VASSALBORO — People who knew a Waterville man whose body was found Friday morning in Vassalboro said he told them he enjoyed going to Waterville bars at closing time to talk and offer people rides home.
Thomas Namer, 69, of 89 Pleasant St., was found dead behind a vacant mobile home on Riverside Drive, U.S. Route 201, near the state police canine unit headquarters, part of the larger Maine Criminal Justice Academy property.
Police are classifying the death as suspicious.
State police investigators Saturday cordoned off a house next to the mobile home with yellow crime scene tape. The mobile home itself already had been examined and is no longer considered part of the crime scene, said Steve McCausland, spokesman for the Maine Department of Public Safety.
A mobile investigation truck from the state police Major Crimes Unit idled in the driveway Saturday. Details of the cause and manner of death had not been released by Saturday afternoon, McCausland said.
Clifford “Cj” Douglass and Heidi Oakes, both employees at the redemption center at the Circle K service station and convenience store on Main Street in Fairfield, said Namer told them he went to the bars almost every night – not to drink, but to offer people rides home.
“He liked to help out other people,” Douglass said. “I know that he used to go down to the local bars in town and he used to make sure people that didn’t have rides or cabs got home. So we’re thinking that this might have stemmed from him giving somebody a ride home and him being generous. It was pretty much every night. He really didn’t have anything else to do. He lived alone.”
Douglass said Namer had a disability and lived at Pleasant Crossing Apartments, a 21-unit housing complex for the elderly on the site of the former Everett B. Harris YMCA on Pleasant Street. People at the apartment complex Saturday, including a woman who said Namer was her friend, declined to comment.
“He was a quiet man. He’d come here every Wednesday; it’s 6 cents a bottle on Wednesday. I got to know him pretty good,” Douglass said Saturday. “He enjoyed seeing our smiling faces, and we enjoyed seeing his. We got to talk about the Red Sox. He was ecstatic about the World Series and seeing the Red Sox win at home for the first time in 95 years.”
Douglass said Namer drove a late-1990s Buick.
McCausland said police recovered Namer’s car in Waterville and it was impounded, but he would not provide further details and would not comment on whether Namer was known to offer rides to people from local bars at closing time.
“I don’t want to get into specifics of what we’ve learned,” McCausland said. “We know a lot more about the man who died than we did on Friday.”
Heidi Oakes and her ex-husband Dana Oakes said they had known Namer for 20 years.
“He was a real sweetheart. He’d give you the shirt off his back,” Heidi Oakes said.
Dana Oakes said Namer was not a drinker, but would go to the bars and sit outside and talk with friends, often giving them a ride home at night. He said Namer was retired from the Kennebec Water District, where his job had been phased out with modern upgrades.
“He never would go into the bar itself; he would sit outside and talk to the people that he knew,” Oakes said. “That’s how it all started. It became a thing that he would sit down and talk with his friends, and next thing you know, people are stranded or messed up and he just wanted them to get home safely. He didn’t just go down and start offering rides; it just started happening.”
McCausland said state police continued the investigation Saturday, interviewing friends and other people who might have known Namer and who he might have been with for the past couple of days.
A neighbor called 911 a little before 7 a.m. Friday to report finding the body. Police said Friday it was unknown whether the man died on the property or he was taken there.
A man who lives at 2349 Riverside Drive, next door to where Namer’s body was found, was taken into custody by police Friday on an unrelated charge. Courtney D. Shea, 30, was arrested on a charge of probation violation and taken to the Kennebec County jail, McCausland said. He said detectives questioned Shea and determined he had violated probation on a robbery conviction.
McCausland said Saturday it was too early to speculate on suspects or motives in the case.
The State Crime Laboratory will begin looking at the collected evidence on Monday, McCausland said. An autopsy was performed on the body at the Office of Chief Medical Examiner, but the results were not made public Saturday.