November 24, 2012

A year later, Lewiston murder confounds family, police

No charges, but plenty of frustration, in Samantha Folsom's death

By Scott Dolan sdolan@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

LEWISTON -- Samantha Folsom had been missing for three days when her parents took matters into their own hands.

click image to enlarge

Samantha Folsom holds her kitten, Gadget, in this 2010 photo.

Contributed photo

Jon and Joline Turner went to their daughter's apartment in the Place Ste. Marie apartment complex on Oxford Street and asked a maintenance worker to unlock the door. Inside, the lights and television were all on. The windows were open, and a window fan was on, though it was a cold November day. They walked through the two-story apartment, searching everywhere, and found their daughter's cat, Gadget, upstairs.

Eventually they opened the closet by the front entryway. Samantha Folsom's body lay inside, curled up in a fetal position with her face turned away.

"It felt like someone had punched me," Joline said.

That was Nov. 9, 2011. More than a year later, police have yet to charge anyone with her murder, nor have they named any suspects. It was only this month -- on the first anniversary of her death -- that authorities even revealed that her death had been ruled a homicide.

Folsom's death has split her family and confounded those who knew her. She was a single mother with a drug problem and a young son being cared for by her parents, but she had told her parents that she was returning to rehab the day before she disappeared.

The longer the investigation drags on, the more frustrated her family and loved ones become that her killer will never be charged. With no answer about what happened to Samantha Folsom, her neighbors at Place Ste. Marie and acquaintances are left to live in fear.

Joline said she had expected to hear from her daughter on the night she died. When she hadn't heard from her by the next day, she became even more concerned.

"She was supposed to go back in rehab the next day. She had said, 'I'd been clean.'" Joline recalled. "She sounded really good, positive, like the old Sammy again trying to kick the habit so she could get her son back."

The Turners said they tried calling their daughter's phone but got her voicemail. Eventually the voicemail box got full and stopped taking messages. They tried to file a missing persons report at the police station but were told she hadn't been missing long enough.

No one heard from Folsom for three days before her parents came looking for her.

"We had a really bad feeling even before we left the house," Joline said. "I knew something was wrong."

Folsom was 26 years old when she died.

Two families torn apart

In the year since their daughter was killed, grief has driven the Turners apart. Jon still lives in the split-level ranch home where Folsom grew up in Greene, but Joline moved to an apartment in Lewiston. They remain on good terms and still talk to each other, but they no longer take care of Folsom's son, now 4 years old, as they were doing before their daughter died. The boy now lives with Joline's relatives.

"It was too much for her," Jon said of his wife's grief. They separated after 32 years of marriage.

But on Thanksgiving morning this week they came together to share photos and stories of their daughter's life, including photos from Folsom's funeral, and talk about the harrowing memory of finding her body.

Born Samantha Elizabeth Turner, she grew up inseparable from her older brother, Jonathan. They did everything together, from Campfire to karate, swimming and soccer. Folsom even tagged along to her big brother's Boy Scout meets, her parents said.

In middle school, Samantha became a cheerleader. When she was at Leavitt High School in Turner, she cheered for the Portland Pirates hockey team and was captain of the junior varsity cheerleaders.

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