BANGOR, Maine — A detective who helped advance the Bangor Police Department’s evidence-handling capabilities is retiring after a career in law enforcement that spanned nearly 28 years — 25 of them of them here in the Queen City.
Colleagues, family and friends will meet at the police station at 10 a.m. Thursday to share memories of Lawrence Ellis’ 25 years with the department during a retirement coffee in the second-floor classroom, Bangor police Sgt. Paul Edwards said earlier this week.
Police Chief Ron Gastia said Tuesday that he watched Ellis rise through the ranks and although he was a supervisor he learned a great deal from the detective — including how to develop film in the tiny darkroom in the former police station on Court Street, where Ellis’ work area also comprised a closet-sized lab and an evidence storage room no larger than a typical walk-in closet.
“Larry came at a time when things were changing rapidly” in terms of forensic sciences, Gastia said. Among the advances were the transition from film to digital photography, the use of DNA evidence in solving crimes and improvements in computer equipment and software.
Though the Bangor Police Department doesn’t process DNA samples in-house, Gastia said, Ellis was the first to go out and obtain the skills needed to properly collect and submit samples to the appropriate databases.
Gastia also noted that in the years before computer software was developed for that purpose, Ellis had a skill that few other police detectives have — a background in drafting enabled him to draw to-scale sketches of crime scenes, included places were homicides occurred or victims were found.
“The attorney general’s office really appreciated his work,” Gastia said.
In recent years, Ellis helped shape the evidence area in the new police station at the intersection of Main and Cedar streets, helping design the workspace and choose the equipment.
“He was like a kid in a candy store,” Gastia said. But while “relentless” when it came to obtaining a key piece of equipment or technology, “Larry never asked for anything that we didn’t really need,” he added.
“Larry will be missed around here. It’s big shoes to fill,” Gastia said.
Ellis began his career in law enforcement in 1984 with the Bath Police Department and joined the Bangor Police Department three years later.
During his tenure in Bangor, Ellis worked as a patrol officer until 1994, when he was assigned to the Police Department’s Criminal Investigation Division as an evidence technician, Edwards said.
Ellis attended several schools in the art of evidence identification and collection and became an expert in fingerprint identification, Edwards said, adding that Ellis also played a key role in creating the department’s Evidence Response Team, which still exists today.
Ellis also was instrumental in cracking several murder cases, including investigations that led to the conviction of the killers of Holly Boutilier, Christina Simonan, Trevor Sprague, Michael Demmons and mother-to-be Heather Sargent, among others, Edwards said.
Edwards said that Ellis is looking forward to enjoying his retirement with his wife, Lee Ann, as well as his mother, children, grandchildren, siblings and dogs and that he plans to work on his golf game.