BANGOR, Maine — The teenagers convicted of manslaughter in the death of Charlie Howard are grown men now approaching middle age.
James Baines, 40, Shawn Mabry, 41, and Daniel Ness 42, were, respectively, 15, 16 and 17 when one impulsive act turned to tragedy the night of July 7, 1984.
The 25th anniversary of Howard’s death sparked interest in their whereabouts today. Efforts by the Bangor Daily News to locate Ness and Mabry were unsuccessful. Baines, who is married and has a family, lives in Bangor and works at an electrical firm. He declined last week to be interviewed.
During the decade after Howard’s death, Baines regularly spoke about tolerance to high school students. He also testified before the Legislature in support of a bill to ban discrimination based on sexual orientation. Baines also wrote the book “Penitence” in 1994 with the help of Ed Armstrong, a family friend, about his experience.
Online searches for information about Ness and Mabry were inconclusive. A reporter’s query on the Bangor Daily News Web site generated several responses but none offered a current address, phone number, or occupation for either man.
Baines and Ness have no criminal history in Maine as adults, according to the Maine State Bureau of Identification. Mabry was convicted in the late 1980s and early 1990s of misdemeanors, including assault and criminal mischief, in 3rd District Court in Bangor. His last conviction was for criminal mischief in 1992.
Mabry told the BDN in a 1994 interview that there was not a day when he did not think about Howard’s death.
“Charlie Howard was so young,” he said. “He was helpless that night and three reckless kids come along and just for the hell of it toss him over the bridge. Because of our actions Charlie Howard lost his life.”
Ness, Mabry and Baines were in a car 25 years ago with two girls when they saw Howard and a companion, Roy Ogden, both of Bangor, walking on State Street near the Kenduskeag Stream. The three teenage boys left their car and assaulted Howard because a few days before Howard had allegedly made sexual overtures to one of them.
The three boys chased Howard, kicked him when he fell, then threw him over the rail into the stream, according to police. The teenagers returned to their car and left. Ogden pulled the firebox alarm at the corner of State and Exchange streets.
Howard’s body was recovered about 12:10 a.m. July 8, 1984, in about 3 feet of water south of the State Street bridge. The autopsy found that he died as a result of drowning with an acute asthma attack as a contributing factor.
On July 9, 1984, Daniel Ness, 17, Shawn I. Mabry, 16, and James Francis Baines, 15, all of Bangor, were charged with murder. After spending a night in jail, they were released to their parents.
Ness, Mabry and Baines pleaded guilty to manslaughter on Oct. 1, 1984, two weeks after District Court Judge David Cox ruled they should be tried as juveniles and not as adults. They were sentenced to the Maine Youth Center in South Portland for an indeterminate stay not to exceed their 21st birthdays.
Information about their juvenile records is sealed, but according to previously published reports, Baines was released after serving two years and Mabry was released after 22 months.
Efforts this month to find Ogden, Howard’s companion, also were unsuccessful.