AMITY, Maine — A father, his young son and a family friend were stabbed to death Wednesday in a horrific triple homicide, leaving residents of this rural, sparsely populated community anguished and wondering how such a terrible slaying could have happened in their town.
The bodies of Jeffrey Ryan, 55, of Amity, his son, Jesse Ryan, 10, and Jason Dehahn, 30, of Amity were found at about 9:30 p.m. Wednesday at a mobile home on Route 1. Maine State Police said Thursday that the homicides most likely occurred in the early morning hours Wednesday.
The names were withheld until a 2 p.m. press conference Thursday at the state police barracks in Houlton about 15 miles north of Amity, while police tried to reach family members to notify them of the deaths.
The bodies were transported to the state medical examiner’s office in Augusta on Thursday morning, and autopsies were being conducted that afternoon, according to State Police Lt. Gary Wright.
Investigators were back at the scene on Friday morning.
The Amity property where the crime occurred is located about three-quarters of a mile south of Estabrook Road, about 4 miles north of Orient. Both Orient and Houlton have border crossings into New Brunswick.
As police continued to process the scene Thursday, they asked for the public’s help in locating a truck missing from the home.
Wright told representatives of the media during the press conference that police were looking for a blue-and-silver 1989 Ford F-150 pickup with license plate 4155RY that was missing from the home.
“The vehicle is very important to us. We feel it plays a very important role in the case,” Wright said.
The truck has white-colored wheels in the front and silver in the back, and has orange running lights on top of the cab just above the windshield.
State police have posted a photo of a similar truck on the state of Maine and state police websites. Anyone who has seen the truck should call the Houlton barracks at 532-5400 or 911 on a cell phone. Wright said that police have received a few calls regarding the vehicle, but none has led to its location.
State police have notified every police department in the state, the National Crime Information Center, Royal Canadian Mounted Police, and U.S.-Canada border crossing officials in Aroostook and Washington counties.
A relative, whom police would not identify, discovered the bodies of the three victims. The individual had been to the mobile home earlier in the day on Wednesday because he was looking for a family member, Wright said Thursday afternoon. The man returned and went into the home that evening, found the bodies of all three victims and called 911.
Ryan and his son lived at the residence, according to police, but Dehahn was a friend who did not reside at the dwelling.
Wright said Thursday that all three victims were stabbed, but he would not say what weapon was used or divulge any other details about the killings. Wright said police still were working to determine a motive for the crime and also were trying to determine if more than one perpetrator was involved in the killings.
“We are trying to find out what led up to the situation,” he said.
A large team of state police detectives and representatives from the medical examiner’s office were at the green mobile home throughout the night Wednesday and into Thursday evening. State police crime scene technicians and canine units scoured the property throughout the day for evidence. A tarp covered a screen door leading to the home, and evidence markers were placed on the ground in front of the porch and around a car parked in the yard. A tarp also covered the driver’s side window of a car in the yard.
An aboveground swimming pool sat in the middle of the yard, and beach towels hung from the deck of the home.
A treehouse, a boy’s bicycle and a trampoline also were on the property, as were an ATV and a number of toys.
The killings shocked residents of the quiet, wooded community. One of the closest neighbors to the mobile home, Dale Foley, who lives in Orient about 2 miles away, answered the door Thursday morning with a shotgun in hand. He said that he was answering the door with the weapon in hand because of the killings.
After putting the gun down, he said that his son rode the school bus with Jesse Ryan during the school year.
“I was up until 2 a.m. and never heard any noise,” Foley said. “Nothing like this ever happens here. This is tragic.”
Tara Jay of Amity, who lives just up the road from the family, also said that she did not hear anything suspicious on Wednesday or Wednesday evening. She said that while she had seen the family before, she did not know them well.
“Everyone I talk to is really concerned,” she said Thursday. “It’s so shocking.”
The stabbing deaths, especially of a child, have hit the locals hard, said Amity resident Larry Hamilton.
“You have to be pretty cold to stab a kid,” he said Thursday morning.
Word of the tragedy spread quickly as area residents began to call each other, Hamilton said.
“The phone was ringing early this morning,” he said.
“This is a small town and people are calling each other on the phone, talking that way.”
Joy Strout of Orient, who lives about a mile from the Ryan home, said her daughter Tamara Strout of Addison had a daughter with Jeffrey Ryan 16 years ago.
Both Tamara Strout and her teenage daughter, Mariah Ryan, arrived in Amity late Thursday afternoon. Tamara Strout said she recently had rekindled her relationship with Jeffrey Ryan.
“We were together for nine years, and we were going to get back together,” she said. “He had just asked me to marry him.”
Strout said she was not Jesse Ryan’s mother. The Lewiston Sun Journal reported that the mother is Jamie Merrill of Lewiston.
Strout said that Jeffrey Ryan had been married to his son’s mother for a time.
“They were married for about four years, but got divorced,” Strout said. “[Jesse] was a good boy, he had his moments like every kid, but he was a good boy. He attended the Mill Pond School in Hodgdon. My daughter is devastated. She loved her father and she loved Jesse.”
Jeffrey Ryan, who had lived in Amity for about 12 years, was a disabled veteran who served in the Vietnam War, according to Strout. She said that he and Jason Dehahn were “best friends.”
“Jason visited him pretty much every day,” Strout said Thursday evening.
Mariah Ryan arrived at the scene of the killings just after 2 p.m. and police allowed her to take a cat from the property.
Strout said that Jesse Ryan had been away for a time, possibly visiting his mother, and had just returned to Amity last week.
Joy Strout said that she was shocked by the murders and said that it was the last thing she ever expected to see happen in the community.
“We live here because we thought this kind of thing didn’t happen here,” she said Thursday.
Bangor Daily News writer Nok-Noi Ricker contributed to this report.