Family said that Terry Tucker Jr., the missing man recently found deceased, loved his family beyond anything else. A father of two, he will be missed, they said. File photo

The family of a Westbrook man whose body was found four months after they told police they feared he had killed himself want to know why police did not conduct a search for his remains as they requested.

Terry Tucker Jr., 32, was reported missing June 23. His mother, a sister, brother and cousin told the American Journal that because he was severely depressed prior to his disappearance, they knew he had died by suicide. They told Westbrook Police that, too, when they reported him missing, they said, and they also asked them to search for his body in the woods near the family home.

No search was conducted and a kayaker came upon Tucker’s remains Oct. 31 along the banks of the Presumpscot River near the intersection of East Bridge Street and Route 302,  just over a mile from home and in the area his family last saw him heading toward, wearing no shoes and without his wallet.

The family thinks the police wrote off Tucker’s case, in spite of the family’s concerns about his mental state at the time of his disappearance, because of his history of drug use. Tucker had been off drugs for nearly five years, they said, and was a beloved family member with two children of his own.

Westbrook Police Chief Sean Lally refused to connect the American Journal with the investigator handling the case, nor would he comment on how the case was handled.

“We are happy to answer any questions the family has. I’m not doing that in the media. Our staff has been in contact with the family throughout this ordeal,” Lally wrote in an email to the newspaper.

But Tucker’s family says their questions are not being answered: Why didn’t the police believe them when they said Tucker had likely taken his own life in the nearby woods? Why did the police rely on unconfirmed sightings of Tucker in their investigation? And why couldn’t police have searched, at least once, for his body?

It doesn’t matter if he even was still on drugs or not, his body hung for (four) months. That’s not OK,” said Tucker’s brother, Joshua Seavey, who lives in South Carolina. “The thought of that, it aligns with how my brother felt, that he wasn’t good enough, that he couldn’t escape his past. That’s how he felt. I’ve posted, I wrote a letter (on social media) to the department asking these questions and have not received a reply.”

Tucker’s sister, Betsy Staples said the police thought Tucker was back on drugs.

“The detective handling the case had come here one day … and my mom asked, ‘Do you still believe Terry is using and running?’ He said, ‘Honestly, yes.’ And I looked at him and said he was 100% wrong, he’s been sober for five years, he’s not using, he wouldn’t take off and use, and he’s mentally ill,” Staples said. “He just gave a blank stare back.”

In August, Capt. Steve Goldberg told the American Journal that police believed Tucker was alive based on unconfirmed sightings of him in Portland, on Riverton Drive, Marginal Way and Temple Street.

Staples, who said she had weekly meetings with the detective through September, said it baffles her why police gave more weight to sightings that were never confirmed than to close family members’ insights.

The family told police that prior to his disappearance, Tucker was isolating himself in his bedroom, and when he did leave the house, such as on trips to the store with his mother, he was incredibly paranoid. They told police that Tucker had made multiple recent remarks alluding to suicide and because of that, family members had spent the day before he went missing looking for mental professionals to help him but were unsuccessful.

“We were calling people, anyone and everyone, and the next day he was gone,” Staples said.

She said she doesn’t understand why police would not search the area they directed them to, the same area where the body was eventually found.

Tucker’s mother, Betsy Tucker Hope, and his siblings searched on their own, hiking through the woods around the house with machetes to cut brush.

“I think if we had trained people out there, we could have found him almost right away,” Tucker’s cousin, Ericka Goodnow-Arsenault said.

In addition to the local police, family members called the Maine Warden Service and the Maine State Police about conducting a search.  According to State Police K9 trainer Scott Dalton, the procedure for holding a search varies case to case, and there “is no typical way” one might get a search.

I originally called the warden that Friday,” Goodnow-Arsenault said.  “I gave him a quick run-through, that my cousin went missing from my aunt’s, I’m extremely worried he has taken his life or is going to.”

She was told to go through local police, which they did afterward on numerous occasions, the family said.

“(Westbrook police) couldn’t give me any substantial reason against a search other than with the experience they have and statistics, coupled with a criminal history and substance abuse, it didn’t warrant a search,” Goodnow-Arsenault said.

The family says they still want a definitive answer on why a search was not warranted for Tucker. And, while the police department publicly expressed condolences to the family when announcing that Tucker’s body had been found, they feel they are owed an apology from the department.

Seavey says he does not blame anyone for how things ended up, but he wants to know “what they will do to change so this won’t happen to another family.”

“My thoughts now stay on the police, how they handled it,” Seavey said. “It shouldn’t have mattered what they thought. My sister and mom knew him best at the time, they were closest with him, they knew something was wrong and he wasn’t using. Why would the police not help them?”

Mayor Mike Foley said he doesn’t have the knowledge to speak directly on the case, but his “thoughts and prayers are with the family.”

“It’s a difficult time, but the police handle things in a way they are trained, and I’m confident they did as much as they could given the circumstances,” Foley said. 

A funeral for Terry Tucker Jr. was held Nov. 13. A  Gofundme page, “Funeral Services for my brother Terry Jr.” organized by Staples,  has been set up to defray the family’s funeral costs.

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