State investigators have ruled that the death of a Bangor man who was found in his burning home Friday morning was a homicide, police said Monday.
When firefighters arrived at the home of 59-year-old Berton Conley, his kitchen was on fire and smoke had filled the two-story building at 258 Essex St., according to Bangor police Lt. Brent Beaulieu.
Firefighters pulled Conley — who was unconscious — out of the home and brought him to Northern Light Eastern Maine Medical Center, where he was later pronounced dead.
The state Office of the Chief Medical Examiner examined Conley’s body over the weekend and determined his death was a homicide, Beaulieu said.
The state fire marshal’s office determined that the fire was intentionally set, and Bangor police continue to investigate the case, according to Beaulieu. He said that detectives currently view the fire as an isolated incident and do not think the public is at risk.
Police declined to release additional information. They asked anyone with information about Conley’s activities and whereabouts on Oct. 31 and Nov. 1 to call the Bangor Police Department at 207-947-7382, ext. 5.
Berton “Bert” Conley grew up in Picataquis County and had lived in the Bangor area since the 1990s, according to his brother, Carroll Conley Jr. He had four children, loved the outdoors and used to work as a tile installer, but he was unemployed in recent years as a result of heart and lung problems.
“Our brother was in very poor health,” said Carroll Conley, who has a public presence as the executive director of the Christian Civic League of Maine. “We certainly didn’t have an expectation that he would be with us for a long time because of his poor health, but the nature of this certainly makes it more difficult, to think that it was not just an accident, to think that it was actually by someone taking a life. It adds another dimension to the grief process.”
Bert’s death was particularly sad to his relatives because he was recently a candidate to receive a lung transplant. “In some ways, things were looking up,” his brother said.
The public is invited to a memorial service for Bert Conley and a celebration of his life that will be held at 10:30 a.m. Saturday at Crosspoint Church of Bangor.