ELLSWORTH, Maine — A father, a son and an uncle who were shot to death last month in Lamoine were memorialized Friday in a church service that focused on the positive aspects of their lives, rather than the tragic way they died.
The devastating incident in which Leon Tilden, 27, allegedly shot and killed his father, Robert Tilden, 50, and his uncle, Russell Pinkham, 49, before he was shot and killed by a state trooper did not go without a brief mention, however. Pastor Robert Maddocks, addressing service goers in the First Congregational Church, said the surviving members of the Tilden and Pinkham families will have to continue without having an answer for why violence erupted more than three weeks ago at the Tilden property off Mud Creek Road.
“Why did that particular event, on that particular day, at that particular hour, occur we will never know,” Maddocks said from the altar of the packed church. In front of the dais where Maddocks spoke were framed photos of the dead men, each next to a box containing that man’s ashes.
According to Maine State Police, the younger Tilden shot and killed his father and uncle in the early morning hours of Oct. 23. State police have said that though family members told investigators that Leon Tilden recently had been behaving erratically, police may never know what sparked the killings. Police have closed their investigation into the deaths of Robert Tilden and Russell Pinkham.
Leon Tilden was shot and killed hours later when he was located on the property and confronted by Detective Randall Keaten of the Maine State Police Tactical Team, which had been called to the scene. As in all cases in Maine involving deadly force by police, the fatal shooting of Leon Tilden is being investigated by the state attorney general’s office.
Among those close to the deceased are Lori Tilden — who was Robert’s wife, Leon’s mother and Russell Pinkham’s sister — and Benjamin Tilden, Lori and Robert Tilden’s younger son and Pinkham’s nephew. According to police, Lori and Benjamin Tilden, 22, were at the property, where Pinkham also lived, when the shootings occurred.
Through Maddocks, members of the Tilden and Pinkham families declined Friday to speak to the media. A private reception for the family was held in a church function room immediately after the service.
During the half-hour ceremony, Maddocks touched upon the positive aspects of each of the dead men’s lives.
Robert Tilden, whom Maddocks once had as a student, was “a clever kid” with a quest for knowledge and who enjoyed the outdoors and working with his hands. Pinkham, he added, enjoyed farming when he wasn’t driving a truck for Doug Gott & Sons contracting company in Southwest Harbor.
“Russell, I am told, had a heart of gold,” the pastor said.
Leon Tilden “had issues,” Maddocks said without elaborating, but like his father, he loved the outdoors and was good at working with his hands. The pastor added that Leon had a creative side, describing his job at Morrison Chevrolet as “reconditioning artist” and dabbling in writing poetry and rap songs.
“They were a gift,” Maddocks said of the three men. “I am sure each of them would want the memory [of each of them] to be a happy one.”
Maddocks read part of Psalm 23 during the service and emphasized that though the surviving relatives may be walking “through the valley of the shadow of death,” they need not remain in such a state of sorrow.
“You will come out on the other side,” Maddocks said.
The pastor also had a spiritual request for the friends and acquaintances who attended the service.
“Pray for this family,” he said.
After the service, friends and relatives of the Tildens and Pinkhams said outside the church that Maddocks and Rev. Nick Davis, who read passages of scripture during the memorial ceremony, have helped provide some solace to the surviving family members.
“They covered all the aspects of these wonderful people,” said Norma Winglass, a friend of Robert’s mother Loretta Tracy.
A man who said he’s related to Lori Tilden, but who did not want to be identified, said she is keeping a brave face despite losing much of her immediate family.
“She’s holding up pretty good,” he said. “What happened, we’ll never know.”
A woman who also did not want to be identified said that despite the trauma Lori and Benjamin Tilden have gone through, “they’ve got each other.”
Jaime Parent, a friend of Leon’s and of his family, said it was good to see so many people show support for the family by attending the service.
“It’s very important for everyone to come together for them,” she said. “I hope the best for them.”
Parent said it has been difficult even for her to try to grasp what may have led Leon to kill his father and uncle.
“They are no longer suffering the troubles of this world,” she said of the dead men.
Information about where the remains of the three men might be interred was not available Friday afternoon.
Follow BDN reporter Bill Trotter on Twitter at @billtrotter.