BANGOR, Maine — The girlfriend of homicide victim Ralph Greenleaf, who died Sept. 1 from injuries suffered after he was pushed and fell near a bar under the Joshua Chamberlain Bridge, said she is outraged that no one will face charges in his death.
Dale Lambert of Bangor said Wednesday that she and others will be out in front of the Penobscot Judicial Center at 11 a.m. Sunday protesting the Penobscot County grand jury’s decision Nov. 24 not to return an indictment in the death of Greenleaf, 47, who was known as “Greenie.”
“We just want justice,” said Lambert. “His life was taken and it’s just not right. Somebody needs to be held accountable.”
Lambert, who said she was Greenleaf’s fiancee, was interviewed in the Ohio Street apartment she once shared with Greenleaf, surrounded by his pictures.
Sitting at the kitchen table with her were her nephew, Frankfort resident Jack Thompson; a friend, Lisa Petersen of Bangor; and a longtime friend of Greenleaf, Amanda Hamblen of Bangor.
The group invited anyone who thinks justice has not been served to show up at Sunday’s rally.
“Somebody killed him. Somebody took his life and we are livid. We are beyond angry,” Lambert said. “He was my soul mate. My life will never be OK again until somebody is held accountable for taking him.”
Greenleaf suffered his fatal injury when he was pushed once by an individual, fell and hit his head on the pavement, Bangor police Lt. Tim Reid, head of the detective division, said at a press conference last week.
“Sixteen people testified before the grand jury over two days, and they decided that it does not rise to a suitable level of prosecution,” he said. “The grand jury’s decision effectively closes this case.”
The incident occurred just after area bars closed early on Sunday, Aug. 29. Around 1:25 a.m., an unconscious Greenleaf was taken by ambulance to Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor. He died three days later, at 11:20 p.m. Sept. 1.
Thompson said he was one of the people who testified before the grand jury. He said Wednesday that he was standing nearby, by the entrance of Carolina Sports and Spirits, when he heard someone say there was a fight, and he looked over and saw a group of five young men gathered around Greenleaf.
“The bouncers went over to break it up and those five guys left and he was on the ground having a seizure,” Thompson said.
A member of the band playing at the bar called for an ambulance.
“They knew that night who did it,” Lambert said of police investigators. “They should have arrested somebody that night.”
Even though the case is closed, Bangor Police Chief Ron Gastia declined this week to release the police investigative files.
“The answer is no,” he said Monday evening.
The files are considered nonconviction data and do not qualify as public information, Gastia explained.
“I can release it … but I won’t do it,” he said.
The Bangor Daily News filed a freedom of information request with Gastia on Tuesday morning and the department’s records clerk responded Tuesday afternoon, saying that under Maine laws the police files are confidential because they consist of intelligence and investigative information and their release would constitute an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy.
The Bangor Daily News filed a second request for information on Tuesday with William Stokes, head of the criminal division of the Maine Attorney General’s Office.
“Some of it you could get, but it would have to be heavily redacted,” Stokes said Monday. “Providing the data, without redaction, would constitute an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy for the accused, witnesses and bystanders.”
But Stokes acknowledged that “the public has an interest [in the case] because someone is dead.”
On Wednesday, Stokes hedged on his earlier statement, saying he worried that even with the names removed it would be easy to determine who pushed Greenleaf.
“Even if we take out the names of the witnesses, you could sort of connect the dots,” Stokes said. “I’m consulting with my chief deputy … on whether we can release anything. It may be that I will have to deny your request.”
Still, without the reports to tell the official story, he noted, “The public is left with: What did really happen?”
Bernard Kubetz, legal counsel for the Bangor Daily News, said the law protects criminal investigative information.
“There is justification in their response that there is a statute that protects from disclosure information, criminal investigative information, that might constitute an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy,” he said. “There is a legitimate basis for that position.”
The Maine Attorney General’s Office prosecutes all homicides in Maine.
Penobscot County District Attorney R. Christopher Almy said Tuesday that he would not pursue any lesser charges against the person who pushed Greenleaf.
“The grand jury’s decision as far as we’re concerned is binding on any charges that would be brought,” he said.
After Greenleaf’s death, the state medical examiner’s office conducted an autopsy and determined that he died of blunt force head trauma and that the manner of death was homicide.
Greenleaf was a longtime employee of Roof Systems of Maine in Bangor, where he worked as a kettle tender. He had worked for the company since 1992.
The Greenleaf case is in some ways similar to one that happened in Portland’s Monument Square in May, when William Googins, 20, of Gray allegedly punched Eric Benson, 24, of Westbrook one time, knocking him unconscious. Benson later died at Maine Medical Center.
Googins “was indicted for manslaughter as well as aggravated assault,” Stokes said.
Googins, who has pleaded not guilty, has said he did not realize the punch would lead to Benson’s death.
While there are similarities, “the facts there [in Portland] are significantly different than the Greenleaf situation,” Stokes said.
Without going into the specifics of Greenleaf’s case, he said, there are conflicting stories — from those involved as well as witnesses and bystanders — about what led up to the confrontation between Greenleaf and the person who pushed him,
“You have an incident involving a number of different people in various levels of intoxication, so you have conflicting versions,” he said. “I can’t give you the official version. It’s not like all the witnesses saw the same thing.”
According to Stokes, some of the witnesses said Greenleaf provoked a fight and others said he was provoked. Some said it was self-defense, while others said he was attacked. And some of the witnesses may have biases based on friendships, Stokes said.
“That is why we decided to present it to the grand jury to let them sort it out,” he said. “We thought the most appropriate thing was to present it to a group of citizens and let them tell us what they think.”
While it is rare, there are occasions when someone dies as a result of someone else’s actions and the death does not result in criminal charges, Stokes said.
The Greenleaf case is effectively closed and is recorded as a solved homicide, Stokes said.
Greenleaf’s loved ones said they hope a lot of people will come out Sunday to support them and send a message that someone needs to be charged in his death.
“I don’t understand how there is not enough evidence to charge someone,” said Lambert, who continues to wear the engagement ring Greenleaf gave her. “His life meant something. Where is his justice?”
BDN writer Judy Harrison contributed to this report.