BIDDEFORD — May 21, 1999 was the last time college student Angel Antonio Torres was seen.

According to his mother, Ramona Torres, a boy named Jason was supposedly the last person to see her son at about 2 a.m. in Biddeford. She said she was told that Jason had dropped off her son so he could catch a ride to Denmark, where the Torres family still lives.

No one has come forward to explain where Angel Torres went or whether he is dead or alive. Torres remains missing.

Fifteen-year-old Ashley Ouellette of Saco was found dead lying in the middle of the Pine Point Road in Scarborough on Feb. 10, 1999 around 4 a.m. She was last seen alive at a home in Saco two hours earlier.

No one has come forward with answers to her murder.

In the summer of 1978, Kennebunk High School senior Mary Ellen Tanner went missing three weeks after her 18th birthday. Soon afterward, her body was found in Gracie Evans Field, an isolated tract of land near West Kennebunk.

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That crime remains unsolved as well.

These are just three of the approximately 120 unsolved homicides, missing persons cases and suspicious deaths in Maine since 1953. Considered “cold cases,” there are few resources that police and prosecutors have to dedicate to solving these crimes.

Ramona Torres said while state police review her son’s case several times a year, “our case is again unattended when a new, fresh case takes precedence.”

While she said she believes police do the best they can with the resources they have, any new leads in the case generated grow cold by the time detectives have time to look into it again.

Earlier this year, Torres, who is still waiting for answers about her son, was part of a group of family members and friends of murdered and missing persons who advocated for state legislation to create a cold case squad. The primary focus of the unit was to prioritize and investigate cold cases that remained unsolved.

The legislation, LD 1734, was passed earlier this year.

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Angie Presby of Saco, a friend of Ouellette, said by having a staff dedicated to cold cases, there would be more time spent on them and it would give victims’ families a sense of hope.

“It may not solve them all, but at least the attention needed for these cases will be in the forefront now,” she said in an prior interview. “Someone will show up to work each day and their sole focus will be putting these cases to rest.”

The bill was one of the highest priorities of the Legislature’s judiciary committee, said state Sen. Linda Valentine, D-Saco, senate chair of that committee.

During a public hearing in February she said: “I heard from parents of murder victims, social workers, Deputy Attorney General William Stokes and Maj. Chris Grotten of the Maine State Police. The message was clear: If we want to be able to solve these crimes and bring the killers to justice, we need more investigators who can focus their skills solely on solving these crimes.”

Although the bill passed and was supported and signed into law by Gov. Paul LePage, funding for a forensic scientist and two additional investigators was not.

Last week, the Maine Office of the Attorney General submitted an application to the U.S. Department of Justice’s National Institute of Justice for a pared-down cold case unit.

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If the state receives the maximum provided by the grant ”“ $300,000 ”“ it would still be less than the $400,000 to $500,000 requested to launch the unit.

Instead of the three new positions mandated by the bill, there would be only enough funds to hire one new investigator and a half-time forensic scientist.

“Ideally,” said Maine State Police Lt. Brian McDonough, “we had hoped for the funding requested in the bill.” However, he said, “any additional resources is more than welcome.”

Attorney General Janet Mills, whose office would run the cold case unit, said she’s uncertain when the state will learn whether it will receive federal funding.

“It could be weeks or months,” she said.

Currently, her office has a single prosecutor who is responsible for investigating cold cases and bringing them to trial. The position was originally funded through the federal government’s American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and is now funded by the state.

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Even with this minimal effort, from 2001 through 2013, 12 defendants have been brought to trial in cold cases, said Mills, with 10 cases dating from the 1970s through the 1980s.

Currently, she said, a case dating back to 1976 is pending.

“This is the oldest, coldest case prosecuted in Maine,” she said.

Two years ago, Gary Sanford Raub was arrested in Seattle for the murder of Blanche Kimball. The 70-year-old woman was found stabbed to death inside her Augusta home on June 12, 1976.

Raub was arrested in October 2012 after his DNA was taken during a mock chewing gum survey set up by police.

As illustrated by the Kimball case, for many cold cases, said Mills, collecting and analyzing DNA is an important factor in bringing them to a resolution.

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“DNA is the most valuable evidence in a crime,” said McDonough.

That’s why the federal grant that would fund an extra forensic scientist and pay for DNA analysis is needed, said Mills.

For all of these older cases, said Mills, “The challenge is time. Time to pour through all the old files. Time to find where there might still be evidence to test.”

Valentino said she is fairly confident that the federal grant will come through, noting that Maine’s congressional delegation supports it.

Earlier this week, the state’s U.S. representatives, Democrats Chellie Pingree and Michael Michaud, sent a letter to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder expressing their support. They wrote that the grant would allow the state to hire more people to review and renew investigations into cases with the highest probability of being solved.

Overall, Maine has an excellent record in solving homicides, said McDonough.

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“Our solvability rate and conviction rate is 95 percent or higher,” he said.

The national average is between 62 and 65 percent, according to the August 2012 issue of “The Police Chief” magazine.

However, said McDonough, “I’d like to see no cases go unsolved.”

He said he’d liked to provide closure for the families of Ashley Ouellette, Mary Ellen Tanner, Antonio “Angel” Torres and the families of all 120 murder victims and missing people whose cases have gone cold.

Despite the lack of police manpower and publicity devoted to these older cases, the families don’t forget.

“The cloud over us does not go away,” said Ramona Torres. “We continue to hope that someday our son’s remains will be found and brought to us so we can give him a proper burial, just as you or your family would do for your child. … We go on. But he’s always in my mind.”

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— Staff Writers Liz Gotthelf and Jeff Lagasse contributed to this story. Staff Writer Dina Mendros can be contacted at 282-1535, ext. 324 or [email protected]

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Unsolved homicides in York County

”¢ On July 12, 1994, Louise Bocuzzo was found murdered in the Kennebunkport home she shared with her granddaughter, Catherine Daly, and Daly’s boyfriend, William Ragussa. Prior to her death, Bocuzzo suffered trauma to her face, arms, back and legs. Further details of her murder have never been formally released to maintain the integrity of the investigation.

Ӣ Maxine Bitomski was found murdered in her home on Jan. 16, 1993 at 3:15 p.m. on the Colonial Road in Kittery by her grandson. Bitomski was last seen alive by her granddaughter during the evening hours on Jan. 15, 1993. A suspect has been interviewed.

”¢ Rose Anne Consalvi was a known exotic dancer whose body was found on July 25, 1979 at 1:25 p.m. in Berwick. Consalvi had no known ties to Maine. She spent all her time in Lynn, Lowell and Malden, Mass. It’s possible she was murdered out of state and her body disposed of in Berwick.

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”¢ Sean D. Conway was last seen on Jan. 16, 1991 at a Cornish residence/motorcycle shop selling handguns. Conway reportedly left that residence at 9:30 p.m. on foot to purchase beer. Conway’s body was discovered on Jan. 23, 1991 by a man walking his dog in the woods in Newfield. Multiple suspects have been interviewed.

”¢ On April 20, 1992, Susan Hannah was reported missing for two days by her mother. Hannah had been living with her mother since she separated from her husband. Hannah was last seen alive at The Whaler Bar in Old Orchard Beach by bar employees on April 19, 1992 at 1:20 a.m. Hannah’s remains were discovered on Nov. 14, 1993 in the woods off a logging road adjacent to Route 117 in Limington. A suspect has been interviewed.

Ӣ Malcolm Hobbs lived alone in an old farmhouse in North Berwick. He was found by a friend and neighbor on Oct. 16, 1997 at 7:16 p.m. Hobbs was located near the main entrance of his home, as if he had let his assailant inside. It appears robbery was the motive; some clocks were missing from the residence.

”¢ Vincent La Vopa had problems with tenants and also had a volatile relationship with his girlfriend. Kennebunk Police responded to a domestic dispute involving La Vopa and his girlfriend on Nov. 20, 1985. La Vopa was last seen retrieving his mail on Nov. 27, 1985. La Vopa’s body was discovered partially covered with snow on Dec. 7, 1985 in the woods in Arundel. Suspects have been interviewed.

Ӣ Charles Mace was last seen alive on July 28, 1974, being forced into a car in Portsmouth, N.H. His body was found on Sept. 23, 1974, off the Betty Welch Road in Kittery. There are no suspects in this case.

Ӣ Thomas Napier was found floating in the Saco River on Feb. 20, 1994 at the Maine Energy Recovery plant. The autopsy revealed that Napier had drowned, and there was no sign of any trauma to the body. During the investigation, information had been obtained that Napier was involved in a fight with another man in the backyard of 24 Bradley St. in Lyman. Suspects have been interviewed.

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”¢ Mary C. Olenchuk was last seen alive on Sunday, Aug. 9, 1970, about 200 yards from her home, at approximately 5 p.m. She was standing beside a maroon car, possibly a 1967 Chevrolet. The driver of the car was described as a white male, mid-30s, and wearing dark clothes. On Aug. 22, 1970, Olenchuk’s body was found in a barn at the Parson’s Estate on Wentworth Street, under two feet of loose hay by a Kennebunk Police officer. The barn is 10 miles from the point where she may have been abducted.

”¢ Ashley Ouellette, a 15-year-old girl from Saco, was found lying in the middle of the Pine Point Road in Scarborough by passing motorists on Feb. 10, 1999 at 3:57 a.m. Ouellette was last seen alive at approximately 2 a.m. at a home in Saco. She was allowed to spend the night there; however, by morning, Ouellette had disappeared and was not seen again until her body was found in the road. (Ouellette’s death occurred in Cumberland County.)

Ӣ Michael Sanborn was found shot to death in Sanford on Sept. 16, 1985 at 7:25 a.m. The murder was determined to be execution style. The body was located lying next to his vehicle in a parking lot at the Providence Automation Company in the Adams Industrial Park in Sanford. Sanborn had a drug-related history and had been doing maintenance work at the factory. Suspects have been interviewed.

Ӣ Bessie Selek was struck and killed on April 20, 1999 at 10:30 p.m., while walking on Route 202 in Lyman. It is believed the suspect that hit Selek was a former boyfriend. The suspect has been interviewed.

”¢ On the evening of July 7, 1978, Mary Ellen Tanner attended parties in a wooded section of Route 9 in Kennebunk and at the Kennebunk Beach. Tanner left the Kennebunk Beach gathering in the company of friends and was dropped off at the intersection of Routes 9 and 35 in Kennebunk at approximately 11:30 p.m. Tanner said she was going to hitchhike home from that location. On July 9, 1978, Tanner’s body was discovered in Gracie Evans Airfield in Lyman. Several suspects have been interviewed.

”¢ On July 2, 1989, Pamela Webb’s 1981 Chevrolet pickup truck was found abandoned on the Maine Turnpike in Biddeford. The passenger side rear tire was flat and a spare tire was leaning against the tailgate. There were blood stains on the pavement on the passenger side of the truck and earrings near one of the blood stains. Webb’s dog was in the front of the truck. A turnpike ticket was found inside the truck indicating Webb entered the turnpike in Augusta at 9:52 p.m. on July 1, 1989. Webb was headed to Mason, N.H. to visit her boyfriend. The boyfriend reported Webb missing on July 2, 1989 at 10:09 a.m. Approximately 100 people called the Maine State Police to report seeing Webb’s truck broken down, but no one was able to provide descriptions of vehicles or people near the truck. On July 18, 1989, decomposed human remains were found in Franconia, N.H., which were subsequently identified at Webb’s.

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Ӣ Rafeal Rasado was shot and killed at his home on Guinea Road in Biddeford during the early morning hours of June 9, 2004. The theft of drugs and/or money appears to be the motive. Several suspects have been interviewed.

Ӣ The body of Wendy Morello was discovered on a side road in York on April 13, 2004. She was last seen in Worcester, Mass. Her death is considered to be suspicious.

Ӣ The body of Richard Joseph Albert, 33, was found on April 17, 1972 in a wooded area near the shoulder on the Maine Turnpike in Saco. Albert and another inmate had escaped from the New Hampshire State Prison on Nov. 25, 1971 and were still on the run at the time of his death.

Missing Persons

Ӣ In June 2, 1971 at about 10:30 a.m., 3-year-old Douglas Chapman was reported missing by his mother. He was last seen playing by a sand pile approximately 25 yards in front of his residence. His mother reported that she was in the house talking on the phone, and his father was at work. There was no sign of a struggle, and no significant evidence was found at the scene.

Ӣ Angel Antonio Torres was reported missing by his family on May 24, 1999. Torres was in the Saco, Biddeford and Old Orchard Beach area at the time of his disappearance. Foul play is suspected.

 

— Information provided by the Maine State Police



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