Police sift evidence in Amity slayings

Posted June 25, 2010, at 8:58 p.m.
Last modified Jan. 29, 2011, at 11:54 a.m.

AMITY, Maine — As forensic technicians combed through a trailer on U.S. Route 1 where two men and a boy were stabbed to death Wednesday, Maine State Police appealed to the public Friday to help find a pickup truck that might have been stolen as part of the triple homicide.

Anyone who has seen the blue-and-silver 1989 Ford F-150 pickup could play a “huge” part in helping state police catch whoever killed Amity residents Jeffrey Ryan, 55, his son Jesse Ryan, 10, and Jason Dehahn, 30, who were found Wednesday night, state police Lt. Gary Wright said.

“We have probably had about 25 calls in with descriptions of the vehicle, but nothing that has led to it,” Wright said early Friday afternoon.

More than 20 state police detectives and others from various law enforcement agencies were working the case as autopsies of the victims were conducted at the state medical examiner’s office in Augusta on Friday.

“It might appear to the public that this investigation is moving very slowly, but these are in fact very comprehensive cases,” Wright said. “The fact of the matter is that it’s very early on in the investigation.”

Police await the completion of investigations of reported sightings of the truck in southern Maine, Wright said.

The truck, which was registered to Jeffrey Ryan, has white-colored wheels in the front and silver in the back, and orange running lights on top of the cab just above the windshield, state police said.

State police have posted a photo of a similar truck on the state of Maine and state police websites. Anyone who has seen the truck should call the Houlton state police barracks at 532-5400 or 911 on a cell phone.

Residents in the Amity area should be careful and report any suspicious activity to police, Wright said.

“We are asking people to pay attention to their own safety and lock their doors and vehicles,” he said.

A relative, whom police would not identify, discovered the bodies Wednesday night. The individual had been to the mobile home earlier in the day on Wednesday in search of a family member, Wright has said. The man returned to the home at about 9:30 p.m., found the bodies of all three victims and called 911.

Ryan and his son lived at the residence, according to police, and Dehahn was a friend who did not reside there.

A man who identified himself as Jason Dehahn’s brother said in a telephone interview that he and his father found the boy’s body in a back room when they went to Ryan’s home in search of Jason on Wednesday night. They returned home and called police, who later found the other bodies, he said.

“We haven’t a clue,” he said. “We can’t imagine anybody would do anything like that.”

The evidence response team at the trailer scene on Friday appeared to collect several pieces of evidence from the driver’s side floor of a tan car owned by Ryan that was parked outside of his trailer.

By Friday evening, friends or family members had left nine flower arrangements along the road outside the trailer, including three crosses dedicated to victims.

Whoever killed the three was likely known to at least one of the two men, said Shannon Ryan, 35, of Texas, a self-employed motorcycle sales- and serviceman who is one of Jeffrey Ryan’s children.

Ryan speculated that several people had to have killed the three, as Jeffrey Ryan’s two Rottweiler dogs and Ryan and Dehahn would not have let a stranger or strangers into the home. Also, state police have told the family that nothing appears to have been stolen from the house except the pickup, Shannon Ryan said.

“No way could one person overpower two guys,” Shannon Ryan said in a telephone interview on Friday. “My dad told me that if you did not know the dogs, they would bark and sound pretty aggressive. You couldn’t just walk on past them. If they didn’t know you, he would have to go out there and walk you by them. That’s the only way.”

Ryan also objected strenuously to claims from his father’s ex-wife, Jamie Merrill of Lewiston, that the elder Ryan was selling and using prescription drugs. A disabled veteran, Jeffrey Ryan was a doting father who won custody of Jesse Ryan after a bitter fight with Merrill, Shannon Ryan said. He would not have won custody had he been the bad man his ex-wife describes, Ryan added.

A criminal record check with the state court system on Friday revealed only one conviction against Jeffrey Ryan — for disorderly conduct in 1992, for which he was fined $100. Dehahn had been convicted in 2004 of operating under the influence, jailed for seven days, fined $400, and placed on one year’s probation.

“The biggest thing I have been dealing with is all these negative things about my father,” Shannon Ryan said. “My father had two things in his life: his home and his son.”

Wright declined to comment Friday on what police think might have motivated the crime.

“We are aware of what the ex-wife has said and some of that same information she has shared with us,” Maine State Police spokesman Stephen McCausland said.

Records of the divorce of Jeffrey Ryan and Jamie Merrill obtained from Houlton District Court on Friday show the two shared custody of their son but that Jesse Ryan resided primarily with his father. The divorce was finalized in October 2007 and was based on “irreconcilable differences.” The couple had been married since September 1998.

Shannon Ryan described his father as a practical joker who loved to hunt, fish and grow his own vegetables. He said he spoke to his father every week or so, including the Wednesday previous to the homicide, and said his father sounded fine during their last conversation.

He described Dehahn as a close friend of Jeffrey Ryan who lived a mile down the road from the Ryan residence.

“They were friends for about 11 years,” Ryan said. “They were like brothers.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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