PORTLAND – A man who told police that Elena Lozada died of a drug overdose burned her body before leaving it in the woods of Waldo County last summer, according to the young woman’s mother.

Police say Nathaniel Pete Mincher, 36, of Saco told detectives that Lozada died after they took drugs together and that he took her body to Northport, where police found it in April. Carrie Cronkite, Lozada’s mother, said police told her that Mincher had burned her daughter’s body, but she did not know to what extent.

“When you burn something, you’re trying to get rid of evidence,” Cronkite said.

Mincher, who served six years in prison on an arson conviction, declined to comment Thursday on whether he burned Lozada’s body.

“I would like to refrain from commenting any further on the case except to … convey our most sincere regards to Elena’s family,” he said in a telephone call with a reporter. Mincher’s lawyer, Sarah Churchill, did not return calls.

Portland Police Lt. Gary Rogers, head of detectives, declined to comment.

Lozada, 24, disappeared in July. She struggled with mental illness and began abusing street drugs as a teen, her mother said.

Before she disappeared, Lozada had finished a hospital drug rehabilitation program. In the last conversation she had with her mother, Lozada said she didn’t want to go into the follow-up residential program and was going to Boston instead.

Mincher came forward in February and said he had picked up Lozada on Congress Street on July 10, they had done drugs together, and she had overdosed, according to police. After an unsuccessful search in February of an area off Route 52 in Northport, authorities were able to recover Lozada’s remains during two separate searches of the same area last month.

Mincher has not been charged. Police describe him as a person of interest and are hoping the release of his name will generate additional tips. Rogers said Thursday that police have received a lot of information since they publicized details of the case Tuesday.

Cronkite questions why Mincher didn’t call 911 or otherwise help her daughter. Cronkite, a nurse, said antidotes to opioid overdose, such as Narcan, can revive people who appear to have succumbed. Chest compression or mouth-to-mouth resuscitation also might have helped, she said.

“To me, that’s enough to convict someone of murder — not getting someone medical help,” she said.

It’s not clear what charges, if any, investigators and prosecutors are considering for Mincher.

If he provided the drugs, there could be some criminal liability, but there’s no legal obligation in Maine to provide help to someone in distress, said David J. Mitchell, president of the Maine Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers.

“As odd as it sounds, I don’t think he has any obligation, legally. Morally, it’s a different issue,” he said. It is a misdemeanor in Maine to abuse a corpse.

Mincher’s criminal record includes felony convictions for arson, theft by deception, perjury and theft by unauthorized taking or transfer.

He was convicted in 1997 in Kennebec County Superior Court after he and another man set up ghost companies to defraud banks and set fire to a house for insurance money. According to a news article that year, the investigation had stalled until Mincher approached a Waterville detective and said he had information. The detective said Mincher was caught in at least three lies as they discussed bad checks with Mincher’s name on them before Mincher changed the subject to arson. Police said they later obtained confessions from Mincher and the other man, Leigh Shorey of Waterville.

The perjury case concerned Mincher’s claims, made while he was incarcerated at the Maine Correctional Center in Windham, that he had an immunity agreement with Waterville police.

Staff Writer Ann S. Kim can be contacted at 791-6383 or at:

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