ELLSWORTH, Maine — The Hancock County Sheriff’s Office is investigating the discovery last fall of camping items found on a remote island off Mount Desert Island.
Sheriff William Clark said Thursday that investigators have been working on the case since October when rangers from Acadia National Park retrieved items including backpacks, a sleeping bag, a tent and women’s clothing. Some of the material on the clothing had deteriorated, an indication it had been there for some time, Clark said.
Detective Alan Brown has been working on the case since October, but has not been able to turn up any evidence that would help to identify the camper, according to Clark. He stressed that the department was not investigating any violation on the island, but just wants to be certain that no one is missing.
“Our best-case scenario is that someone left the items there figuring to come back and get them, and just never came back,’’ the sheriff said. “The worst-case scenario is that they had some kind of accident and were lost at sea.”
Investigators are hoping that by publicizing the information, the public may be able to provide information that could help.
According to Clark, the abandoned campsite was discovered last August by a research team collecting plant samples on the island. Ranger Chris Wiesbusch from Acadia National Park went to the island on Oct. 13 and recovered some of the property. The park notified the Sheriff’s Office a few days later and turned the items over to investigators there.
Among the items found at the site were an EMS “Milky Way” single-person tent with poles and stakes, a black and purple Northface backpack, a green and black Timberline 25 sleeping bag, as well as some personal items, such as a bottle of Pantene shampoo, a Privada hairbrush and clothing. The clothing items recovered included a pair of women’s size 9B New Balance 904 sneakers, remnants of a pair of Levi’s, size W30, L34, and several pairs of women’s underwear.
Detective Brown has been working with manufacturers to determine when specific items might have been made. Representatives from New Balance told Brown that the women’s 904 sneakers were first manufactured in March 2009 and would not have been available before that time.
“That gives us a time frame,” Clark said. “If the New Balance information is accurate, that tells us we’re probably looking back to the summer of ’09.”
The deterioration of the clothing, especially the Levi’s, indicates that they were on the island over the winter of 2009-10, he said.
Some of the personal items were sent to the Maine State Police crime lab, but the results were inconclusive. Brown reported that the hairbrush, underwear and a pair of socks were swabbed for DNA. According to the crime lab report, they were “determined to have insufficient amounts of DNA to produce interpretable DNA profiles.”
The sparse amount of evidence makes it difficult to develop a profile for the mystery camper. According to Clark, the person probably was a woman, but there is no way to pinpoint her age. The length of the Levi’s — 34 inches — is an indication that the camper was a tall woman.
Given the difficulty of getting to the remote island, she probably was athletic, he said.
Although the sheriff’s department has no reports of missing persons that fits that incomplete profile, Clark said it is possible that family or friends were unaware that the camper was on the Maine coast.
Anyone with information may contact the Sheriff’s Office at 667-7575.