2014-05-30 / Front Page

Memorial walk set to honor cold case victim

By Alex Acquisto
Staff Writer

Mary Tanner Mary Tanner KENNEBUNK — Members of Justice for Mary, a group of people who knew and loved Mary Tanner, are inviting everyone to attend the first Walk Mary Home Monday, July 7.

Tanner was born in 1960 in Biddeford to Charles and Shirley Tanner. During her time at Kennebunk High School, Tanner was a cheerleader and a majorette. She was known by many to be a very happy, kind-hearted young woman.

Tanner was killed in 1978 at the age of 18. Her badly beaten body was discovered in Gracie Evans Airfield in Lyman. She was last seen by friends on July 7 after they dropped her off on the bridge over the Mousam River, near Rotary Park. It was believed Tanner was going to hitch a ride.

The recently announced documentary, “The Girl on The Bridge,” directed by Rik O’Neil, will depict how Tanner’s death has left lasting impressions on members of her small community. Filming will begin this summer.

Walk Mary Home will begin Saturday evening at the Rotary Park gazebo, out to what was once the Tanner family home on Cat Mousam Road— a distance of approximately 1.5 miles. Participants should meet at the gazebo at 6 p.m., and the walk will begin at 6:30 p.m..

Once at the property where Tanner’s home once stood, participants will tie lilac ribbons to a nearby tree, to represent lilac flowers, which were Tanner’s favorite.

In the years since, clues concerning Tanner’s death have surfaced, but not enough to constitute convicting evidence and the case has remained cold.

Maine State Police Major Crimes Unit Lt. Brian McDonough, who was a primary detective on Tanner’s case in the 1990s, told the Post last April, “Historically there are 11 to 12 homicides annually. Right now there are almost 100 cold cases statewide. Each detective is assigned three to five cases. When you receive one of these cases, regardless of its age, you’re expected to study the case and come up with an investigative plan.”

McDonough said in 95 percent of unsolved murder cases the police have a very good idea of what happened and who is to blame, but for lack of evidential proof no arrest can be made. “We refer to these cas- es as solved, but not proven beyond a reasonable doubt,” said McDonough.

“It doesn’t happen very often that we solve cases this old, but obviously with the onset of DNA testing we’re seeing more of them,” said McDonough.

In murder cases – especially those that have remained unsolved — McDonough encourages his detectives to befriend the families and exchange telephone numbers. “It’s obviously very frustrating for a significant period of time to go by with no resolution after someone loses a loved one,” he said.

“What I really try and do to the victim’s family’s and survivors, to prevent them from riding on an emotional roller coaster, is to not provide them with false hope. What we can say is that we will be diligent and thorough,” said McDonough.

Tanner’s friends and family have remained diligent for three and a half decades, ensuring that Tanner’s memory is not forgotten.

A scholarship fund for Kennebunk High School majorettes was established in Tanner’s name, and a bench was dedicated late last year in Rotary Park to honor Tanner’s memory.

Those who are not able to attend the walk are urged to contact administrators of the Justice for Mary Facebook page. “There’s quite a few people that can’t make it there because they live other places,” said Tim Ames, a friend of Tanner’s and a 1977 graduate of Kennebunk High School. “So we are, at their request, mailing them ribbons. When we’re walking that day, they are actually going to tie a ribbon wherever they may live and then they’ll take a picture and send it back to us.”

On the Justice for Mary page, all are urged to, on the night of July 7, “Please tie the ribbon on a tree near you in honor of Mary. A symbolic gesture of love that transcends both time and distance.”

Ames said, “For me, Walking Mary Home, is an opportunity to reflect upon Mary and that time in our lives when we all felt safe in our tiny town of Kennebunk.

“We had no worries. We knew our neighbors. They looked out for us. We knew the Tanner family and we grieved along with them.

“I look forward to symbolically Walking Mary Home and tying a ribbon on her tree. Perhaps in some small measure, this will bring much-needed, and long overdue, rest to Kennebunk’s child. Mary, with the help of all of us, will finally be going home.”

For more information on the event and Tanner’s case, visit the Justice for Mary Facebook page.

Any information that may lead to solving Mary Turner’s murder can be called in to Maine State Police Detective Corey Pike at corey.p.pike@maine.gov, or call 1-800-228- 0857.

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