WESTON, Maine — The burned remains of a pickup truck that had been sought in connection with a triple homicide in Amity last week was found Saturday, and state police evidence response team technicians were expected to continue their examination of it today.
A Cape Cod family’s discovery of the 1989 Ford F-150 pickup registered to one of the victims was an important step forward in the investigation of the stabbing deaths of 55-year-old Jeffrey Ryan, his son Jesse Ryan, 10, and the elder Ryan’s close friend 30-year-old Jason Dehahn, said Stephen McCausland, spokesman for the Maine Department of Public Safety.
“It was a major hurdle that we needed to get over because the truck had been missing, and we knew it had been on the [Ryan] property earlier in the week,” McCausland said Sunday.
The three bodies were found Wednesday in Ryan’s trailer off Route 1 in Amity. Members of the Cifelli family found the truck on their property about 12 miles from the trailer at about 10:30 a.m. Saturday. The truck had been missing from the Ryan property since the bodies were found Wednesday night.
State police took the pickup to the state police crime lab in Augusta at dusk Saturday.
McCausland would not comment on whether police believe the truck was used by the killer or killers or whether investigators have developed suspects, but he said rumors that investigators found a body in the pickup were not true.
Jesse Cifelli said he and his parents didn’t know the pickup they found on their 40-acre property off Bancroft Road was registered to Jeffrey Ryan until they went into town.
“It was completely incinerated,” Cifelli, 20, said Saturday. “All of the interior was gone. There was nothing left, just the frame. We thought somebody went out joyriding after stealing it and torched it.
“The whole thing is just a frame and tires, and the tires were completely burnt off,” Cifelli added.
They called 911 immediately when they heard of the triple homicide, they said.
“We were stunned,” Cifelli said.
That was at about 10:45 a.m., about 15 minutes after they found the pickup, they said. State police listed the time as 11:30 a.m. Within 20 minutes, a state police detective arrived in a car, and an unmarked helicopter flew low over their property, they said.
“They got here fast. You could tell they were taking this very seriously,” said Cifelli’s father, who declined to give his name. “They looked like they wanted to land the helicopter there.”
Helicopters flew over the town and the surrounding area for much of the afternoon, said residents of Weston, a town of about 200 people in southern Aroostook County.
McCausland described the clearing as a tote road. The Cifellis said they had cleared the land and removed a deer surveillance camera from that very spot about two weeks ago, a decision they now regret.
“We probably would have had video of the entire thing,” said the elder Cifelli.
Apart from confirming the discovery of the pickup, state police Lt. Gary Wright declined to comment on Saturday. He did not return a message left Sunday.
State police took shoe prints from the Cifellis and had them return to the pickup to show detectives exactly where they had been. The Cifellis could not recall seeing any footprints near the truck, and said only remnants of the seats were still inside the vehicle.
They also saw some tire tracks state police had marked near the pickup that they believed might have indicated the presence of a second vehicle, they said.
A state police dog, apparently trained in evidence or drug detection, and several members of the state police evidence response team were in the woods for most of the day. State police detectives and investigators from the State Fire Marshal’s Office gathered evidence at the site and at the Ryan trailer on Saturday.
They moved the truck to the state police crime lab in Augusta shortly before dusk.
State police made a public appeal for help finding the pickup Friday, two days after an unidentified relative discovered the bodies. The individual had been to the mobile home earlier 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.
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 backroom when they went to Ryan’s home in search of Jason on Wednesday night. They returned home and called police, who found the other bodies, he said.
The Cifellis, who own a cabin on their property, visit the area every few weeks or so. They and their neighbors wondered why the pickup was dumped there, about 1.5 miles from the Washington County line.
Several other tote or dirt roads lie around the Cifelli property, said Tom Kenyon, who lives next door to them. Kenyon, 26, and a neighbor on the opposite side of the Cifelli property said they didn’t hear anything unusual all week.
Thick woods lie between the properties of Kenyon, Cifelli and a third neighbor, who declined to provide a name. Visibility into the Cifelli property from the road is generally obstructed. The clearing into the area where the truck was dumped is several vehicle widths wide and opens to what could pass for a pasture, although the pickup was left behind trees and other growth, which kept it hidden from the portion of the clearing nearest the road.
A casual friend of Dehahn’s during their high school years, Kenyon said he doubted that any one person could have overpowered or subdued Dehahn before the killing.
“He was a bull,” Kenyon said, “not a very big guy, but tough. He was rugged. I think the word is wiry. I can’t see one person doing this to him.”
Dehahn worked with his father as a self-employed sheetrock construction worker during his high school years, good with his hands and strong for such a thin person, Kenyon said.
Kenyon’s opinion echoed that of Shannon Ryan, 35, of Texas, who is one of Jeffrey Ryan’s children. Whoever killed the three likely was known to at least one of the two men, Ryan said Friday.
Ryan speculated that several people had to have killed the three, as Jeffrey Ryan’s two Rottweilers would not have let a stranger or strangers into the home. State police told the family that nothing was stolen from the house except the pickup, Shannon Ryan said.
The Cifellis doubted that anyone could have negotiated the new clearing at night unless they were very familiar with the property.
At night, “they could not have walked out of there with a flashlight and a compass,” Jesse Cifelli said, adding that walking through in daylight wouldn’t be very easy either.
A state police dog and several members of the evidence response team were in the woods for most of the day, they said.
Jesse’s father could not get over how he and his family were not aware of the triple homicide.
“We must have been the only people within 200 miles who didn’t know about it,” he said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.