July 18, 2019

A year after man’s burning body found, investigation continues

It’s a lonely, secluded spot.

Stand beneath the Harlow Street bridge on the banks of Kenduskeag Stream in Bangor and you can feel an eerie sense of emptiness, even as you hear the rhythm of cars and trucks crossing the metal grates overhead.

A year ago Wednesday, a passing driver spotted smoke that led to the burning body of 34-year-old Trevor Paul Sprague under the concrete-and-metal bridge downtown.

Sprague’s body was in flames when rescue crews arrived.

Police have determined that he was the victim of a homicide, but no one has been arrested in the case.

Authorities have disclosed few other facts, including whether the fire was the cause of Sprague’s death.

That the homicide remains unsolved after a year of investigation is frustrating for investigators as well as for Sprague’s friends and family.

“If you never had it happen, you can’t imagine” the pain, said Jeffery Sprague, 61, Trevor’s father, in a phone interview last week from his home in Machias. “It hasn’t been good. You think about it once in a while – quite often, actually, but you keep on going.”

During last week’s telephone interview, Sprague said he was standing in his den with a picture of his murdered son in sight.

He said he immediately thought of his son a year ago when he read the Bangor Daily News story about the discovery of an unidentified burned body under a bridge.

“Knowing Trevor, it entered my mind,” he said.

After Sprague put the newspaper down, a daughter who lives in Portland called to tell him about her brother.

“I guess that’s how everybody found out,” he said.

Trevor Sprague’s body was burned so extensively that investigators had to use DNA from his father to positively identify him.

The horrifying circumstances of Trevor Sprague’s death jolted many in the city, especially homeless members of the community who knew him, said Mike Andrick, program director of the Bangor Area Homeless Shelter.

In the days after the discovery, people who monitor the area’s homeless made extra checks on people who sleep on the streets.

“[We’re] really like everyone else: We’re waiting patiently” for the crime to be solved, Andrick said recently.

Sprague’s death got groups and agencies that work with the homeless talking about how to address their problems, and it helped unify their efforts, Andrick said.

Beneath the bridge last week, past a low green steel beam, charred remains of paper products, food containers and old clothing could be seen, suggesting that somebody may have had a fire or two recently at the site to keep warm.

“It’s one of those cases that we just can’t get into a lot of the details,” Lt. Tim Reid, who leads the Bangor Police Department’s detective division, said last week.

The department still gets new information and leads, Reid said.

Still, the transient nature of the city’s homeless people, who often have alcohol, drug or mental illness problems and are sometimes wary of police, is the biggest factor impeding the investigation, Reid said.

While Jeffery Sprague described his son as a friendly but sometimes reserved man who “wouldn’t hurt a flea,” he acknowledged that his son showed signs of trouble.

Some of the homeless people his son associated with were a bad influence, he said.

“He drank quite a lot once he got in with that crowd,” Sprague said.

He said he and other family members and friends often worried about his son’s safety.

“He’d say, ‘I’ll be all right. I’m a big guy,'” he said.

“He was just a friendly, easygoing guy,” his father said. “Anyone who knew him – people at the [Bangor Area Homeless] Shelter would have told you that. If you didn’t know him, all you know is what you read in the paper.”

Trevor Sprague suffered from mental health problems.

He was convicted of assault and unlawful sexual contact in 2005 after he improperly touched a teenage boy who was sitting in a park near the Bangor Public Library. He was convicted of two counts of indecent conduct in incidents that occurred in 2001, according to a prosecutor.

His mother, Sonia Olson of Lubec, was his legal guardian, his father said. She declined requests for an interview last week.

A month before his death, Trevor Sprague was at his father’s house in Machias.

Sometime after that, Trevor Sprague traveled to Bangor, then visited his mother in Florida before returning to Maine about a week and a half before he was killed, his father said.

From Florida he called his dad to talk about the weather, his favorite subject.

“He always wanted to tell you what the weather was,” Jeffery Sprague said.

Asked why his son chose to live a transient lifestyle, his father said: “It was just Trevor. You had to know him. At Christmas dinner, he’d get up before the presents. He’d say, ‘I’ve got to go’ and off he’d go.

“I can’t really tell you why,” his father said. “He always had a place to go, but he never stayed that long.”

Lubec, a Washington County town, is like a closely knit sweater, and the death of Sprague hit the community hard, said family friend and Lubec resident Debra McConnell.

“We’re all linked together,” she said. “Trevor was one of our children.”

About 150 Lubec residents as well as people from Bangor joined Sprague’s family when his cremated remains were interred at Olson Cemetery in Lubec late last spring.

The bridge where Sprague’s body was found is one that recently retired Bangor Police Chief Don Winslow crossed numerous times – and minutes before the body’s discovery that March 2006 afternoon.

“I had just gotten on the highway when I heard the Fire Department call,” Winslow said. “Fifteen minutes later, I got the call.”

His department has pursued hundreds of leads in the past 12 months and will not stop until it can answer the question: Who killed Trevor Sprague?

“It is somewhat frustrating because it has been a year,” Winslow said. “The longer it goes, the colder the case … and the more difficult it will be. I’m confident we’ll get this one solved eventually.”

Winslow went to the Harlow Street bridge that evening a year ago, bending to get under the steel beam at the site that is inscribed with dates and people’s names. It includes the words of an old English law: “The rich as well as the poor are forbidden to sleep under bridges and steal bread.”

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