BANGOR, Maine — Exactly how Trevor Paul Sprague died is a key clue in the search for whoever was responsible for his death — but police are not revealing it.
Sunday marked the four-year anniversary of the discovery of Sprague’s body face down and on fire under the Harlow Street Bridge, where the 34-year-old Lubec native and Bangor transient was known to stay on occasion.
In the days after the grisly discovery, police determined he was the victim of a homicide but have disclosed few other facts in the four years since.
“Anything dealing with the scene or any potential evidence, we are withholding,” Lt. Tim Reid, who leads the Bangor Police Department’s detective division, said Friday, reiterating comments he has made in the past.
The details of Sprague’s last minutes are known only by the person or people who killed him, so police are keeping quiet about what they know and the evidence they have collected in one of the city’s most horrific crimes.
For that reason, Reid could not say how Sprague died, whether there were drugs or alcohol in his system, or whether the fire that consumed his body ended his life.
“I just can’t go there,” he said. “We are still working [the case]. It is still active.”
Smoke coming from under the concrete-and-metal bridge on March 7, 2006, caught the attention of a passing driver, who called the Fire Department.
When firefighters and police arrived at the bridge that evening, they found Sprague’s body underneath, engulfed in flames 2 feet high.
Sprague was a tall man at 6 feet 7 inches, and his feet, sneakers and the lower part of his body could be seen under the bridge from the Kenduskeag Stream riverbank, a police officer reported at the time.
No one has been arrested in the case, but more than a dozen have confessed, which is another reason police are holding back details, Bangor police Sgt. Paul Edwards said.
“Only the person that did it and the officers involved” know the facts behind how Sprague’s life was taken, he said.
Investigators working the case are frustrated by the passage of time, Reid said.
“Anytime there is an unsolved homicide, obviously it’s frustrating for us and for the family,” he said.
Sprague’s body was burned so extensively that investigators had to use DNA to positively identify him.
His father, Jeffery Sprague, said three years ago that he provided a DNA sample to police. Sprague’s mother, Sonia Olson of Lubec, who was his legal guardian, and his father both declined requests this week to be interviewed.
A month before his death, Trevor Sprague visited his father in Machias, the elder Sprague said, and after leaving Machias traveled to Bangor. From there, he traveled to Florida to visit his mother and returned to Maine about a week and a half before he was killed, said his father.
Jeffrey Sprague acknowledged that his son showed signs of trouble, and also said that some of the homeless people his son associated with were a bad influence.
“He drank quite a lot once he got in with that crowd,” he said.
The slain man suffered from mental health problems and had a criminal history that included a conviction for assault and unlawful sexual contact in 2005 after he improperly touched a teenage boy who was sitting in a park near the Bangor Public Library. Sprague also was convicted of two counts of indecent conduct in incidents that occurred in 2001, according to a prosecutor.
Bangor Area Homeless Shelter officials have said that Sprague stayed at the shelter on occasion, but was a loner who liked his seclusion, and was known to stay under the Harlow Street and other bridges.
A big factor in the investigation is the transient nature of the city’s homeless people, who often have alcohol, drug or psychological problems and are often wary of police, Reid has said.
In Lubec, the small Washington County town where Sprague grew up and his mother and stepfather still live, the subject of his death is discussed only when the anniversary of his death comes around.
“When you don’t know what happened, it’s easier not to bring it up,” a family friend, who asked not to be identified, said Thursday.
“It’s hard,” he said, because everybody knows everybody else in town.
Police, who have conducted hundreds of interviews over the past four years, continue do to so, but so far have not found the answers they are looking for, Reid said.
In the past year, “we have conducted some interviews, as they come in,” he said. “But I would not say anything substantial” has been uncovered.
Detective Brent Beaulieu is leading the case and police are interested in hearing from anyone with information, either old or new, about the cold case, Edwards said.
“If anybody has information that they withheld, we’d like to hear it,” he said. “Even if they think it’s not important to them, it may be important to us.”
Anyone with information is urged to call the Police Department at 947-7384, and those who want to remain anonymous can leave a message on the tip line by pressing extension 6 when prompted.