Nicholas J. Gardner, 36, was found dead on Jan. 18 at this homeless encampment along the Fore River Parkway Trail System near Frederic Street in Portland. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

The death of a man at a campsite near the Fore River Parkway last week has been ruled a homicide.

Nicholas J. Gardner, 36, was pronounced dead at the scene on Jan. 18, the Portland Police Department said in a statement on Thursday.

Police are not releasing the cause of death at this time and the case remains under investigation.

Nicholas Gardner Courtesy of Lisa Francis

According to an obituary published by Mays Funeral Home of Calais, Gardner was a member of the Passamaquoddy Tribe who was known as Wolf or Little Wolf. He was born in Machias and was a fisherman and traveler who loved art, painting, astrology and trains.

“Nicholas was an amazing person with a big heart whose life ended tragically,” his obituary reads. “He lived his life to the fullest his way and on his terms. Nicholas was an adventuring soul who hiked from the East Coast to the West Coast and settled back in his favorite places in Maine. He was extremely caring, funny, and loved his family.”

Gardner’s family has started a GoFundMe to pay for burial expenses, and it had raised over $1,000 as of Thursday night. Lisa Francis, Gardner’s mother, wrote on the page that he was “taken away from us unexpectedly and way too soon.”


“He was full of life and would brighten up a room with his smile,” she wrote. “He will truly be missed.”

Reached via Facebook Thursday night, Francis said she wasn’t ready to talk about Gardner and the circumstances around his death.

Police were called to the campsite along the Fore River Parkway Trail System, near the end of Frederic Street, at around 4:40 p.m. on Jan. 18 for a medical call.

The campsite is part of a cluster of tents where some homeless people have been staying. Police believe Gardner was homeless at the time of his death, though it’s not clear if he was living at the site.

One man who has been living nearby said last week that he heard a gunshot in the area and believed there was a shooting, though police have not confirmed whether Gardner was shot.

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