Amity slayings: a son’s questions, a mother’s anguish

Jeffrey Ryan, one of three killed in Amity last month, in an undated photo. His son, Shannon Ryan wrote that the picture was taken &quota few years back but he still looked just like that beard and all. My dad wasn't much on changing his looks. (Photo courtesy of Shannon Ryan)
Shannon Ryan
Jeffrey Ryan, one of three killed in Amity last month, in an undated photo. His son, Shannon Ryan wrote that the picture was taken "a few years back but he still looked just like that beard and all. My dad wasn't much on changing his looks. (Photo courtesy of Shannon Ryan)
By Jen Lynds, BDN Staff
Posted Aug. 26, 2010, at 9:58 p.m.

AMITY, Maine — A little more than two months after his father and half-brother were stabbed to death inside their home during a brutal triple slaying, Shannon Ryan’s mind keeps wandering.

What time did his father, Jeffrey Ryan, 55, his half-brother Jesse, 10, and close family friend Jason Dehahn really die? Was there someone else involved in the crime besides 20-year-old Thayne Ormsby, who has been charged with three counts of murder? And most of all, he wonders, why hasn’t the man who admitted helping Ormsby conceal evidence of the crimes been arrested?

“Why in the world hasn’t he been charged or arrested?” the 35-year-old Ryan asked during a phone interview Wednesday from his home in Texas. “I think that question boggles the mind of everyone up in that area and probably in the state.”

Jamie Merrill, Jeffrey Ryan’s ex-wife and the dead boy’s mother, is having the same thoughts and feelings, she said Wednesday.

“There is no way that that 20-year-old got it in his mind to kill these people alone,” she said from her home in Lewiston. “We know that he did not get rid of evidence of the crime alone. The police have said that. And I think this was planned beforehand and Ormsby didn’t act alone.”

Jeffrey and Jesse Ryan, and 30-year-old Dehahn, a father of three who was visiting them at the time, all reportedly were stabbed to death June 22 at the Ryan home on U.S. Route 1 in Amity. Ormsby, who had been staying in Orient but listed Ellsworth as his hometown on a social networking website, was arrested July 2 after police linked him to the deaths through DNA and fingerprint evidence obtained from a beer can and cigarette butt in the Ryan home.

According to a police affidavit, Ormsby also confessed to the killings to state police Detective Dale Keegan. He pleaded not guilty to three charges of murder in Aroostook County Superior Court in Houlton on July 22 and remains held without bail. Ormsby also pleaded not guilty to an arson charge in connection with the theft of Jeffrey Ryan’s truck, which was set on fire on a field road in Weston after the killings.

According to the affidavit filed with the court by Maine State Police, Ormsby told a detective that he killed Jeffrey Ryan because he believed Ryan was a drug dealer. Ryan’s family has denied the claim, and a criminal background check on Jeffrey Ryan revealed no history of drug-related offenses.

In the weeks before the killings, Ormsby lived a short distance from the crime scene at the Orient home of Robert Strout. Strout told police that a bloodied Ormsby came to his home after the killings and threatened to kill his family if he did not help Ormsby cover up evidence of the crime, according to the affidavit.

Ormsby told Strout, according to the court document, that he had stolen Jeffrey Ryan’s truck and had to get rid of it. Strout, in his own Dodge pickup, followed Ormsby, who drove Jeffrey Ryan’s truck to Tamara Strout’s Weston residence where Ormsby reportedly burned his blood-soaked clothing in the woman’s furnace.

Tamara Strout is Robert Strout’s daughter. She also has a teenage daughter with Jeffrey Ryan. The teenager, Mariah Ryan, reportedly was dating Ormsby. Ormsby was connected to the Strout family because his mother, Maria Ormsby, is a longtime friend of Tamara Strout.

Robert Strout followed Ormsby as Ormsby drove Jeffrey Ryan’s truck to Weston to burn it, according to the police affidavit.

Strout also told police that he drove Ormsby to a bog where Ormsby got out and threw a knife into the water, the affidavit said. State police divers searched the bog but have refused to confirm whether they recovered the murder weapon.

Strout also reportedly told police that on June 25 he drove Ormsby to New Hampshire to stay with his son, Robert Strout II.

While Ormsby has been charged in the case, no one else has, Assistant Attorney General Bill Stokes said Wednesday afternoon.

That is something that continues to grind at Shannon Ryan, who doesn’t believe enough is being done to resolve his father’s killing.

“There is someone who has said that he helped Thayne Ormsby get rid of the knife and clothes and then took this guy out of state,” Ryan said. “And yet he is still sitting in his home drinking coffee like it’s an ordinary day. Why haven’t there been any more arrests if someone said they were involved in helping cover up this crime and that they took the guy across the state lines to New Hampshire?”

Stokes said Wednesday that the investigation is ongoing, but that he would not comment on any potential charges or say if police were continuing to question individuals in connection with the case. He also would not confirm if what Strout did in terms of helping Ormsby cover up evidence after the slayings was a crime.

“I can’t discuss that publicly,” he said Wednesday. “It’s an ongoing investigation and it’s not wise to discuss these things publicly or discuss potential charges against anyone.”

Both Shannon Ryan and Merrill said they have tried unsuccessfully to get more details about the crime and the investigation from police and the Attorney General’s office. Both said that they understand that some details have to be kept secret, but they are frustrated by how slowly the case is advancing.

“I keep being told that this is an ongoing investigation,” Ryan said. “But how can it be ongoing if nothing is going on?”

A mother’s anguish

Young Jesse Ryan, the son of Jeffrey Ryan and Jamie Merrill, had lived in Amity most of his life. He moved to Lewiston in February to be with his mother, but he loved his dad and wanted to spend Father’s Day with him, Merrill said.

Jeffrey Ryan had picked up Jesse in Lewiston on June 19 to take him to his home in Amity for Father’s Day, where they could go fishing and spend some time together. Merrill last heard from Jesse at 2:41 p.m. on the day of the killings, according to the affidavit. Merrill said Wednesday that she and her son had been texting back and forth.

She said she and Jeffrey Ryan had been married for seven years and that after they separated, they became “best friends.” She said that Ryan was a “great father” to Jesse and good with kids in general.

Merrill said that Ryan had “problems” with Robert Strout and his family. Merrill said the problems between Ryan and the Strout family were related to Ryan’s on-and-off relationship with Robert Strout’s daughter Tamara.

Robert Strout’s wife, Joy Strout, has denied any problems between the Strouts and Jeffrey Ryan.

Contacted Wednesday evening, Robert Strout said he was not interested in speaking with a reporter.

Merrill said that she cannot understand why, since Strout admitted to police his involvement in helping Ormsby conceal evidence, he has not been charged.

“It just enrages me, and it enrages my entire family,” she said. “I am so angry about this. I am glad they have made an arrest, but there are more involved.”

Merrill said that she traveled to her ex-husband’s home shortly after the killings to get some of her son’s things. She has questions about the crime scene and doubts the story Robert Strout told police about Ormsby’s account of the killings. She doesn’t believe her son would have stayed in the mobile home “running around” and not escaped through the back door when the killer came into the home.

Merrill did not attend Ormsby’s July 22 arraignment in Houlton, but several family members and friends did.

“I can’t be in the same room with him,” she said. “I’d go after him.”

She said she will continue to contact investigators and ask questions about the case.

“I don’t want this swept under the rug,” she said Wednesday. “This is my 10-year-old son. I loved my son.”

A son’s questions

Out in Texas, Shannon Ryan said that in addition to contacting police and state officials about his father’s and half-brother’s slayings, he also scours Internet news sites and even has tried contacting the accused killer’s court-appointed attorneys, Sarah LeClaire and James Dunleavy of Presque Isle.

“I asked if I could talk to him [Ormsby],” he said. “I never got a response. I am just struggling here to learn what happened. I don’t even know this Ormsby kid. My father was a good guy and so was Jason. They were good friends. And Jesse was a nice kid. I don’t understand what is worth taking someone’s life over.”

Ryan said that he is still waiting to get the autopsy report on his father so he can find out his time of death and information about his stab wounds.

“I really want to know the time of death,” he said.

The bodies were found at 9:30 p.m. June 23, and police originally said that the killings occurred in the early morning hours of that day. The indictments read last month indicated that the slayings took place “on or about June 22.” Ryan said that he continues to wonder what time of day the deaths occurred.

“I was at the home five days after the murders, and there were beer bottles on the cupboards but also a coffee pot with mold in it,” he said. “The TV was on in the living room and in Jesse’s room, but the screens were blank. I don’t believe my dad drank coffee late at night. And I know he got up early. But did Jesse? What time did this happen? It’s just confusing.”

He also questions why Ormsby “randomly moved into Amity two weeks before the murder, approximately a mile from the crime scene.”

Like Merrill, Ryan said that he thinks the killings were planned.

“I know there are things that they can’t tell us because they want to make the charges stick and get Ormsby convicted and everything,” Ryan said. “But they could give us something.”

This week, Ryan also is questioning something else. Besides his half-sister Mariah Ryan, he has another sister who lives in the state. He said that she called him earlier this week to tell him that someone had stolen all of his father’s firewood from the woodpile at his home.

“There was a ton of wood there that he’d collected and cut up for the winter,” he said. “My sister told me that someone went up and stole it all. I haven’t called the police yet because I want to figure out who did it first, if it was someone who knew him or what happened. It’s like everything else. I just want answers.”

http://bangordailynews.com/2010/08/26/news/amity-slayings-a-sonrsquos-questions-a-motherrsquos-anguish/ printed on December 18, 2014