PORTLAND, Maine — Nearly two years after his arrest his arrest in the savage stabbing deaths of two men and a 10-year-old boy, Thayne Ormsby is going on trial on three counts of murder in a case that still reverberates through the small northern Maine town where the killings took place.
Ormsby, 21, has pleaded not guilty and not guilty by reason of insanity in the stabbing deaths of 55-year-old Jeffrey Ryan, Ryan’s son Jesse, and 30-year-old Jason Dehahn. Prosecutors contend that Ormsby was sane when he killed the three at Ryan’s home in Amity, a small town on the Canadian border.
Opening statements are expected Monday morning in Aroostook County Superior Court in Houlton after jury selection is completed.
Amity residents are ready for the trial so they can put the dark chapter behind them, said Larry Hamilton, 54, of Amity. Since the killings, Hamilton has locked his doors at night and kept a handgun by his side when he’s at home.
As for Ormsby’s insanity plea, townspeople aren’t buying it, he said.
“He’s got no soul because normal people don’t do things like that,” Hamilton said. “He’s not sick, he planned it all out and did it intentionally. He planned it out methodically.”
Amity is a quiet farming and logging town with about 200 residents and not a single store, gas station or traffic light. The tranquility was shattered on June 22, 2010, the day prosecutors say Ormsby showed up at Ryan’s house on U.S. Route 1, killing the three with a combat-style knife.
He also is charged with arson for allegedly stealing Ryan’s pickup truck and setting it on fire on a back road.
The bodies were discovered the following night by Dehahn’s father and brother, who had gone looking for him after he failed to return home. Ormsby was arrested the following week in New Hampshire.
After his arrest, Ormsby told investigators he killed Ryan because he thought he was a drug dealer, according to a police affidavit.
But not long after the killings, a man he was living with said Ormsby told him that he went to Ryan’s home to confront him after Ormsby’s father allegedly told him Ryan owed him $10,000 in a drug debt. Dehahn’s brother suggested a third theory: Ormsby was angry because Jeffrey Ryan didn’t want him moving in with Ryan’s 16-year-old daughter and the girl’s mother in the town of Weston.
The hot button that gets people most worked up was Jesse Ryan’s death, said Alicia Silkey, the town clerk in the nearby town Orient, where Ormsby was living with Robert and Joy Strout at the time of the killings. People sometimes wonder out loud the terror the boy must have felt in his last moments of life, said Silkey, who knew all the victims.
“People were so horrified by it,” Silkey said. “With the trial coming, it’s like they’re reliving the whole thing over again.”
Ormsby grew up in the Ellsworth and went to Ellsworth High School until he dropped out his senior year, said the Rev. Lewis Glidden, who said he put Ormsby up for more than a year before kicking him out because of Ormsby’s angry outbursts.
After high school, Ormsby bounced from place to place, living with whoever would open their doors and give him a break. He lived in Farmington for a time, before finding refuge with Glidden, who let him live in the rectory of the St. Stephen The Martyr Anglican Church in Oakland, where he’s a pastor. Ormsby later moved in with the Strouts, who are disabled and said they gave him a place to live in exchange for cooking, cleaning and tending to their birds.
Ormsby was intelligent and had a sense of humor, but he also had a short fuse and failed to follow through on plans, such as getting his high school diploma or a job, Glidden said. Ormsby also had the eyes of a troubled young man, he said.
“For a person to commit to such a heinous act, it takes a demon out of the pits of hell,” he said.
The trial is expected to last about two weeks, according to the lead prosecutor, Deputy Attorney General Bill Stokes.