Police ‘a long way from knowing’ motive in Aroostook County double homicide

Insurance adjusters and a state police sergeant (far right) pick through the remains of a destroyed home that belonged to homicide victim Michael Kitchen, 51, of Oakfield on Thursday, Sept. 26, 2013. Police released the home to the Kitchen family on Thursday after concluding their evidence recovery there.
Nick Sambides Jr. | BDN
Insurance adjusters and a state police sergeant (far right) pick through the remains of a destroyed home that belonged to homicide victim Michael Kitchen, 51, of Oakfield on Thursday, Sept. 26, 2013. Police released the home to the Kitchen family on Thursday after concluding their evidence recovery there. Buy Photo
By Nick Sambides Jr., BDN Staff
Posted Sept. 26, 2013, at 2:53 p.m.

HOULTON, Maine — The prosecutor assembling the case against a local man charged with two counts of murder said Thursday that investigators don’t know why Matthew Davis would have killed an Oakfield couple earlier this week.

“We are going to look at every aspect of the case,” Deputy Attorney General William Stokes said, “but I think we are a long way from knowing what prompted this.

“Everything we say about that at this point is speculation,” Stokes added.

Stokes, who declined to say whether Davis was cooperating with investigators, said a psychiatric evaluation of the 32-year-old Houlton man was “a possibility we will consider” as the investigation continues.

A message seeking comment from attorney Jeffrey Pickering, who represented Davis during the suspect’s initial court appearance Wednesday, was not immediately returned Thursday afternoon.

Davis’ wife, Billie Jo, declined to comment when a Bangor Daily News reporter approached her Thursday at her Smith Road home.

Davis was charged Tuesday with two counts of murder in the deaths of Michael Kitchen, 51, and Heidi Pratt, 49, at the couple’s home at 331 Oakfield-Smyrna Road early Monday. Investigators at the state medical examiner’s office positively identified Pratt’s body Thursday and said she died of a gunshot wound to the neck.

Both victims were found dead of gunshot wounds in their bedroom, which Davis allegedly set on fire. Their deaths were part of a six-hour crime spree that included three break-ins, vehicle thefts and set fires.

Davis remains held without bail at Aroostook County Jail.

Several friends and acquaintances of the suspect and victims who were interviewed Wednesday and Thursday said they were baffled by the crimes.

They described Davis as a friendly, upbeat homebody and fledgling businessman with two small sons who ran a towing business. They also said that he had begun to renovate several apartments his wife bought in summer 2013.

CarQuest AutoParts manager David Bubar said he knew Kitchen for more than 25 years and was also well-acquainted with Davis. A mechanic, Kitchen ran his family’s auto shop, a short distance from CarQuest on Bangor Street in Houlton.

Davis “used to come in here once a week,” Bubar said. “He’d always have a smile on his face. He’d be happy, his son would usually be with him. He was a nice guy.”

Bubar said that Davis became a much less-frequent customer after Davis’ wife purchased the Parkview Terrace building in downtown Houlton. Bubar speculated the purchase may have forced Davis to cut back on his auto work.

“Matt told me once, ‘I’m working all night on my apartments,’” Bubar said.

Speculation has been continuous around the area about why the spree occurred, said 31-year-old Jeff Swallow, who described himself as good friends with Kitchen and Pratt.

“They [rumors] run pretty wide throughout Houlton,” said William Lloyd, a next-door neighbor of Kitchen and Pratt who is friends with Swallow.

Lloyd said he and his wife, who is related to Pratt, were asleep in their home at about 4:30 a.m. on Monday when the sound of several gunshots awakened them. They had dressed, gone outside and were in their side-yard when Kitchen’s pickup truck smashed through Kitchen’s garage door and sped off with someone at the wheel as the Lloyds ran to call 911, Lloyd said.

“The door was down and [the pickup truck] plowed right through it,” Lloyd said.

Lloyd declined to comment on what followed or whether he saw who was driving the truck, but he, Bubar and Swallow said that they believed that Kitchen and Pratt didn’t know Davis.

The three men described the couple as friendly, good-hearted and very giving people.

Kitchen was a modest, quiet, thoughtful man, they said, while Pratt was more outgoing. A social worker, she often raised money for charity and liked to help people, they said.

All of the friends of Kitchen and Pratt who have been interviewed since the double homicide said they couldn’t imagine why anyone would kill them. The apparently random pattern of the spree is confusing, they said.

Davis has only been charged with the homicides, but is suspected of slamming his wrecker into the side of a building at Katahdin Forest Products in Oakfield before setting a building there afire and stealing a Katahdin Forest pickup truck found burning at the home of Kitchen and Pratt about a mile away.

A resident of Richardson Road then reported finding a burning pickup truck believed to be Kitchen’s parked near a garage at a home on the southwest side of Upper Mattawamkeag Lake in Island Falls. He said he heard what sounded like ammunition exploding in the flames and called 911.

Police had arrived and were doing a search of the area when a neighbor of Dale White, the garage’s owner, called him and said he found one of White’s kayaks on the shoreline opposite White’s home. Police sped to that side of the lake and said they found Davis driving a stolen vehicle at about 10:45 a.m.

Davis, his neighbors said, was very friendly and liked to repair vehicles at his Smith Road home. The yard there has three pickup trucks in various states of repair in it, along with two ATVs, several children’s toys and many auto parts and tools in front of a large garage. Three roosters walked among the vehicles Thursday.

Residents said Davis liked to take his son along on jaunts into town and was a doting father. He usually wore his hair long and curly — one neighbor said it was that way when he saw Davis last weekend — but that he also would occasionally crop it short, the way he wore it during his first court appearance on Wednesday.

Bubar, who saw a video recording of the appearance, said he was surprised at Davis’ matter-of-fact demeanor in court. Bubar wondered whether Davis understood the magnitude of the accusations he faces.

“When I first heard it was him [police had arrested], I was shocked,” Bubar said. “He had always seemed a nice guy.”

Stokes said that investigators plan to seek a grand jury indictment of Davis in November or January. Residents said they hoped to understand more about what happened by then.

“You can’t believe 99 percent of what you hear,” Swallow said. “Nobody knows, nobody understands, any of the motives.”

http://bangordailynews.com/2013/09/26/news/aroostook/police-a-long-way-from-knowing-motive-in-aroostook-county-double-homicide/ printed on September 2, 2014