An archive of the Portland Press Herald article under the cut.
Thursday, December 1, 2005
Police say girl was killed by neighbor
By TREVOR MAXWELL, Portland Press Herald Writer
Copyright © 2005 Blethen Maine Newspapers Inc.
FAYETTE — Marlee Johnston and Patrick Armstrong were friends growing up, two of the kids in a quiet neighborhood on Lovejoy Pond. On Wednesday, Johnston's family prepared for her memorial service while Armstrong was being held at a detention center, charged with murdering her.
Police say Armstrong, 14, killed Johnston around noon on Saturday, not far from their homes. Alec Johnston found his sister's body in the shallow water of the pond, about an hour after Marlee stepped out to walk the family dogs.
"We're not going to release the cause of death at this point," or other details of the investigation, said Deputy Attorney General William Stokes. The state has not yet decided whether Armstrong, who was arrested Tuesday, will be tried as a juvenile or an adult.
Armstrong, who is home-schooled, lives with his parents and an older sister in a log cabin home on Water Lily Lane, a dirt road that branches from Lovejoy Shores Drive, where the Johnstons have lived since 1986.
Marlee Johnston, 14, was an eighth-grader at Winthrop Middle School.
The Armstrong family made no statements on Wednesday.
Hours after the killing, police were looking into a personal Web site believed to be Patrick Armstrong's, said a source close to the investigation.
The name, birthdate and other personal details on the site match Armstrong exactly, though authorities have not confirmed that Armstrong is the author of the content. Pages downloaded from the site were circulating among Kents Hill School students early this week.
The site could be interpreted as the ramblings of a troubled individual or someone who enjoyed sharing very dark humor with friends who were given access to the site.
"I hate this society and I hate most people within it," the site reads.
In a list of general interests, the site mentions skateboarding, hanging out with friends, serial killers and Columbine, among others. A list of heroes mentions Eric Harris, one of the gunmen in the 1999 Columbine High School shootings.
Faith Soria, who lives next to the Armstrongs, hopes police are mistaken about their suspect. She said Patrick Armstrong was always polite and did not cause problems in the neighborhood.
"They are wonderful neighbors and friends to us," Soria said. "We're still waiting to hear the whole story. We don't know what really happened down there."
Ted Johnston, Marlee's father, described what happened on the day of the killing. That morning, Marlee and Alec watched a movie, then Alec went to his room to work on college applications. Ted Johnston asked his daughter to walk their two Pekingese dogs.
A neighbor called to say that one of the dogs was loose, and Ted and Alec went searching. Alec Johnston walked down Loon Watch Lane, which leads to the shoreline. That's where he found his sister.
Loon Watch Lane is a short walk from Water Lily Lane, where the Armstrongs live. The streets are connected by narrow dirt roads through the woods.
Pam Robinson lives a few houses from the Johnstons. She and her husband, Mark, Fayette's recently hired town manager, have not been able to sleep much since the killing. They are trying to support their friends, while at the same time keeping nerves in check. They have three boys, ranging in age from 9 to 16.
"Even though they apprehended someone, you still don't feel the same going for a walk in your neighborhood," Robinson said. "You figure the loop is so safe. And then this happens on a Saturday in broad daylight. I won't even let my youngest stand at the driveway to wait for his bus."
Patrick Armstrong was home-schooled, according to neighbors and Terry Despres, superintendent for Winthrop schools.
LeeAnn Miller, owner of the nearby country store, said Armstrong and two of his friends often stopped by for candy and soda. Lately, they have been noticed around the Lovejoy Pond neighborhood riding skateboards.
Betty Armstrong, Patrick's mother, has been a friendly, regular customer at the store for years, Miller said. She generally stops in at least once a week around lunchtime to pick up a pizza.
Miller said there is a sense of relief in the town because an arrest has been made, and now people are asking: How could this killing have been done by one of their own?
"We're just trying to put it together," Miller said.
Neither Stokes nor Marlee's father commented on any possible motive, or the relationship between the two 14-year-olds.
"They were friends" when they were younger, said Jon Englehardt, whose daughter attended Fayette Central School with Alec and Marlee Johnston.
Community members made it clear, however, that Marlee and Patrick lived in very different worlds by the time they became teenagers.
At Winthrop Middle School, Marlee was seen as a leader in athletics and academics. She was outgoing and constantly involved in everything from the ski team to singing performances. Most of the neighbors who circle Lovejoy Pond either knew or recognized the girl.
Patrick Armstrong had a much lower profile, said Englehardt.
Ted Johnston continued to receive support from friends and relatives on Wednesday at the family home. Relatives have come this week from Toronto, North Carolina and New York City. He did not want to discuss Patrick Armstrong, but acknowledged that the two families, longtime neighbors, are now struggling.
"My wife and I grieve for them and pray for them as much as we are grieving for Marlee," he said.
Hundreds of people, including Gov. John Baldacci, are expected today at a private memorial service at Kents Hill School. Baldacci ordered flags to be flown at half-staff in Fayette from sunrise to sunset today. Ted Johnston is well known in Augusta as an environmental consultant and lobbyist.
"Marlee touched so many people in her community and her loss is greatly felt by all," Baldacci said in a written statement.