WATERVILLE – Colby College students and faculty paused Thursday to quietly remember 21-year-old Dawn Rossignol of Medway, whose random abduction and murder one year ago stunned the entire state and sent ripples of fear across the otherwise tranquil campus.
A few students and faculty members drifted into Lorimer Chapel at noon and simply sat quietly beside one another.
President William Adams spoke briefly, urging people to keep the Rossignol family in their thoughts.
“Our best and warmest thoughts are to them on this very sad day,” Adams said.
While the anniversary was marked quietly, and in most cases individually, other reminders of the tragedy were more obvious.
Police call boxes and campus security vehicles have been freshly painted with bright colors to make them more noticeable and new locks requiring key cards have been installed on the campus’s academic buildings. They already were installed in residential halls.
While people sat in the chapel Thursday, workers just over the hill were making changes to the very parking lot from which Rossignol was abducted.
“Basically that parking lot had two or three access points from Washington Street,” Colby spokesman Stephen Collins said. “We are altering that so cars will actually have to come through the campus to get to that lot.”
Rossignol was just beginning her senior year at Colby when she was snagged from the Hillside parking lot as she approached her car early one morning. She was supposed to meet her mother in Bangor for a doctor’s appointment. Her mother reported her missing when the student failed to arrive.
Her body was found the next day off Rice Rips Road in the Messalonskee Stream, just one mile from the campus.
Rossignol’s death nearly paralyzed the Waterville community with fear, and for one week, hundreds of police officers, game wardens and other law enforcement agencies carpeted the area looking for clues. There were helicopters in the skies above the campus and search dogs on the ground. A command post was set up on the campus, and press briefings were held as often as twice a day.
After several days, investigators zeroed in on Edward J. Hackett, a 47-year-old Utah parolee with a history of attacks on women. Hackett was arrested at his parents’ Vassalboro home one week after the murder.
Last March, he pleaded guilty to kidnapping and murder and was sentenced to life in prison.
Rossignol’s murder cast a pall over the academic year at the private liberal arts college, and commencement ceremonies in the spring were not as celebratory, Collins said. At the ceremony, the college presented an honorary bachelor’s degree to Rossignol’s parents.
Rossignol was a biology major who planned to become a pharmacist. She was a dean’s list student and was remembered as faithful and quiet friend. She was the first in her family to attend college, she was an L.L. Bean Scholar and she was a member of the Colby Christian Fellowship.
Leo Trudel of Fort Kent, a sophomore at Colby, arrived at the chapel just after noon on Thursday and sat in the back for a few moments. Upon leaving, he said he never knew Rossignol but was touched by the tragedy.
“I think the students are now going about their lives, but this event, and her, are always there, you know? It’s made a mark,” he said.