Mike Burns was a 54-year-old computer technician who traveled all over northern New England fixing the networks for some of the region’s most recognizable retailers, often in southern Maine.

His friends and family cannot figure out what brought Burns to the two-family house at 26 Nye St. in Saco, where he was shot to death in a glass-enclosed porch by a resident before 1:30 a.m. on Sept. 30.

Nearly seven weeks after he was killed, Maine State Police have said nothing about what led to his death, and people close to Burns can’t fathom why their friend – a devoted father and Boy Scout troop leader – died so violently.

“Mike was a pretty harmless individual,” said Dean Rondeau, chief of the Wolfeboro, N.H., police department and a friend who met Burns in college. “My friend was a lover, not a fighter. He was not about to confront somebody. He respected private property. Even though he was a big man, he was not a threat to anybody.”

Burns, who was twice divorced, lived in Rochester, where he was deeply involved in his local Boy Scout troop. His Facebook page is filled with images of troop retreats, team-building exercises in the woods, and a close-up image of a patch commemorating his decades of service to the organization.

Police investigate on Sept. 30 at 26 Nye St. in Saco, where Mike Burns was fatally shot. Nearly seven weeks later, police have said nothing about what led to his death. Staff photo by Carl D. Walsh

Burns had a strong personality, but was not confrontational, said Kimberly Houle, who divorced Burns in March. He hardly ever touched alcohol, was ardently against drug use, including marijuana, and did not show abusive or violent behavior toward anybody. Although he owned guns and was a Second Amendment advocate, he was not known to carry one regularly.

Police in Rochester said that in 20 years, he was pulled over eight times, given warnings during each stop, and was once involved in a traffic accident, in 2014. He was never arrested there or considered a suspect in any crime.

Little is known about the man who shot him. The resident at 26 Nye St. called police after the incident, but he has not been named, and no one has been charged. The two other people who were in the home at the time have not been identified.

Recent attempts to contact the first-floor tenants at the residence have been unsuccessful. During a visit this week by a reporter, a first-floor resident sat in his idling SUV at the end of his driveway as a reporter knocked on the door, but the man in the car did not respond.

Police have said that they have a pretty clear idea of what led to Burns’ killing, but they have not shared those details with his family or friends.

“We have a very good idea of what transpired, but we’re not going to be releasing any information tonight,” said Maine State Police spokesman Stephen McCausland a day after the slaying.

The Saco Police Department has withheld a transcript of the 911 call the resident placed to authorities, citing the ongoing investigation.

A neighbor, Mark St. Ours, previously described the first-floor tenant as a friendly man in his 40s who helped maintain the rental property, and who enjoyed chatting with St. Ours about their mutual interest in guns.

Sometimes when he mowed the lawn, the first-floor resident wore a handgun holstered on his hip.

What brought Burns to the house that night and whether he and the tenant knew each other are shrouded in mystery.

Burns was a self-made, self-employed businessman who lived a quiet life, and was more likely to negotiate than to seek a fight.

“He didn’t swear. He didn’t think it was right,” Houle said. “He was not into any kind of unsavory business. So that’s why none of us can really understand what the heck happened that would make someone shoot him in the head.”

Houle said she met Burns when she was 17 and he was a senior at Norwich University in Vermont, one of the top military colleges in the United States.

The son of a well-known horse veterinarian in Rochester, Burns took after his entrepreneurial family, and put himself through private high school at Berwick Academy and through Norwich University by haying fields.

Houle said Burns was also dyslexic, a hurdle he overcame through hard work.

At Norwich, he studied history and government. After college, Burns enlisted in the Army Reserves – a somewhat unusual move for a Norwich graduate, many of whom go directly into active duty to start long careers working their way up the ranks.

In the reserves, Burns managed a mail room – a job that suited his personality, Rondeau said. His strength was as an organizer and manager, and not oriented toward combat jobs, Rondeau said.

After the reserves, Burns began working with computers, a field he stayed in all his life, his ex-wife said.

He was married once before, but divorced about 17 years ago. He has two sons from his first marriage, and both followed his example and joined the military. His oldest son, Michael Burns, is a West Point graduate and an active-duty first lieutenant. His younger son, Matthew, joined the Army reserves and served overseas in combat as a medic.

Houle, who married Burns in 2013, said that when Burns was not working, he was completely devoted to his sons, or recently, to her two daughters from a previous relationship. They went on innumerable camping, hiking and canoeing trips.

Burns was an Eagle Scout and got involved with the Boy Scouts again because of his sons. He led a troop in Rochester, and felt highly connected to the core values of self-reliance and responsibility that Scouting instills in its members, Houle and Rondeau said, continuing his involvement after his boys both went through the program.

Burns also embodied the self-reliance ideal. He was the sole proprietor of Atlantic Business Systems, and worked as a contractor for CrossCom, a company with offices in Illinois, Tennessee and Oklahoma that sells and services telephone systems and point-of-sale equipment for retailers.

The company dispatched Burns around Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont and Massachusetts, Houle said. He often worked late, sometimes driving hours to get to his job sites, troubleshooting computer systems at major retailers.

So being in southern Maine was not unusual, Houle said, but he still wonders what Burns was doing on Nye Street.

“My brother and my sister and I, we’ve known Michael since the early ’80s, and we’ve gone over the scenarios in our heads,” Houle said. “How can you shoot someone in the head and kill him and then there’s nothing?

“There’s not even a manslaughter charge for Godsakes.”

Matt Byrne can be contacted at 791-6303 or at:

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