DOVER-FOXCROFT, Maine — The feeling of loss and camaraderie at this small town’s fire department was evident Wednesday as firefighters spoke about the friend they lost Tuesday.
Piscataquis County Sheriff’s Office dispatcher Michael Curtis, a former deputy fire chief in Dover-Foxcroft, killed his wife’s ex-husband Tuesday morning and then was shot to death by police.
Curtis, 46, shot and killed local maintenance worker Udo Schneider, 53, at around 9:30 a.m. Tuesday outside Hilltop Manor, where Schneider had worked for more than a decade. Curtis was shot by a Maine State Police trooper during a standoff shortly afterward.
“We never saw it coming,” Capt. Eric Berce of the Dover-Foxcroft Fire Department said Wednesday while standing inside the fire station.
Berce and Curtis had been friends for nearly 25 years, and spent time hunting, fishing and hanging out together.
“I saw more of him than I did my own family members,” Berce said of Curtis. “I raised my family with his. His two girls called me uncle. It’s tearing me up.”
Gary Sudsbury, the fire department’s safety officer for the last 25 years, said he was shocked by the news of Curtis, whom he described as a good firefighter and friend, and his final actions.
“I went home and bawled like a baby,” he said.
Curtis had worked as a county dispatcher for the last 11 years, said Dave Roberts, chief of communications for the Piscataquis County Sheriff’s Office.
“It’s truly a hard hit for for us,” he said. “Mike was a hardworking employee and well liked.”
The double shooting is also tearing up members of the rural community of around 7,000 residents, many of whom remember Curtis as a life-saving firefighter who “would do anything for anyone,” Berce said.
“He was good people,” his longtime friend said. “He had one of the biggest hearts of anyone I know.”
Schneider also was remembered as a good person, said his boss, Chad Cloutier, chief executive officer of Rockland-based Davis Long Term Care Group Inc., which operates Hilltop Manor.
“He was a wonderful man. I knew him well,” he said.
After shooting Schneider, Curtis drove his white pickup truck to the nearby Piscataquis Valley Fairgrounds, where a short standoff took place. Within minutes he was shot by Maine State Police Trooper Jon Brown.
Shots were reported fired at the fairgrounds at 9:48 a.m. Tuesday and Curtis later died at Mayo Regional Hospital in Dover-Foxcroft.
A single gunshot to the front of his torso mortally wounded Curtis, according to Brenda Kielty, a special assistant in the Maine Attorney General’s Office.
“We have a cause of death — gunshot wound to the torso,” Keilty said. “I don’t have any more information to release at this time.”
Whether Curtis was armed at the time of the shooting and whether he attempted to commit suicide by cop are two questions she declined to answer.
The autopsy of Curtis was completed Wednesday at the state medical examiner’s office in Augusta and Schneider’s was started but will not be completed until Thursday morning, said Mark Belserene, administrator of the medical examiner’s office.
A team of Maine State Police detectives are handling the homicide of Schneider and investigators with the Maine Attorney General’s Office are dealing with the officer-involved shooting.
Brown, who joined the state police in 2008, was placed on paid administrative leave pending the outcome of the investigation into the shooting, which is standard procedure, Lt. Col. Raymond Bessette of the Maine State Police said Tuesday.
Fire Chief Joseph Guyotte, Curtis’ former father-in-law, said Wednesday morning that he wanted some questions answered and went to speak to Police Chief Dennis Dyer.
After leaving Dyer’s officer, he said he still had questions.
“They said I’m too close” to the situation, Guyotte said. “They said we have to wait until the [Attorney General’s] Office releases their report.
“I couldn’t even get what I’m lookin’ for,” the fire chief added with obvious frustration in his voice. “It’s just wait and see. Mike’s mom is up there right now trying to get answers.”
Curtis married Guyotte’s daughter and had two children with her, but they divorced in 2007, the fire chief said. When Curtis was married again — to Schneider’s ex-wife — he transferred from the Dover-Foxcroft Fire Department, where he was the deputy chief, to the Sangerville Fire Department, where he recently was promoted to lieutenant, Guyotte said.
Schneider was married for 16 years to Curtis’ current wife and had two children with her, according to divorce records printed in the BDN.
“We’re still trying to pin down a motive,” Stephen McClausland, spokesman for the Maine Department of Public Safety, said Wednesday afternoon. “We’re doing a number of interviews that will continue for the rest of the week.”
Attempts to reach family members of Schneider were unsuccessful Wednesday.
Schneider had worked at Hilltop Manor for 11 years and was the director of maintenance, Cloutier said.
“He was a very dedicated employee — one of our finest hardworking employees we have here,” he said shortly after the shooting.
An eyewitness told the BDN that Curtis pulled out a pistol and shot Schneider in cold blood in front of Hilltop Manor.
“My heart goes out to both families,” Berce said. “We have a long road ahead of all of us, but we’ll get through it. We always do.”
One of the first calls Berce made after hearing the news was to Curtis’ two daughters.
“They are doing as good as can be expected,” he said, saying he wanted them to know that the town’s firefighters “are here as a family for them and always will be.”
Their father may be gone, but “now they have a bunch of dads — 30 dads” to call on for support, Berce said.
He said he has heard his fill of the scuttlebutt flying around town about Curtis.
“If you don’t know the facts, you’re doing nobody any good — you’re just causing pain,” he said.
The firefighter ended with a simple statement about his friend: “He was not a monster.”
BDN reporter Alex Barber and photographer Kevin Bennett contributed to this report.