LINCOLN, Maine — Police will reopen their investigation of the death of a 55-year-old trucker from Tennessee who was found in a parking lot in downtown Lincoln in 2009 to put to rest rumors about the incident, Police Chief William Lawrence said Friday.
“We had heard rumors that these suspects who were involved with the driver prior to his demise had more involvement than what was reported,” Lawrence said. “We want to dispel the rumors. We want to look at it with fresh eyes.”
Police don’t have any hard information that would lead them to challenge the handling of the original investigation, to question Penobscot County District Attorney R. Christopher Almy’s decision not to prosecute or to say whether the two men cleared by the probe did anything wrong, Lawrence said.
“There are a few unanswered questions we have found and we want to clear those up,” Lawrence said. “It is basically the public brought this to our attention.”
One of the virtues with having an on-staff detective, which the Lincoln Police Department added early this year, is the ability to do cold- or dead-case reviews during slower work periods that can stifle rumors or answer unanswered questions, Lawrence said.
Such reviews also can develop new information that could lead to the arrest or exoneration of suspects, he said.
Brian Isdell, 55, was found collapsed in a downtown parking lot on Aug. 20, 2009. He was pronounced dead at Penobscot Valley Hospital in Lincoln a short while later.
His death and reports of a violent confrontation he had with two Lincoln teens just before his collapse led local and state police to seal off the Mechanic and Lake streets block for several hours that morning as they investigated.
The teens — who during an interview with the Bangor Daily News had strongly denied any intent to physically harm Isdell — said they promised to help him buy marijuana and that one of them fought with him briefly after they had taken a carton of cigarettes from his truck.
They also said they took the trucker’s cellphone and were identified by police as persons of interest in connection with Isdell’s death.
An autopsy conducted later showed that Isdell died of natural causes brought on by heart disease and that the heart attack began several hours before the incident, as is typical.
Speaking five months after the incident and having reviewed the investigation, Almy said that the circumstances and evidence didn’t support criminal charges.
The autopsy ruling precluded a homicide charge, Almy said, and a robbery charge for the stolen cigarettes also would not fit, as witness statements and other evidence indicated that Isdell invited the teens into the truck in search of marijuana.
By definition, robbery is theft that occurs through the use or threat of force.
A theft charge might have applied, Almy said, but police obviously never had a chance to secure a victim statement that would identify the cigarettes or telephone as stolen, assuming that was the case. The victim also had one of the teen’s cellphones in his hand, indicating a trade of telephones, not a theft.
Detective David Cram had suggested reopening the investigation during a conversation with Lawrence a few weeks ago. He will begin work on the investigation sometime next week. Police have not had recent contact with the suspects or Isdell’s family, Lawrence said.
Follow BDN writer Nick Sambides Jr. on Twitter at @NickSam2BDN.