Successful St. Francis manhunt turns into family reunion for NH police officer, handler for bloodhound
ST. FRANCIS, Maine — Scores of law enforcement personnel from multiple state and federal agencies spent hundreds of man-hours scouring the woods around St. Francis last week searching for Jesse Marquis, after he allegedly shot and stabbed 31-year-old Amy Theriault to death in her home a week ago.
But in the end, it was a 4-year-old bloodhound from New Hampshire with a million dollar nose named Daisy Mae that found Marquis in about 90 minutes Friday morning, sitting against a tree, still in possession of the hunting rifle with which he was last seen fleeing from Theriault’s house.
Marquis was arrested on the spot without incident. As word of his capture, which ended the largest manhunt in northern Maine history, spread around the small community, Daisy Mae and her handler, Keith MacKenzie of the New Hampshire Stafford County Sheriff’s Department and officer with the Rochester, New Hampshire K-9 Unit, found themselves being treated like rock stars.
In fact, tracking the murder suspect was likely easier for the dog and MacKenzie than actually leaving St. Francis, especially when it was discovered he is related to half the town, including, by marriage to the victim’s family.
“My mother Miney grew up right down the road,” MacKenzie said, standing outside the St. Francis Elementary School. “She was a McBreairty, [and] I still have cousins, aunts and uncles up here.”
Turns out, he has a lot of cousins, aunts and uncles scattered around St. Francis and Allagash.
“You’re kinfolk,” one resident said. “I want to shake your hand and thank you.”
“I want to give that dog a steak,” another resident said.
For his part, MacKenzie obligingly brought Daisy Mae out of his cruiser for people to meet and pat on the head.
MacKenzie and Daisy Mae have worked and trained together for four years, he said, ever since he picked the little 7-week-old runt out of the litter.
“We started training when she was 7 weeks and one day old,” he said. “She kept stepping [on] and tripping all over her ears.”
Bloodhounds — known for those floppy ears, droopy eyes and distinctive vocal “bays” — are often called “a nose with a dog attached.”
So proficient are they in tracking, according to bloodhound websites, the results of their efforts are admissible in court.
A bloodhound’s nose has about 230 million scent receptors — about 40 times more than humans.
When presented with a scent article, MacKenzie said, Daisy Mae will give it a good sniff. That passes information to her olfactory senses, and her brain then develops a three-dimensional image of the person or item she needs to find.
“It’s like a puzzle picture for her,” he said. “She just follows that trail until all the pieces in the puzzle come together, [and] it’s really a game for her.”
On Friday, according to officials at the scene, Daisy Mae and Mackenzie, accompanied by two members of the Maine State Police Tactical Team, covered a three-mile meandering path on the track of Marquis.
“I knew right off she had a good scent,” MacKenzie said. “She was on it right away.”
Marquis was found about a mile from the crime scene in an open wooded area and put up no resistance, according to police, which was a good thing.
“Daisy [Mae] is not trained for defense,” MacKenzie said. “She’s trained for one thing and one thing only.”
According to MacKenzie’s supervisor back in New Hampshire, it is no surprise the team found Marquis so quickly.
While no figures were available on how many bad guys Daisy Mae has found in her career, she is almost always successful, Capt. Robert Williams of the Strafford County Sheriff’s Department said.
“I can’t remember the last time they have not found what they were looking for,” Williams said Friday afternoon. “She may not have a 100 percent record, but it’s not far off. They are quite a team — I believe the best bloodhound team in the northeast.”
Williams said his department was happy they could respond to a request for help from the Maine authorities, who decided to call in the team last Tuesday, three days into the search.
“I was in Florida picking up another dog when I got the call,” MacKenzie said. “I drove straight through, stopped at my house in New Hampshire long enough to kiss my wife and kids and pick up Daisy [Mae], and then drove on up here.”
Daisy Mae is not allowed to free run while on a track, MacKenzie said. Instead, she is on the end of a 15-foot lead, something he admitted made negotiating the thick Maine woods a bit of a challenge.
Williams said Daisy Mae’s accomplishment is even more impressive when considering she was on a week-old scent that was “contaminated” by the scents of other search dogs and people, and it rained earlier that week.
“This find was really remarkable,” Williams said. “The dog had to fight through all those other scents to get the original scent of the suspect. It really is unbelievable.”
MacKenzie said he was not familiar with the case until he arrived in Maine and read about it in the Bangor Daily News.
“I saw that picture of all the people at [Amy Theriault’s] funeral on the front page,” he said. “I am so glad we could do what we could to help the family have some closure.”
As MacKenzie packed up his gear in preparation to head back home, resident after resident came up to congratulate him and trace the sometimes complicated family trees that connected him to them.
“I want to shake your hand and give you a hug, you are family” resident Betty Jandreau said. “Does your family here even know you are here? You have to stop in and see them.”
MacKenzie had no real plans for any family reunions while here, but he did take the time to stop in at the home of Amy Theriault’s immediate family where he met her sister.
“That dog was just adorable,” said a family member who witnessed their meeting. “And now Daisy [Mae] has tears of gratefulness on her from Amy’s sister.”
A walk and candlelight vigil will be held at 6 p.m. Sunday, June 8, in remembrance of Amy Theriault, starting at Forest Hill Manor and ending at the Lion’s Pavilion at Riverside Park.
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.