AUGUSTA — Police know how Blanche M. Kimball was killed 36 years ago, and now they believe they have found her killer.
But the woman at the heart of the investigation remains a mystery.
She left behind only a few distant relatives and there’s only a small paper trail of her life.
Maine State Police Lt. Christopher Coleman said police are compelled to investigate cold cases like Kimball’s even when there are not a lot of loved ones seeking justice.
“Every story needs to be told,” he said.
Gary Sanford Raub, 63, who has spent at least the past several years living on the streets of Seattle, has been charged with murdering Kimball. Raub made his first court appearance Tuesday and is being held in the Seattle Correctional Facility in lieu of $1.5 million bail.
Raub is scheduled for a second appearance today in King County District Court in Seattle. Coleman said Augusta Police Detective Jason Cote and Maine State Police Detective Abbe Chabot, who went to Seattle this week to charge Raub, could return to Maine with the prisoner on Friday. It is also possible the extradition process could take weeks or even months, Coleman said.
Even as DNA evidence and investigative work have given authorities what they believe to be a clear picture of the killing that occurred inside Kimball’s 352 State St. home sometime in early June 1976, investigators are still trying to learn basic details about the first 70 years of Kimball’s life.
“We’re hoping some of this publicity will help us find out where her family was and what her background was,” Coleman said. He hopes other family members will come forward to speak to police, because any additional information could help the investigation.
Coleman said Kimball’s only known relative, who doesn’t want to speak to the media, is pleased someone has been charged with her murder.
“We want to know what kind of person she was,” Coleman said. “We just want to make sure we reach out to the family.”
Little family, few details
Much of what is known about Kimball comes from a brief obituary, which says she worked as a practical nurse and a dental technician and had been employed by the Veterans Administration Center at Togus. She retired in 1973.
Kimball was born in Albany Township on March 27, 1906. Genealogy records show her maternal grandparents were farmers in Oxford County, and her parents, Fannie B. and Elliot Kimball, had a farm on Sawin Hill Road for a couple of years until 1908, according to “A History of Sawin Hill Road in Waterford and Albany, Maine,” by Edward A. Holt.
Coleman said Kimball’s mother ran a group home at the State Street house where her daughter would later be killed.
Brooks died in Augusta in 1963 and Kimball inherited the house with attached barn, according to city records. Kimball rented out rooms in her house, Coleman said. The house, on south State Street near the Hallowell line, was torn down in 1980 and the spot is now part of a parking lot.
“Other than that we don’t have much information on her,” Coleman said.
The only surviving relatives listed in Kimball’s obituary are two aunts — Gladys Swan of Melrose, Mass., who died in 1989, and Tessie Godfrey of Santa Cruz, Calif. — and several cousins whose names weren’t include. Those aunts were Kimball’s sole heirs.
“Investigators struggled even back then to find her next of kin,” said Deputy Chief Jared Mills of the Augusta Police. “They finally found her aunt in Massachusetts.”
Attempts Wednesday to find residents in Albany Township who knew Kimball or her family were not successful. The township is an unorganized territory outside Bethel, in western Maine. Census data say about 500 people live in an area that includes Albany and two other townships.
Meanwhile, longtime residents of the area in Augusta where Kimball lived said Wednesday they didn’t recall her. Most had no memory of the slaying, although one man said he recalled reading about the death in 1976.
‘She’s a human being’
Even if investigators never learn what Kimball was like, Mills said they never forgot who she was.
“She’s a human being,” Mills said.
Police have shared little more information about Raub. An affidavit filed by Chabot in Kennebec County Superior Court indicates Raub, who had rented a room from Kimball, was a suspect early on but police couldn’t find the evidence to charge him.
Augusta and state police detectives at the time specifically searched for shoes to match to a blood print left on a box. Raub, who went by the name Gary Robert Wilson at the time, said he had just one pair of sneakers, which he had bought shortly after the date police believe the killing occurred. Raub said he threw his old shoes in the dump. Police searched, but never found the shoes.
“Gary Wilson denied any involvement in Blanche Kimball’s death but provided a limited accounting of his movements on June 6 through June 11, 1976,” Chabot wrote.
Retired Augusta police officer Lee Clement, who was involved with the initial investigation, told Chabot that Raub was considered a suspect in part because police caught him breaking into a woman’s home through the basement. Clement recalled Raub was jailed for a burglary conviction, but records kept at Kennebec County Superior Court and Augusta District Court only go back to 1979. Neither court shows a criminal record for Raub.
Clement said Raub left Maine a few years after Kimball’s death.
A turning point in investigator’s search for Kimball’s killer came in October 2011, when Raub was charged in connection with a Seattle stabbing.
It also appears there were four actions in Seattle Municipal Court against Raub between 1999 and 2008.
The state of Maine has more than 60 open murder investigations. Each one is assigned to a detective who is responsible for knowing the details of the case, Coleman said.
Detectives are always looking for that next piece of evidence that will complete the puzzle. In Kimball’s case, that piece was a tip after the 2011 Seattle stabbing, Coleman said.
The information from that tip ended up not being helpful, but the process of checking on it led investigators to the additional DNA evidence needed to arrest Kimball.
Investigators collected a DNA sample from the knife used in the Seattle attack and the analysis showed partial profiles were linked to Raub and to the blood found in Kimball’s home.
An undercover officer with Seattle police got a DNA profile from Raub in July by asking him to participate in a “chewing gum survey,” and DNA from his saliva on the gum matched the earlier samples.
Betty Adams — 621-5631
Craig Crosby — 621-5642