ST. FRANCIS, Maine — Three dozen searchers from multiple state law enforcement agencies spent all day Monday searching a one-square-mile wooded area but found no sign of the man wanted in connection with the Saturday morning shooting death of his longtime girlfriend, 31-year-old Amy Theriault, according to the Maine State Police.
The search for Jesse Marquis, 38, will resume Tuesday morning, state police spokesman Stephen McCausland said Monday evening.
Monday morning, law enforcement agencies brought in two cadaver dogs in the manhunt for Marquis who was last seen carrying a rifle as he fled into the woods from Theriault’s St. Francis home on Route 161.
The ongoing search for Marquis was focusing on the rugged, hilly terrain behind that house.
“The search continues on the area behind the house and is more focused and labor-intensive,” Lt. Christopher Coleman of the Maine State Police Major Crimes Unit said Monday morning from the command post in St. Francis. “We want to rule out that area as the location of the suspect.”
Officials stopped short of describing the search as a body-recovery operation, despite the presence of the two cadaver dogs.
On Sunday, Coleman said witnesses had come forward reporting they heard a single gunshot from behind Theriault’s home about 45 minutes after the initial shooting.
The Aroostook County Sheriff’s office received a 911 call at 5:45 a.m. Saturday about a domestic violence incident at 754 Main St., McCausland said over the weekend. Witnesses in the home reportedly said they saw Marquis leave the residence and enter the woods behind the house with a rifle.
Theriault’s two daughters were not home at the time of the shooting.
The state medical examiner has ruled Theriault’s death a homicide. She died of a gunshot wound to the chest and multiple stab wounds to the chest and neck, a spokesman for the medical examiner’s office said Monday.
Marquis is described as 5 feet, 7 inches tall, 150 pounds with black hair and blue eyes. He was wearing blue jeans, a green hooded sweatshirt and Cabela’s ball cap, according to McCausland.
The public is cautioned to not approach Marquis but rather to call the police if he is sighted.
In addition to the Maine State Police, personnel from the Aroostook County Sheriff’s Office, United States Customs and Border Protection, Border Patrol, Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, and the Maine Forest Service are involved in a ground and air search for Marquis, who is considered armed and dangerous.
Marquis is a bus driver for SAD 27. On Sunday, district officials made the decision to bus students and teachers from the St. Francis Elementary School to Fort Kent for Monday classes as a precaution.
Coleman said they have received several tips connected to Marquis possible whereabouts, but none proved to be credible sightings.
These included at least one coming from Canada, which Lt. John Cote of the Maine State Police barracks in Houlton said was investigated by members of the Edmundston, New Brunswick, police department.
“They did not find anything related to this investigation,” Cote said. “We are sharing our information with border authorities in the United States and Canada.”
On Monday morning, Sebastian Ruel, spokesman for the Canadian Federal Operations office in St. Leonard, New Brunswick, confirmed members of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and officers with the Edmundston police were patrolling an area stretching from St. Leonard to Connors, New Brunswick.
St. Francis, 15 miles west of Fort Kent, is directly across the St. John River from Connors.
“There is no indication he is in our area,” Ruel said. “We will continue to patrol that area.”
At this point, Coleman said, the manhunt becomes a “process of elimination” as searchers conduct an organized grid search through the thick northern Maine woods.
“This is a coordinated search with different agencies,” Warden Tom Ward said Monday. “It is difficult because of the rugged and wooded terrain.”
To thoroughly cover the ground, Ward said state police troopers and wardens are walking “shoulder to shoulder” within five to six feet of each other.
The underbrush and trees are so thick in some spots, visibility is a matter of only several feet.
At the conclusion of each grid search, the geographic information is downloaded so officials can keep a running tally of the ground covered, Cote said, who added a “high visibility uniformed presence” of law enforcement will remain in the area until Marquis is found.
“We are bringing everything we have to bear on this one,” Coleman said. “This remains an active criminal investigation.”
On Monday officials would not discuss the cause of death or any criminal record of Marquis, who was arrested by Fort Kent police and charged with criminal mischief in April of 2009. According to court records, Marquis pleaded guilty and paid a $300 fine.
Meanwhile, residents in the small community continue to grapple with the nature of the violent crime.
“The mood in town is real low [and] it’s pretty somber,” Arnold Martin, a ranger with the Maine Forest Service, said Monday from the grid-search staging area on the old rail bed behind Theriault’s house. “Everyone knows everyone here, and we are in shock to think this could happen.”
If you have any information or see someone who matches the description of the suspect, call the state police in Houlton at 532-5400 or the Aroostook County Crime Stoppers at 800-638-8477.
The Aroostook Mental Health Agency is preparing a team to help first responders, friends, family and anyone else affected by the shooting deal with the aftermath. They may be reached at 888-568-1112.
Hope and Justice Project is the domestic violence resource center in Aroostook County, and its 24/7, free and confidential hotline is available to anyone who has been affected by this tragedy at 800-439-2323.
If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic violence and would like to talk with an advocate, call 866-834-4357, TRS 800-787-3224. This free, confidential service is available 24/7 and is accessible from anywhere in Maine.
Correction: An earlier version of this story reported that Hope and Justice is the domestic violence resource center in Aroostook County. It is the Hope and Justice Project.