A state lawmaker is petitioning prosecutors and law enforcement to renew their investigation into the killing of a man on Vinalhaven in June.
Roger Feltis, 28, was killed on the evening of June 14 at the home of Dorian and Briannah Ames. The couple has claimed that they killed Feltis in self-defense. A grand jury declined to indict the couple on charges last month.
Rep. Jeff Evangelos, I-Friendship, met Sunday with members of Feltis’ family and several island residents who witnessed the altercation that ended in Feltis’ death. His family and friends back a petition that Evangelos sent Monday to the Maine attorney general’s office, Knox County District Attorney Natasha Irving, Maine State Police and the Knox County Sheriff’s Office asking the agencies to renew the investigation into Feltis’ death.
“Anyone who read the newspaper accounts of the story realizes that something is gravely amiss in this whole thing,” Evangelos said. “We want a credible investigation.”
A spokesman for the Maine attorney general’s office told the BDN that they have closed their investigation following the grand jury verdict last month. Irving is now reviewing the case, according to Evangelos, but she has not responded to a request for comment from the BDN.
While the grand jury failed to indict the couple, Maine law would allow the attorney general’s office to renew its investigation and take the case to a grand jury again. But, according to Augusta lawyer Walt McKee, “as part of longstanding practice and procedure,” that does not typically happen.
However, Evangelos is hoping the office considers making an exception to that longstanding practice in this case. He shares the concerns of Feltis’ family and friends who say the investigation was handled poorly.
“How do you investigate a homicide in two weeks. Normally they take months. It looked like they wanted to put this one away for some reason,” Evangelos said.
Feltis went to the Ameses’ home on Roberts Cemetery Road the night he died to confront Dorian Ames. In the months since Feltis moved to Vinalhaven, he had allegedly been harassed by the couple. The harassment seemed to start after Feltis took a job as a sternman on a lobster boat ― a job that Dorian Ames had also been seeking, according to Feltis’ girlfriend, Jennie Candage.
Feltis brought the alleged harassment to the attention of a Knox County sheriff’s deputy stationed on the island multiple times. Feltis and Candage sought to file a formal complaint against the Ameses just three days before Feltis’ was killed, but the deputy told them he wouldn’t approach the Ameses immediately because he didn’t want to “stir” anything up, according to Candage.
On the evening of June 14, Feltis asked Candage to drive him to Ames’ home so he could confront Dorian Ames. He had already gone to the home earlier in the day, but the couple was not home. Briannah Ames told the BDN and police that Feltis kicked their door in during this first attempted confrontation.
When they approached the home, Dorian Ames allegedly hit the headlight of Candage’s car with a hatchet, according to recently released court documents, and Feltis and Candage retreated.
Sometime after 9:30 p.m., Feltis and Candage returned, this time followed by a second car which contained five people. When they arrived at the house, only Feltis ― who was unarmed ― got out and yelled for Dorian Ames to come outside, according to Isles Blackington, who was the driver of the second vehicle.
“He was just there to fight Dorian, to say stop f****** with me and leave me alone,” Blackington said Sunday. “[The Ameses] pushed him past the breaking point.”
Candage said Feltis had been drinking prior to going to the Ameses’ home, but was not drunk. It is unclear if others were drinking.
Briannah and Dorian Ames claim that Feltis made his way into their home and began physically fighting with the couple until Briannah Ames was able to get a kitchen knife and wound him during the fight, according to statements she made to police.
However, Candage and the other five witnesses who watched the altercation from their car, said that Feltis never went into the home. According to them, the fight happened on the porch. When Feltis yelled for Dorian Ames to come outside, Briannah Ames allegedly came outside first and punched Feltis in the face, several witnesses said Sunday.
When Dorian Ames came onto the porch, he allegedly picked up a hatchet and said “I’m going to f****** kill you, Roger,” according to Heidi Guilford, who was in the passenger seat of Blackington’s car.
As Briannah Ames and Feltis fought, Blackington said Dorian Ames stood by with the hatchet just watching. Both Blackington and Candage said they never saw Briannah Ames with a knife.
“He waited for the perfect opportunity,” Blackington said. “He watched his wife fight Roger for probably a good 30 seconds to a minute and once he thought he could make a hit, he swung.”
Dorian Ames denies that he ever swung the hatchet or hit Feltis with it. But Candage and Blackington said they saw him hit Feltis in the neck.
After being cut, Feltis walked off the porch and was put in the back of Blackington’s car. The wound on his neck was large enough to fit a hand into, Candage said Sunday.
Blackington drove Feltis and Candage to the island medical center where he was pronounced dead.
A medical examiner determined that Feltis died from knife wounds. However, Candage and other witnesses are perplexed by this determination since they never saw a knife, only the hatchet.
At some point during the altercation, Briannah Ames’ hand and thigh were cut, however she told police she never saw Feltis with a weapon so it is unclear how she sustained these injuries.
In the hours and days following Feltis’ death, witnesses felt that police were not trying to get the entire story of what transpired. Two witnesses said they had to seek out state police detectives on the island to give their statements. Blackington said police were trying to manipulate his statement.
“I had to tell the state police officer to stop twisting my words,” Blackington said.
Of the six witnesses who were present the night Feltis was killed ― aside from Dorian and Briannah Ames ― only Candage was called as a witness by state prosecutors during the grand jury hearing.
The Maine attorney general’s office has previously declined to comment on the grand jury process.
Following Feltis’ death, Vinalhaven residents voted to stop paying for services from the Knox County Sheriff’s Office, largely because they felt the protection the agency provided for the island was ineffective.
Feltis’ family is hopeful that Evengelos’ petition will finally hold the people who caused his death responsible for their actions.
“We want to know that we don’t have to worry about the other things that these people are clearly capable of. There is no sense of safety right now. Justice would be great, but this is about safety,” Feltis’ brother, Adam Feltis, said Sunday.