AUGUSTA, Maine — A woman who made a mental image of a stranger’s pickup truck and a truck driver who spotted the vehicle after memorizing its description were honored Thursday by Maine State Police, who credited the two for helping to solve a mystery over the identity of a little boy whose body was found in a rural home’s driveway.
But more than receiving Special Awards of Commendation, Lisa Gove and Steve Scipione were credited for giving the slain boy, Camden Hughes, his name back.
The body of 6-year-old Camden was discovered May 14 under a blanket in a driveway in South Berwick in southern Maine by Linda Gove. Authorities reached out to the public for clues to the identity of the curly-haired, blue-eyed boy, who remained unidentified for days.
The first clue was provided by Gove, of North Berwick. Before the body was found, she had noticed the truck in her mother-in-law’s driveway and made a mental picture of it.
“Usually I try to pay attention to my surroundings,” Gove said after the award presentation. Police said she provided a detailed description, including the make and model of the pickup and even the wording of a Navy-related frame and insignia around the license plate.
Police publicized the description and Scipione, a truck driver whose routes take him throughout New England, made a mental note of the pickup’s description, including the Navy plate frame. Five days after Camden’s body was discovered, Scipione pulled his rig into a rest area along Interstate 495 in Chelmsford, Mass. He spotted the truck that had been the subject of a nationwide search.
“I was watching the news all the time,” Scipione said Thursday. “As soon as I pulled in and saw a blue truck, I glanced down and saw a Navy insignia. I thought that could have been it.”
Scipione called 911 and said police arrived within 5 to 10 minutes. They arrested the woman in the pickup, who turned out to be the dead boy’s mother, 42-year-old Julianne McCrery.
State police also had circulated a computer-aided photo of the child and a picture of his shoes. Christian von Atzigen of Irving, Texas, called Maine State Police after he recognized the boy as Camden Pierce Hughes. Von Atzigen said he and his wife had been friends with McCrery for 15 years.
McCrery, also of Irving, is being held without bail on a second-degree murder charge in New Hampshire. She’s charged with killing her son in Hampton, N.H., on May 14 and dumping his body about 20 miles away in South Berwick. Preliminary autopsy findings show he died of asphyxiation.
Thursday’s ceremony, in which numerous police officers and citizens were honored for their actions in other cases, emphasized the assistance given by Gove and Scipione. Maine Gov. Paul LePage attended the event.
“The actions of these two involved citizens helped solve a New England mystery and gave a little boy back his name,” state police said in presenting the recognition.
Gove said all of the attention was “a little intimidating.”
“I don’t like a lot of attention,” she said, “but I feel like I did what I should do.”
State police named Trooper Tom Pappas, who patrols in the Androscoggin County area and has been active in a number of drug investigations, as its Trooper of the Year.