Police on Friday were still investigating why Kenneth Bryant apparently set fire to a house in Sidney before killing his estranged wife in Gardiner and turning the gun on himself.

On Tuesday, Gardiner Police Chief James Toman, right, and Sgt. Todd Pilsbury hoist the pickup in which Kenneth Bryant shot himself at 16 Fairview Street in Gardiner. Police believe Bryant shot his estranged wife, Autumn Bryant, in the garage of the residence before killing himself. The pickup was taken to the state police crime lab for further examination, police said. Kennebec Journal photo by Andy Molloy

Police responded to 16 Fairview St. in Gardiner Tuesday morning and found Autumn Bryant, 44, alive in the garage of the residence and Kenneth Bryant, 48, dead in a pickup truck in the driveway. Autumn Bryant died after being taken from the scene to MaineGeneral Medical Center in Augusta.

Steve McCausland, spokesman for the state Department of Public Safety, said Friday that the death and fire investigations are both proceeding.

“We continue to look for any paper trail that might help explain the violence,” he said. “There will be more work to do, but the bulk of the work has been completed on the death investigation.”

According to an email from Mark Belserene, administrator in the state Office of Chief Medical Examiner, autopsies were completed Wednesday on both Autumn and Kenneth Bryant.

“The final cause and manner of death has been determined but currently withheld until all investigations are completed and all official notifications have been made,” he wrote in the email.

Beleserene also noted that most autopsy procedures are completed within a 24- to 36-hour period, but results from various tests, histology or toxicology may take several weeks.

McCausland said police may never have a detailed reason why Kenneth Bryant allegedly murdered Autumn Bryant.

“We always try to seek the answers as to what sparked the violence – beyond the simplistic answer the couple had separated,” he said. “We do that by interviews, by talking to family members, from the autopsy, any ballistic test done on the fun and any lab test that might applicable.

“Since the fire in Sidney is connected, because of the family history – her mother was living at the house – whether that component can answer any questions, whether we’re going to be able to determine an exact motive that sparked this violence, we don’t know,” McCausland added.

He did note that Autumn Bryant’s mother, Terry Gilman, was not staying in the Sidney home at the time of the fire; she and her husband, Lawrence Gilman, spend the winter in Florida. Lawrence Gilman is listed as the owner of the 74 Poppy Lane home in Sidney.

The estranged couple had lived in Livermore Falls until November 2018, when they separated. Autumn Bryant is listed as the owner of their former Livermore Falls home. The Fairview Street home in Gardiner where the deaths occurred is owned by Autumn Bryant’s brother, Phil Gullifer III.

The gun used in the shootings was a handgun owned by Kenneth Bryant, but police have not disclosed how many shots were fired. There were not any known restrictions on Kenneth Bryant’s gun use or ownership, nor were there any protection orders filed against him.

According to McCausland, the couple was in the process of divorcing. The Kennebec Journal was unable to find any record of divorce proceedings filed in Androscoggin County courts.

Firefighters battle a blaze on Tuesday at a lakefront home at 74 Poppy Lane in Sidney. The fire was linked to a murder-suicide in Gardiner later Tuesday morning, but investigators have not revealed the nature of that connection. Kennebec Journal photo by Joe Phelan

In addition to the death investigation, McCausland said the state Fire Marshal’s Office is still trying to establish a cause for the Sidney house fire.

“It’s difficult because of the extent of the damage,” he said. “The house was literally flattened.”

McCausland said lab samples had been taken for analysis and an arson dog was involved in the investigation, but was unsure when an update would come.

While the Kennebec Journal has been unable to speak with any family or friends about Autumn Bryant, her former professor at Millikin University in Decatur, Illinois, Barry Pearson, said he could not recall her “without thinking of one big, huge smile.”

“She was always the gentlest of souls,” he said. “She was universally somebody people were drawn to.”

Autumn Bryant had started TriPom Chews, a dog treat business, with Kenneth Bryant, but the business had closed. A message on the business’s website cited the end of their marriage in announcing the closure.

“TriPom Chews is no longer in business,” the message states. “Working the long hours we have 7 days a week for 8 years has taken its toll. Our marriage is over and we’re shutting down the business.”

“I do remember her fondness for her dog,” said Pearson. “It was always endearing, as many things about Autumn were.”

TriPom Chews was named after Autumn Bryant’s three Pomeranians: Xena, Roxy and Riche.

Her dogs remained an integral piece of her life, and all of them were found unharmed in the Gardiner house.

Rob Montana — 621-5725
[email protected]
Twitter: @rjmontana

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