South Dakota man charged with setting fire to Bangor transient to face trial in Maine

Posted June 01, 2011, at 11:18 a.m.
Last modified June 01, 2011, at 3:09 p.m.

BANGOR, Maine — The South Dakota inmate charged with setting afire a homeless man in Bangor more than five years ago has waived extradition and is expected to be returned later this month to Maine to face trial.

Kenneth John Bruning, 25, of Rapid City, S.D., was indicted in November

on a charge of intentional or knowing murder by the Penobscot County grand jury.

The body of Trevor Sprague was found face down and on fire under the Harlow Street Bridge on March 7, 2006. The 34-year-old Lubec native and Bangor transient was known to camp along the Kenduskeag Stream.

Two Bangor police detectives will drive to Rapid City the week of June 13, arrest Bruning and bring him back to face trial, according to Assistant Attorney General Andrew Benson, who has been assigned to prosecute the case.

Bruning is incarcerated at Pennington County Jail on burglary and theft charges, according to Bangor police. Information on when he went to South Dakota or how long he has been there was unavailable Wednesday.

Bruning is expected to make his first court appearance and most likely be arraigned Monday, June 20, at the Penobscot Judicial Center.

Details about the circumstances surrounding Sprague’s death and what led investigators to Bruning are expected to be released once Bruning is returned to Maine, Bangor police Lt. Tim Reid said in November after Bruning was indicted.

Bangor police confirmed last year that Bruning was a member of Bangor’s transient population when Sprague was killed and that Bruning was charged in an unrelated misdemeanor assault at the former Acadia Recovery Center, now the Hope House, two weeks after Sprague died.

Bruning was convicted of that crime and fined $300 in October 2009, according to court news published by the Bangor Daily News.

Smoke coming from under the concrete-and-metal bridge over the Kenduskeag Stream on Harlow Street on March 7, 2006, caught the attention of a passing driver, who called the Fire Department, according to previous reports. When firefighters and police arrived at the bridge, they found Sprague’s body along the bank of the stream in flames 2 feet high.

Sprague was 6 feet 7 inches tall, and his feet, sneakers and the lower part of his body could be seen from the riverbank, a police officer reported at the time. His body was burned so badly that investigators had to use DNA to positively identify him, according to previous reports.

Reid said in November that although it was unusual to indict a defendant on a murder charge four years after the victim died, it was not unheard of.

“This case was very solvable,” he said. “We were very confident that it would be solved. There was a lot of anxiety in the community after Trevor Sprague’s death, especially in the homeless population. A lot of that can be put to rest now with this indictment.”

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