An unidentified man talks Friday with a Maine State Police trooper at the entrance to Knight Farm Road in Turner. The road was blocked while police investigated the deaths of Troy Varney and his wife, Dulsie, in their farmhouse. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

TURNER — A man who had rented a room from Troy and Dulsie Varney was charged with killing them early Friday morning in their home on Knight Farm Road.

Patrick Maher Androscoggin County Jail

Patrick J. Maher, 24, was arrested in the killings, Maine Department of Public Safety Spokeswoman Katharine England said in a news release.

He was booked at the Androscoggin County Jail on two counts of murder and was being held without bail. He is expected to make an initial court appearance early next week.

Several sources said it appeared Maher ambushed the couple in their home around 1:30 a.m. and stabbed them multiple times. Troy Varney, 52, was said to have fought with Maher and held onto him until Androscoggin County Sheriff’s deputies arrived.

The couple died at a Lewiston hospital.

No clear motive for the killings has been offered.

Maher, a lifelong Turner resident who has no criminal history in the area, escaped with minor injuries.

Troy and Dulsie Varney, 48, have two daughters and several other family members who live in the area.

Troy and Dulsie Varney Facebook photos

The first reports early Friday described two victims, a man and a woman, who had either been stabbed, shot or both. The caller then told police that a third person was also on scene with similar wounds.

One of the Varneys’ children, who lives nearby, came into the home with her boyfriend shortly after the attacks and called police. It was not immediately clear if any shots were fired during the fracas.

A Varney family member said Maher had rented a room from the couple in Turner Center. She also said that in recent days, Dulsie Varney had become afraid of Maher, although the circumstances around that were not immediately clear.

Maher, who had previously lived with his mother, was on the honor roll while at Tripp Middle School and Leavitt Area High School, both in Turner, and most recently at Central Maine Community College in January 2020. He had a job at an area grocery store.

One of his family members said he had been acting strange in recent weeks and had been increasingly depressed over being cooped up due to COVID-19.

Maher’s behavior had been reported to police, according to those close to the family, although it was not immediately clear who made those reports or how they were handled.

The Androscoggin County Sheriff’s Office sent several deputies to the home on the dead-end road when the 911 call came in. Paramedics and firefighters from Turner and Buckfield were also sent, and calls were sent out for additional crews.

Maine State Police were called by the Sheriff’s Office to assist, according to England. “This is an active and ongoing investigation, more details will become available at a later time,” she wrote in a statement.

The Maine State Police Major Crimes Unit is investigating the scene. Detectives remained at the home interviewing witnesses and other persons of interest Friday afternoon, blocking off access to the area as they did so.

The Sheriff’s Officet, Maine State Police Troop B and the Lewiston Police Department assisted in securing the scene, identifying witnesses and securing evidence.

Knight Farm Road runs off Turner Center Road, Route 117, near Leavitt Area High School. A fire destroyed a barn on Feb. 11, 2019, on the Varneys’ property.

The couple was remembered Friday by family, neighbors and Lewiston school officials.

Troy Varney was part of the local farming family and was well liked in the community, as was his wife, whom he met as a child.

“They were wonderful people,” Troy’s cousin, 73-year-old Barbara Varney Beedy, said. “Very hardworking people.”

Rob Hutter, a neighbor of the Varneys, said of the couple: “These are the kind of people that give of themselves, getting involved in the community with events and fundraisers. We, as a town, couldn’t ask for better neighbors.”

Colleagues of Dulsie Varney were mourning her death.

Lewiston Schools Superintendent Jake Langlais said Dulsie Varney had been an instructor at Lewiston Regional Technical Center in Lewiston.

“Dulsie Varney was a great teacher in the nursing program,” he said. “Truly one of the best in her field. LRTC Director Rob Callahan, his team and students are going to struggle with this one.”

“Our hearts, thoughts and prayers go out to the Varney family, her students, her colleagues and all those she impacted,” Callahan wrote in a letter to the community Friday morning.

“Dulsie was that sort of educator that every student should be blessed with at least once in their school careers,” Callahan wrote. “Her enthusiasm and energy drew students in and invited them to devote themselves to public health and community service. She was a passionate health care professional, but even more so, she loved her students and helping them realize their goals in learning and in life.”

A police vehicle blocks Knight Farm Road in Turner on Friday morning as an investigation was underway in the deaths of Troy Varney, 52, and his wife, Dulsie, 48, in their home. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

Callahan wrote:  “LRTC is in shock over this tragic loss. There are no words to express this loss to both the Varney family, and fellow RTC family.”

He said support for students and staff was being coordinated.

Condolences for the family were widespread on social media, including on Facebook where Dulsie had been a member of the popular group “Maine Birds.” In a slew of posts about the killings, hundreds of area people weighed in with sympathy for the Varney family and with anger about the seemingly senseless slayings.

One person who lived near Maher’s apartment reported that he had been acting strange, as several others had noted in recent days.

“Heartbreaking,” one local man wrote. “Absolutely heartbreaking. Such a nice couple and a nice family.”

“It is so difficult to understand,” wrote another, “why anyone would want to hurt this beautiful and giving couple.”

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