A state police trooper is seen at the scene of a traffic stop in Gardiner Thursday night, where a driver allegedly shot himself and investigators later found a body in his trunk. Credit: CBS 13

The week before he took his own life after a traffic stop Thursday in Gardiner, Gyrth Rutan was in the Bangor area visiting a friend and former neighbor.

The 38-year-old man, who asked not be identified, said that he and his family were shocked when they learned Friday from a television news report that Rutan, 34, of Sturbridge, Massachusetts, had taken his own life and that the body of a woman had been found in the trunk of his car.

The woman has not been identified, and the cause and manner of her death have not been released. Her death, which did not occur in Maine, is being investigated by the Worcester County district attorney’s office in Massachusetts.

The Worcester Telegram reported that a spokeswoman for the district attorney’s office said Friday that “the death of the woman is under investigation by state police detectives assigned to the office, and did not release any additional details.”

The newspaper also reported that “a neighbor at a small apartment complex on Fairview Park Road in Sturbridge said investigators were in and out of unit No. 12 all day Friday.”

[Police say Massachusetts man who shot himself after Gardiner traffic stop had Bangor area ties]

Rutan seemed out of sorts and not as upbeat as he had been during a December visit to Maine over Christmas, his former neighbor said Saturday in a telephone interview.

“He wasn’t looking too great,” the friend said. “He was talking about troubles he was having with his finances, with work, with his most recent girlfriend. He came up for a few days and said he wanted to go camping but he didn’t end up staying.”

Rutan did not talk about harming himself or anyone else, he said.

He arrived on Wednesday, Aug. 1, and left the following Saturday or Sunday.

“There was no indication things were as bad as they obviously were,” the friend said.

Rutan’s mood was far different than it had been in December.

“He’d recently been accepted into the union,” the friend said. “He was pretty proud of that. He was making good money and working a lot of overtime installing power lines and running heavy equipment.”

Rutan said on his Facebook page that he was a member of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Local 42. Messages to the union, located in Manchester, Connecticut, were not returned.

Rutan’s Facebook page listed his hometown as Dedham. It also said that he attended Hermon and Brewer high schools but did not say when or if he graduated from either one. His Facebook page also listed that he had worked for the Bangor Department of Parks and Recreation.

Director Tracy Willette confirmed Saturday morning that Rutan was a seasonal employee of the department between 2010 and 2014 cutting grass in the city’s parks and doing other summer maintenance work.

“He left on his own,” Willette said. “That’s about all I can tell you.”

It was during this time period that Rutan met the man he visited the first few days of August.

“We were neighbors for several years in Bangor,” Rutan’s friend said. “He had a daughter, who’s now 11. Our kids, who were 3 or 4 then, played together. We were pretty close. He moved to California for better work opportunities.”

Rutan was a single father, raising his daughter alone, he said.

When things didn’t work out on the West Coast, Rutan and his daughter moved to Sturbridge, Massachusetts, a couple of years ago to be near his father.

“We didn’t see him for a while but reconnected after he move to Mass.,” the friend said.

Rutan’s daughter was not with him when he came to Maine earlier this month.

“His whole life was his daughter,” the friend said. “He was a really good dad. He’d take her on adventures and try new things. Its pretty sad that she’ll never see him again.”

The friend said that he decided to talk about the man he knew because he wants Rutan to be remembered for more than the way he died.

“What he’ll be remembered for was the end of his life and that is extremely sad,” he said.

The most recent public post on Rutan’s Facebook page is from May 18, 2017. It appears to be a photo of him and co-workers at a job site. There are also photos of him with a girl who may have been his daughter.

No public postings on the page identify a girlfriend.

An autopsy determined that Rutan died of a shotgun wound to the head, the release said. His death was ruled a suicide.

A state trooper pulled over Rutan’s car on Timberwood Drive in Gardiner after dispatchers in Augusta received reports that it was driven erratically on Interstate 295, not far from where the highway converges with Interstate 95 north and south. The trooper saw the car on the interstate, followed it onto Route 201 and onto Timberwood Drive.

The driver of the vehicle “immediately got [out] of the vehicle and shot himself” fatally, Stephen McCausland, spokesman for the Maine Department of Public Safety, said Thursday night. Troopers found the woman’s body in the man’s trunk during their investigation.

To reach a suicide prevention hotline, call 888-568-1112 or 800-273-TALK (8255), or visit www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org.

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