LINCOLN, Maine — Justin Pete and Steve Osnoe might have behaved stupidly, but they certainly didn’t want anyone to die, they said Saturday.
The Lincoln teenagers acknowledged that they are the “persons of interest” who, police have said, might face charges for their confrontation with truck driver Brian Steven Isdell, 55, of Mountain City, Tenn., just before his fatal heart attack in a downtown parking lot at about 3 a.m. Thursday.
Police Chief William Flagg declined Saturday to say whether Pete and Osnoe were the persons of interest, but several other sources, including some close to the police investigation, confirm the names.
“We know we did not do anything to kill him,” said Pete who, with Osnoe, stressed that they were telling the same story they told and re-enacted for local and state police on Thursday.
Pete and Osnoe expressed regret at Isdell’s death.
“I feel horrible,” said Osnoe, a 19-year-old freshman at Washington County Community College.
News that Isdell is survived by two sons bore a gloomy echo for Pete, who lost his mother to cancer five years ago.
“I feel like I know what they are going through,” Pete, 18, said of Isdell’s children.
An autopsy conducted Friday showed that Isdell died of natural causes brought on by heart disease. The state medical examiner’s ruling precludes homicide charges, but police will meet at the Penobscot County District Attorney’s Office in Bangor this week to see whether lesser charges should be applied. Police would not specify the possible charges.
In what they described as an encounter of just a few minutes, Pete and Osnoe said they joined Isdell as he drove his tractor trailer truck near the Steaks N’ Stuff grocery on Mechanic Street shortly before 3 a.m.
The criminal charges might result from what happened next.
Perhaps Isdell assumed that their presence in the nearby parking lot implied they were drug dealers, since the lot, according to residents, is a common hangout for drug dealers.
Pete told Isdell they didn’t have any marijuana, but he knew how to get it.
“I told him I would make a call,” Pete said.
When he got inside the truck’s cab, Pete said, he noticed a carton of cigarettes on the floor near his feet that he furtively kicked out of the cab to the pavement. He grabbed the carton when he got out of the cab as Osnoe got in.
The confrontation erupted when Isdell noticed the carton was missing and found the cell phone that Pete left behind. Using Pete’s cell phone as a bargaining chip, Isdell got out of the truck and came at Pete demanding the return of the carton, Pete said.
Single punches were exchanged, and Osnoe made off with Isdell’s cell phone when Isdell dropped it, they said.
When they left him, Isdell was standing in the parking lot, very much alive, about 20 feet or so behind the monument that centers the parking lot along West Main Street between Mechanic and Lake streets.
“He was still yelling at us as we were running away,” Osnoe said.
“He was screaming, ‘I’m calling the police,’” Pete said. “I’m like, ‘Go ahead,’” although Pete indicated he used harsher words than that at the time.
“I didn’t turn around because I was pretty scared,” Osnoe said.
Osnoe and Pete, who had already passed some of the cigarette packs to two teenage girls who were also in the parking lot, ran to Pete’s girlfriend’s house, then to Pete’s home, they said. Both homes are several blocks from the parking lot.
Meanwhile, Lincoln Police Officer Patty McLaughlin found Isdell collapsed in the lot. Police say this was about seven minutes after the truck pulled in. It was parked at Mechanic and Main streets on the opposite side of the football-field-sized lot with its motor running and lights on.
The first word Pete received of Isdell’s plight was the ringing of Isdell’s cell phone sometime after the incident. A police officer on the other end told him, “Whoever this is, he’s in the ER,” said Pete, whose own cell phone was found by police.
Isdell was pronounced dead at Penobscot Valley Hospital of Lincoln shortly after the confrontation.
Isdell’s death and reports of the confrontation led local and state police to seal off the entire Mechanic and Lake streets block for most of Thursday morning.
Later that morning, with Osnoe present, Pete’s girlfriend, Kayla Trueworthy, and her mother, Kathleen Trueworthy, underscored the seriousness of the teens’ situation when they appeared at Pete’s family’s trailer and joined Pete’s father in urging them to go to the police, the teens said.
When visited at her Lincoln home on Saturday, Kathleen Trueworthy confirmed knowing the teens and appeared aware of their difficulties, but declined to comment.
“I am tired of talking about this,” she said.
Pete said Maine State Police Detective Jennifer Fiske interviewed him at the Public Safety Building, while Osnoe said he didn’t recognize the two state police detectives who questioned him. The interview process they described as arduous, but they stressed they were cooperative and fearful.
“I was thinking that I was going to go in there and go straight to jail,” Pete said.
The teens do not downplay any criminal actions they might have taken that night. They acknowledged they have what may fairly be described as minor adult criminal records. A complete record check was not possible over the weekend, but newspaper records show Pete was fined $100 for possessing tobacco products by a minor in January 2008 and $25 for a curfew violation as a 15-year-old in September 2006.
The two teens expressed hope that the charges they might eventually face — if there are any — would not be as heavy as those suggested by the town rumor mill.
“Everyone’s been saying that he [Isdell] has been jumped by six or seven people, stabbed,” Pete said, shuddering. “There are all kinds of rumors about this.”