LUBEC, Maine — Charles Legris was walking his dog on the beach just before 2 p.m. Thursday when he happened upon the body of a missing 27-year-old periwinkle harvester.
Legris knew immediately it was Kristopher Fergerson, the boyhood friend of Legris’ son.
“I was out there and I was walking with [my dog], and far away I thought maybe there could have been a log or something, but I saw that there was … something light … so I thought maybe it was a piece of plastic or a mannequin,” he said. “But as I walked more I was thinking, ‘Oh no, I hope not.’”
Legris’ fear was realized when he came upon Fergerson’s body.
“I recognized him right away,” he said. “I said a small prayer for him.”
Fergerson was reported missing by his friend Dennis Knox, 47, on Tuesday, Dec. 2, while harvesting periwinkles, known locally as “wrinkles,” in Lubec Channel. When the tide started to come in, Knox returned to his car on Lower Water Street, but Fergerson did not follow. Knox notified law enforcement and a search involv-ing multiple agencies was launched.
Fergerson’s body was not found until nine days later when Legris discovered him lying just above the high-tide mark about three-quarters of a mile from Legris’ home on Lower Water Street.
The harvester’s body was within view of the Lubec Channel Light, also known as the Sparkplug, where he last was seen picking wrinkles.
Legris returned to his house and called police.
Police arrived and the section of beach along the South Lubec Road was cordoned off Thursday night while freezing rain and ice pelted the area.
Fergerson’s aunt Mary Stuart lives just a few houses away from Legris, whom she described as a friend.
Stuart said Friday she was relieved her nephew’s body had been found.
“I feel a lot better; I feel more closure to it. At least we found something thanks to him,” she said of Legris.
Fergerson’s mother, Donna, declined to talk to the media, but did say she also was relieved her son had been found.
Department of Marine Patrol Officer Russell Wright was at Stuart’s house on Friday giving the family an update.
Wright said it was not unusual for a body missing for as many as nine days to be recovered. “A lot of times it takes awhile for the body to resurface,” he said.
Wright said he was awaiting the results of the autopsy, which was expected sometime over the weekend. Because of the stormy weather, Fergerson’s body was not taken to the state medical examiner’s office in Augusta until Friday morning.
The medical examiner’s office was closed Friday because of Thursday night’s ice storm.
The Maine State Police and Washington County Sheriff’s Department also are awaiting the autopsy results.
“Basically we are assisting Marine Patrol at this time with interviews and also timelines and trying to assist them with the ongoing investigation,” state police Lt. Jackie Theriault said Friday.
“There remain some questions in reference to the investigation,” she said. “And we again have done a lot of interviews and re-interviews and it just requires a lot of detectives.”
Asked about talk in the town that Fergerson may not have drowned, Theriault said, “We have absolutely no idea. … There are some rumors that may or may not be factual, but we do follow up on those and we try to prove or disprove any information that we get. … At this point we have no information or anything that leads us either way.”
The town Friday was mourning the loss of one of its own.
Town administrator Maureen Glidden said she was relieved Fergerson’s body had been found. “I think it is good that the family has some closure,” she said.
One family member, who asked not to be identified, agreed that finding the body would bring closure, but said she would not be satisfied until she learned how Fergerson had died.
Jerry Rahilly, who operates the redemption center in town, also wanted to know what happened. He was on Lower Water Street on Friday morning in his truck staring out at the Lubec Channel and watching the pounding surf.
“Where did he go? Did he go all the way to Grand Manan and back, or was he even out there to start with?” he asked.
Bill Daye, chairman of the Board of Selectmen, said Fergerson was well-loved in the community. “I haven’t gone to sleep at night without thinking about this first,” he said of Fergerson’s disappearance. “A lot of prayers have been said this week that they’d find him.”
“Lubec is a close-knit community,” he said, “and while there is no way in expressing it, everybody [feels] awful.”
People were searching nearly every day for the man, Daye said.
Just before Fergerson’s body was found, Daye added, Wright and the town’s fire chief, Bobby Hood, had put together another search party. “We were just going out the door to actually search [the beach along] South Lubec again,” Daye said. “We were heading out the door and we’d gotten no further than our trucks out there when the call came through that he had been found.”
Friend Selena Davidson, who was working at Murphy’s Restaurant on Friday, said she went to school with Fergerson and described him as a “nice guy” and a great father to his 5-year-old son, Joedean.
Fergerson wasn’t afraid to work, she added.
“Obviously, he was down there trying to get wrinkles for what, 60 bucks he might have made out of it? He was always working. He was a good guy. Too bad, really,” she said.