The man found dead in a flaming box truck in downtown Bangor on Wednesday became homeless last summer, when he was evicted from his Ohio Street apartment for his destructive, alcoholic binges, according to relatives.
But Michael Bridges, 43, had been trying to get sober and “back on the straight and narrow” when he moved from Florida to Bangor in late 2016, said his brother, Mark Bridges. Michael stayed clean until the spring, when he started dating someone, moved out of his brother’s apartment, and started drinking again, which eventually left him homeless by the summer, Mark said.
Just after 10 p.m. Wednesday, firefighters found Michael Bridges’ body was inside a burned truck in the parking lot of Penobscot Plaza, one of the city’s homeless encampments. They also found Desiree York, 36, his on-again, off-again girlfriend.
Bangor police charged 25-year-old John De St. Croix, a local homeless man, with the killings. It was not immediately clear why or how he allegedly killed them, or how well the somewhat-acquainted threesome knew each other.
Relatives of York gathered at her parents’ home in Knox on Saturday. York’s parents said they weren’t yet prepared to speak about their daughter. She grew up in the area and attended Mount View High School in Thorndike.
“We’re still grieving,” said York’s mother, Brenda York.
Mark Bridges said he was surprised and devastated to learn about his brother’s death.
“He was cool to everybody,” he said. But “he could con a plum off a plum tree. I’m sure he could have made enemies.”
Mark overcame drug use and alcohol himself. “If I can do it, brother, you can,” he would tell Michael in the months leading up to his death.
Michael was from Bainbridge, a small town in south Georgia. In Bangor, his nickname was Georgia.
But as child, Michael and his brother bounced around constantly, as their father’s “gypsy” lifestyle pulled the family across the country from job to job.
“By the time I was 10, I was probably in every state in the United States,” Mark said of his childhood with Michael.
When the boys were adults, the family had moved back to south Georgia. In the mid- to late-1990s, Michael worked alongside his brother, father, cousins and uncles for a family painting and sandblasting business in Donalsonville, according to his cousin Eric Bridges.
Michael was funny and charming, and he excelled at dancing, juggling, athletics and painting, Eric said.
But he seemed “directionless” and didn’t apply himself. That often meant Michael worked just enough to pay for his constant partying and drug use, Eric said.
He had lived the bulk of his life in Tennessee, spending several years in prison for stealing copper wire, Mark said.
Michael was living in Florida when he had a heart attack, and he was using his recovery from the health scare to get sober, Mark said. That’s when Mark asked his brother to come to Bangor.
Mark hadn’t seen his brother for nearly 10 years when he picked him up at the bus station at Dysart’s in Hermon nearly a year and a half ago.
Michael stayed sober for about six months. “I’d cook, he’d wash dishes,” Mark said. “When he was with me, he wasn’t drinking.”
But then he started dating someone and moved out, Mark said. Michael began drinking again.
He was evicted late last summer from his apartment at 22 Ohio St. for fighting, damaging property, disturbing the neighbors and failing to pay rent, according to the property manager, Angela Dyer. He spent nights under the Interstate 395 overpass, and at the Hope House, a local shelter.
In June, he began racking up misdemeanor convictions in Bangor — for disorderly conduct, domestic violence assault and refusing to submit to arrest, according to a criminal background check with the Maine State Bureau of Investigation. He had spent at least two weeks in the Penobscot County Jail.
During that time, he’d tell his brother the same thing — that he was planning to get sober.
“But soon as he’d get 50 feet away from me, it was Mr. Happy-Go-Lucky again,” Mark said.
BDN writer Nick McCrea contributed to this report.
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