Thursday, April 30, 2009

1922 Game Warden mystery

This is a fascinating story being unearthed by Amy Erickson of Maine's WABI TV-5 in a two part broadcast beginning with tonight's installment during the 6:00 news. Read on! And watch it unfold tonight, if you are near their broadcast area! There is also a small videoclip on the site to whet your appetite.
Drowning...or Murder? Part One of Amy Erickson's Special Report
by Amy Erickson
Apr 29th 2009

It's a story that's captured the attention of Game Wardens and other law enforcement personnel throughout Maine for close to a hundred years.

Back in 1922, two wardens went missing in the North Country.

Their bodies were discovered five months later.

It was thought that they drowned...but as the years passed, speculation has grown as to what may have really happened.

"There are a tremendous amount of questions that probably will never be answered."

When Game Warden Jared Herrick goes into the woods, his mind can't help but wander back to a story he first heard years ago...of two Wardens who went missing more than 80 years ago in the Saint John Valley.

Chief Warden David Brown of Greenville...and Warden Mertley Johnson of Patten headed up to Big Bog to investigate illegal activity.

"They were looking into canadian poaching of beaver...illegal beaver trapping."

The men left home on November 11th, telling their families they'd be home by Thanksgiving...but they were never seen again.

A massive search ensued...but turned up nothing...until the spring...when their bodies were discovered in the water near Big Bog Dam.

"The autopsies...apparently, they didn't find anything at that time, but then again, you're talking a couple of bodies that had been underwater all winter and probably not in the best of condition."

In 1923, it would still be more than 40 years before the Medical Examiner's office came into two doctors out of Skowhegan performed the autopsies.

They believed the men drowned.

But to this day, there are plenty who aren't convinced that's what *really* happened to Brown and Johnson.

"It doesn't look like a place where two game wardens would drown. that seemed to be the consensus of opinion."

Maxim Squires is a former Chief of Police in Greenville.

He remembers how the case puzzled the lead investigator for years.

"They felt it was suspicious. i mean, how do two game wardens drown?"

If you ask most modern-day wardens, they'll tell you there are several problems with the drowning theory.

First, there wasn't any water found in either man's lungs.

Add to that the fact that the water where they were found was fairly shallow at the time they went missing.

"It's unlikely that the water would've been over their head. it's most likely that the water level would've been maybe waist deep maximum."

Some guessed that the wardens had tried to cross thin ice with fatal results.

But retired Game Warden Bill Allen, who's studied the case...says there's no way.

"It would be pretty unusual for an experienced game warden supervisor like david brown or an experienced warden like mertley johnson to just wander out onto a flowage in northern maine on thin ice in the middle of november. Woodsmen of their caliber don't do that, period. And I don't think they did."

Bill Allen says he has a pretty good idea of what really happened to Wardens Brown and Johnson...and his theory is shared by many others.

The problem?

How to prove it.

We'll look at that part of the story Thursday night at 6 on TV5 News.

In 2008, Noah Zarck, a Mainer and Unity College student, wrote a book about the case, called Two Wardens Found.


Jim @ said...

These old mysteries are very fascinating. I was reading about one on John Wilkes Booth on another blog I visit. The lack of appropriate tools and technologies back then leaves the door open for this kind of speculation.

Anonymous said...

I have been told by my father that back in the old days my grandfather killed a game warden???
I don't knoe how to go about checking this out, as most everone is dead? any ideas Lynda