Cold case: Clues sought in 1977 slaying

By Toni-Lynn Robbins


BANGOR - State police said Monday they hope new technology will help them solve the 30-year-old murder of a woman whose body was found on Mount Desert Island.

Maine State Police Sgt. Troy Gardner said during a news conference that more sophisticated techniques, including new ways to analyze DNA and to study footprints and fingerprints, could help move forward the investigation of Leslie Spellmanís death.

Spellman, 26, of Hingham, Mass., was last seen on June 18, 1977, in Barre, Vt. She hitchhiked from there to Acadia National Park on MDI with her dog, Taylor, Gardner said.

Her body was found at around 9:45 the next morning in the Asticou Azalea Gardens in Northeast Harbor, and her dog was located a half-mile down the road.

News reports at the time said Spellman was bludgeoned to death, but not sexually assaulted.

Gardner said 30 years is a long time to keep a secret.

"People engaged in this type of behavior talk," he said.

Gardner and state police Detective Jay Pelletier said the investigation continues and that Pelletier has worked on the case for years.

Spellmanís sister, Amie Vaughan, now 52, said she last saw her sister in Vermont on June 18, 1977, where the two split up. Spellman was bound for Maine and Vaughan was going to upstate New York to visit friends.

Vaughan traveled to Bangor on Monday, from Chapel Hill, N.C., to meet with the press in hopes of bringing more publicity to her sisterís case and finally find her killer.

"Itís never over. It never goes away," Vaughan said. "I would like to know who did it and where they are now."

Spellman loved to paint, play the guitar and mandolin, and travel, Vaughan said. Her sister was a very small woman, and she remembered how Spellman had to use a stepladder to reach under the hood and into the engine of her beloved Jeep, Vaughan said.

Vaughan, who was 22 at the time of the murder, said she could not even speculate about who was responsible for her sisterís death.

"I donít believe someone does something like this once," Vaughan said. "They may have spent their lives in prison."

In 2000, the arrest of serial killer James Hicks in Texas prompted police to look closely at the manís possible involvement in Spellmanís death. At the time, investigators would not say if Hicks was a suspect, and on Monday Gardner still would not confirm or deny whether he is suspected.

Pelletier said he had not questioned Hicks on the case.

"She was so precious," Vaughan said. "To kill someone like that, who was so defenseless, I just canít understand. No matter what kind of monster did this, they must think about it. It must follow them."

Anyone with information

about the case is encouraged to call the Maine State Police at 800-432-7381. Out-of-state callers can dial 207-866-2121.