the independent study and the one-on-one instruction.

“Students are in this program for a variety of reasons” said program director Leon Hadiaris. “But for the most part, they haven’t had a whole lot of success in mainstream classes. Here, (Ouellette) worked all the time. She was a very capable girl. She dove into anything she attempted.”

Hadiaris was most impressed with the respect and compassion Ouellette showed her friends and acquaintances. He recalled how she helped a friend through a recent pregnancy.

And he remembered how once, when a couple of girls showed up at a school dance after an athletic event and were concerned about their appearance, Ouellette took them aside and shared her makeup and jewelry with them.

“Her whole life revolved around being with her friends,” Hadiaris said. “She was part of a very tight group. She was just a very caring person, and people gravitated toward her.”

Ouellette’s father credits Hadiaris’ program with helping to set his daughter on a positive path. He said his daughter went through a rebellious period in recent years but “we got beyond that.”

Mature for her age, Ouellette had many older friends. Last year, during her freshman year at Thornton, she grew close to then-senior Heather Hill.

“Ashley was like my little sister,” Hill said. “I watched over her. She liked to have a good time like anyone else, but she wasn’t a huge partier. She always liked to have people around her.”

At Thornton Academy, 10 counselors, including several volunteers from the Center for Grieving Children in Portland, talked with students throughout the day, including at an afternoon assembly of the 254-member sophomore class.

Another schoolwide meeting was scheduled for this morning, and the sophomore class plans to erect an indoor memorial and hold a private service for Ouellette this afternoon.


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