October 17, 2012

Homeless man charged in 1976 Augusta murder

By Craig Crosby ccrosby@centralmaine.com
Staff Writer

and Betty Adams badams@centralmaine.com
Staff Writer

AUGUSTA -- DNA from a homeless Seattle man's chewing gum helped lead authorities to arrest the man in connection with a 36-year-old Augusta cold case murder.

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The following is a list of area cold cases that have resulted in a conviction:

* Jay Stephen Mercier was indicted in September 2011 in the July 1980 murder of 20-year-old Rita St. Peter of Anson. Her body was found off Campground Road in Anson on July 5 that year. She had been beaten, her skull fractured and police said she appeared to have been run over. Mercier was a suspect from the beginning, but he was charged after DNA from fluids collected from St. Peter's body matched Mercier. His DNA was collected from a cigarette butt he smoked during an interview in January 2010. Mercier was convicted of murder last month and faces 25 years to life in prison.

* Thomas Mitchell Jr. was indicted in September 2006 in the Jan. 6, 1983, stabbing death of 23-year-old Judith Flagg in her rural Fayette home. Mitchell -- whose father formerly owned the house -- had been viewed as a prime suspect for some time before tests linked DNA found under Flagg's fingernails to Mitchell. After a jury convicted him, he was sentenced in August 2009 to life in prison without parole.

* Albert P. Cochran was arrested in Florida on March 17, 1998, and charged with the Nov. 23, 1976, slaying of Janet Baxter in Norridgewock. DNA testing matched semen samples found in Baxter's body and the hairs taken from Cochran. Cochran was sentenced to life in prison in 1999.

* Michael M. Boucher Sr. was charged with murder in 1988 -- 15 years after Debra Dill, 18, of West Gardiner, was found bludgeoned to death. Her body was found on Sept. 16, 1973. State police said her car was forced off the road and into a ditch on a camp road near the Litchfield-Monmouth line. Court records in the case say Boucher told people in 1981 that he had killed Dill. He was convicted of her murder and sentenced to life in prison in July 1991.

* Norma Small was arrested in May 2001 on a murder charge in the death of her husband, Sonny Grotton, at his home in Belfast on Dec. 16, 1983. She was charged with hiring someone to murder him and was convicted and sentenced to 60 years in prison.

State and Augusta police arrested Gary Sanford Raub, 63, on Monday night and charged him with the 1976 fatal stabbing of 70-year-old Blanche M. Kimball inside her State Street home.

The Kimball murder is the oldest unsolved homicide case to result in charges in state history, police said Tuesday.

Raub was known as Gary Robert Wilson at the time and lived at Kimball's home. He is listed as a transient on the Kennebec County Superior Court complaint charging him with murder and criminal homicide in the first degree. The complaint says Raub "knowingly inflicted great physical suffering" on Kimball, a retired dental technician and practical nurse who occasionally took in boarders.

Raub -- who in a police-provided photo has a large bandage on his head and a gray beard with purple streaks -- is expected to make his first court appearance today to begin the extradition process back to Maine.

He was a suspect from early on, but police didn't have the evidence to charge him, according to court documents.

Lt. Christopher Coleman, commander of the Maine State Police Major Crimes Unit, said the 36-year investigation turned a corner in summer 2011 when police got a tip. Though the tip wasn't helpful, the investigation process eventually led to additional DNA analysis, which led to the murder charge against Raub.

Maine State Police Detective Abbe Chabot was assigned in 2003 as the primary investigator in the Kimball murder case. Her investigation included interviews with retired officers who were originally involved.

"The investigators of the day did a very thorough job," Coleman said. "We're here today because of their efforts."

Coleman wouldn't say what Raub's motive to murder Kimball might have been. He said the two met when Raub rented a room at her house at 352 State St. There is now a parking lot where the house used to be.

"Blanche had a habit of taking in short-time renters," Coleman said.

The coldest case

Kimball was never married and had no children, according to her obituary.

Coleman said police haven't been able to find a close relative, finding only a distance one in New Hampshire. Coleman said the man was glad to hear someone had been charged in Kimball's murder, but doesn't want his name made public.

Police found Kimball's body on June 12, 1976, while responding to a complaint from a neighbor who had not seen Kimball in several days.

Kimball's clothing was pulled up and her body was decomposing, according to an affidavit Chabot filed in Kennebec County Superior Court. The house was in upheaval, scattered with broken glass and debris.

Police theorized that Kimball was killed between June 2 and June 12, 1976, because they found a Kennebec Journal newspaper from June 2 at the scene as well as a receipt from Cottle's supermarket dated June 5.

Henry Ryan, chief medical examiner at the time, counted "23 stab wounds to the chest, two stab wounds to the abdomen, 16 cuts and lacerations to the head, and three cuts and abrasions to the hands."

The cause of Kimball's death was listed as stab wounds into the heart and numerous other cuts, along with hemorrhage and shock. It was listed was a homicide.

Investigators interviewed Raub twice shortly after Kimball's death but he denied any involvement. Coleman said Raub left Augusta shortly after the murder.

Before he left, he was caught trying to break into a house near Kimball's, police said.

Police interest in Raub rekindled after he was accused in an October 2011 stabbing in Seattle that injured another homeless man.

(Continued on page 2)

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