LEWISTON — Samantha Folsom had been missing for three days when her parents took matters into their own hands.
Jon and Joline Turner went to their daughter’s apartment in the Place Ste. Marie apartment complex on Oxford Street and asked a maintenance worker to unlock the door. Inside, the lights and television were all on. The windows were open, and a window fan was on, though it was a cold November day. They walked through the two-story apartment, searching everywhere, and found their daughter’s cat, Gadget, upstairs.
Eventually they opened the closet by the front entryway. Samantha Folsom’s body lay inside, curled up in a fetal position with her face turned away.
“It felt like someone had punched me,” Joline said.
That was Nov. 9, 2011. More than a year later, police have yet to charge anyone with her murder, nor have they named any suspects. It was only this month — on the first anniversary of her death — that authorities even revealed that her death had been ruled a homicide.
Folsom’s death has split her family and confounded those who knew her. She was a single mother with a drug problem and a young son being cared for by her parents, but she had told her parents that she was returning to rehab the day before she disappeared.
The longer the investigation drags on, the more frustrated her family and loved ones become that her killer will never be charged. With no answer about what happened to Samantha Folsom, her neighbors at Place Ste. Marie and acquaintances are left to live in fear.
Joline said she had expected to hear from her daughter on the night she died. When she hadn’t heard from her by the next day, she became even more concerned.
“She was supposed to go back in rehab the next day. She had said, ‘I’d been clean.'” Joline recalled. “She sounded really good, positive, like the old Sammy again trying to kick the habit so she could get her son back.”
The Turners said they tried calling their daughter’s phone but got her voicemail. Eventually the voicemail box got full and stopped taking messages. They tried to file a missing persons report at the police station but were told she hadn’t been missing long enough.
No one heard from Folsom for three days before her parents came looking for her.
“We had a really bad feeling even before we left the house,” Joline said. “I knew something was wrong.”
Folsom was 26 years old when she died.
Two families torn apart
In the year since their daughter was killed, grief has driven the Turners apart. Jon still lives in the split-level ranch home where Folsom grew up in Greene, but Joline moved to an apartment in Lewiston. They remain on good terms and still talk to each other, but they no longer take care of Folsom’s son, now 4 years old, as they were doing before their daughter died. The boy now lives with Joline’s relatives.
“It was too much for her,” Jon said of his wife’s grief. They separated after 32 years of marriage.
But on Thanksgiving morning this week they came together to share photos and stories of their daughter’s life, including photos from Folsom’s funeral, and talk about the harrowing memory of finding her body.
Born Samantha Elizabeth Turner, she grew up inseparable from her older brother, Jonathan. They did everything together, from Campfire to karate, swimming and soccer. Folsom even tagged along to her big brother’s Boy Scout meets, her parents said.
In middle school, Samantha became a cheerleader. When she was at Leavitt High School in Turner, she cheered for the Portland Pirates hockey team and was captain of the junior varsity cheerleaders.
“She was really popular,” her father said.
In school, Folsom always stuck up for kids who couldn’t defend themselves. She always rooted for the underdog, her parents said.
She loved animals too. In second grade, she brought home her first cat, Moo Moo. Now 20 years old, Moo Moo is still part of the family, sitting on the couch between Folsom’s parents as they talked. Later, there were more cats, some of which live with her father now and others at her mother’s apartment.
Folsom also loved music, especially the rap group Insane Clown Posse, but she even liked the disco music that her parents listened to.
“She was really funny,” said Sam York, her best friend from high school, who now lives in Colorado. “She was a fun person to be around. She didn’t want anyone to be sad.”
After high school, York set her up on a blind date with Jesse Folsom, who was a year younger than her, at Schemengee’s pool hall in Lewiston. Within weeks Samantha and Jesse were a couple.
Jesse finished his GED with help from the Turners and joined the Army. Samantha and Jesse married on Dec. 29, 2005, and moved to Fort Irwin in Barstow, Calif., where Jesse was stationed.
“It was kind of a rush wedding,” said Jesse, who now lives with his family in Buckfield. “We didn’t have much money. I had just finished basic (training).”
When they moved to California, he said, they were excited about leaving Maine. In photos from that time, Jesse is clean-cut, with a military bearing. Samantha smiles in every picture.
“We got out,” Jesse said. “We had our own life. We had a house.”
They walked along Hollywood Boulevard. They traveled frequently to Las Vegas. There were cookouts at the Army base.
But they also started using heroin, and Samantha got hooked.
“Sam was a good soul,” her father said. “She really was a good girl, but she was addicted to a really bad drug.”
Along with the bad came something really good. The young couple had a son, born in June 2008.
“That was one of the best times of our life,” Jesse said.
But it all fell apart when they moved back to Maine in 2009. Jesse wanted to return to his home and family, but Samantha wanted to stay in California. He left active duty in the Army but stayed in the Army Reserves, he said. They lived with the Turners in Greene for a while until their marriage failed and they separated, though they never followed through with a divorce.
“Drugs are a bad thing,” Jesse said. “It’s the one thing that really ruined us.”
Initially their son lived with Samantha as she moved into her apartment at Place Ste. Marie, but as she struggled with her addiction and rehab, Jon and Joline took over their grandson’s care.
“She loved that little boy,” Joline said. “She loved him enough to give him up.”
‘Police were everywhere’
Place Ste. Marie at 64 Oxford St., the apartment complex where Folsom lived and died, has two identical buildings. Folsom lived in apartment S3E, one of nine apartments on the third floor.
Kitty Schmutte, a retiree, has lived in apartment S2C, directly below Folsom’s apartment, for 13 years. She said she was shocked when she heard Folsom had been killed in the building.
“I heard nothing, no arguments, no fights, nothing,” she said.
She said Folsom was always neighborly, and often the loudest noises in Place Ste. Marie were the sounds of children playing.
“It’s very peaceful,” Schmutte said. “It was a shock to everyone.”
Schmutte said police interviewed her, as they did the other tenants, but she heard nothing the night Folsom died.
Folsom’s next-door neighbor, Crystal Murphy, said the apartments at Place Ste. Marie are so close together that everyone knows each other’s business. The front door of the apartment where Murphy lives with her three young boys is only about 10 feet from Folsom’s.
“Her boy was the same age as my middle boy,” Murphy said. “She’d let him out to play, and I’d let my boys out to play.”
Murphy said she first learned about Folsom’s death when her eldest son, then a first grader, came home from school and told her that police were everywhere.
Police questioned Murphy, who says officers showed her a photo of a man and asked if she had seen him.
“They didn’t give me a name,” Murphy said. She was not shown any other photos of any other men.
Murphy said she remembers the man in the picture. He was well dressed, wearing a button-down shirt and tie. He also wore an identification badge around his neck, she said.
“He is a man who must obviously be in some position of authority,” Murphy said.
She described the man in the photo as dark-skinned and appearing to be in his late 20s or 30s.
Murphy said she knew Folsom had been away for some time in the months before she died. Folsom had gone into rehab and then kept to herself when she returned. Murphy said Folsom had told her that she had checked herself into rehab to become fit again to be a good mother for her son.
“It’s extremely unfortunate,” Murphy said. “It’s definitely not something she deserved.”
On the day his estranged wife died, Jesse was in jail. After he and Samantha separated, Jesse started getting in trouble with the law, mostly motor vehicle offenses in the beginning. But Samantha started dating another man after they separated. Jesse assaulted that man and was serving time in jail for that attack at the time of her death.
He was told of her death on Nov. 9, the day she was found, at exactly 10:38 p.m., he said. The news hit him hard.
“I’ve never felt something like that in my life,” he said.
Since 2010 and after his release, Jesse said, he has stayed clean, drug free.
Neither Lewiston police nor Maine State Police will say much about the hunt for Samantha Folsom’s killer.
Lewiston Police Lieutenant Detective Michael McGonagle said the investigation into her death is open and active.
“We’re still investigating it. We’re working with the Maine State Police detectives,” McGonagle said. “We have some leads.”
He deferred further comment to the state police. The agencies are investigating the case in conjunction.
Steve McCausland, spokes-man for the Department of Public Safety, wouldn’t say anything about the investigation other than to confirm that the case had been considered a homicide long before it was announced.
“We had never publicly announced that until recently,” McCausland said. “It was officially named a homicide at the beginning of the year.”
He said the decision to declare Folsom’s death a homicide coincided with the first anniversary of her death, but police are not releasing any other new information.
“We’ve said very little about the case and continue to do so,” McCausland said.
He would not say whether police have identified any suspects or a motive. He also declined to say how Folsom died.
“The medical examiner’s office is not releasing any information on this case at the request of the attorney general’s office,” McCausland said.
Folsom’s parents said it is frustrating to wait and not learn anything new about how their daughter died or who is responsible for her death.
Jon Turner said he hopes his daughter’s killer is found and brought to justice, but he and Joline take solace in other things.
“We just keep our faith in God that he’ll take care of it on his end,” he said. “Sammy’s in a better place. At least we know where she is.”