It’s been a challenging few weeks for the Waterville area.

On Nov. 4, four area residents died in an inexplicable murder-suicide in Oakland, a crime that left behind a 3-year-old girl who witnessed it and nothing but questions.

In a wildly different event, Waterville Senior High School Principal Don Reiter was dismissed by the city Board of Education after 11 weeks of little information, but a ton of rumors and speculation.

When emotions run high and information is scarce, people fill in the blanks. We’re human. That’s what we do.

That’s been clear recently as the area struggles with emotional and sometimes divisive events.

Belgrade Road in Oakland was dark and winter-quiet around 8 p.m. the Wednesday night Herman DeRico shot his girlfriend Amy DeRosby, her sister Amanda Bragg and Bragg’s boyfriend Mike Muzerolle in the two-apartment house they shared.


Neighbors heard cries for help and gunshots as DeRico shot the three others. One neighbor, returning from a trip away, heard bangs and thought he’d driven into something in his garage. He saw DeRico in the driveway next door and he looked like a guy who was maybe in the middle of a family argument, so the neighbor went inside without saying anything to him.

DeRico was found dead in the driveway of a self-inflicted gunshot by police arriving at the scene.

Also found was Bragg and Muzerolle’s 3-year-old daughter, Arianna, in the same first-floor apartment the three bodies were found.

Those gathered at the scene that night, outside of police lines on the blocked road, had scant information until a late-night press conference confirmed the deaths, then another one at 3 a.m. supplied the names and a few details.

“We don’t have a clear understanding of why this happened,” a police spokesman said the day after the shootings.

That’s still the case two weeks later.


The Morning Sentinel sent a reporter and photographer to the memorial service for DeRosby and Bragg Saturday. The intent is to give readers a picture of the lives lost after readers have been inundated with information about how those lives were lost.

In the memorial service story, readers learned DeRosby “had a heart of gold” and saw the best in everyone and that Bragg was a loving mother who liked to stay home and tend her family. Instead of the final published view of the two as murder victims, it showed them as loving human beings.

Still, the presence of media at the service made some people angry and they let us know.

We understand the anger — the violent deaths of people who are cherished by friends and family is a horrible thing — but it’s also a healing part of the story after readers had already read about the sisters’ awful deaths.

The Reiter story also sparked emotional responses.

For weeks, all that was said publicly was that Reiter had been put on leave of absence Sept. 1. The Morning Sentinel attempted, through a Freedom of Access request, to get the one-sentence letter that Reiter was given formalizing his leave, but it was withheld because of state law that protects confidentiality of employees.


More importantly, because the charges also involved a high school student, no details were given about the circumstances, or even the nature of the charges or who or what they involved.

While those protections are understandable, when the principal of the city’s high school is put on leave, it’s up to the newspaper to cover the story.

That coverage drew criticism from all sides. Some wondered why we covered it at all. “Why is this news? You’re tarnishing (Reiter’s) reputation,” one anonymous caller said in a voicemail to the Morning Sentinel shortly after the first stories appeared.

Advocates for victims of sexual assault and harassment were critical as some details of the charges emerged when a hearing on Reiter’s dismissal before the school board began last week.

Most of the hearing was in executive session because the charges were by a minor and student. Opening statements and three character witnesses for Reiter were the only public parts of the 12 hours of testimony over two nights.

Reiter’s lawyer, Gregg Frame, commented on the victim’s personality at the hearing. As the paper of record, we had to report his comments. The audience at the hearing was largely pro-Reiter and made it clear.


Cara Courchesne, communications director for the Maine Coalition Against Sexual Assault, sent an email to the Morning Sentinel after the first day of hearings saying she was “disappointed about the number of quotes from people supporting Reiter (especially the repetition of the educator’s worst nightmare – never be alone with a student who could falsely accuse you of something horrible) without the balance of the victim’s perspective.”

The Sentinel called Courchesne for comment after the second day of the hearing.

School board member Pamela Trinward, after the board voted for Reiter’s dismissal, said Tuesday that “work needs to be done” because the school department also had also taken some “pretty serious criticism” from sexual assault victim advocates and others over the way the incident had been handled and “unfortunately, we probably deserve it,” she told the Morning Sentinel.

There was “a lot more information that got out than should have” about the student making the charges against Reiter from “a large vocal group that was letting the public know the girl’s name and her information and painting her with an unfavorable brush.”

So, in a vacuum that didn’t allow details of the charges to be made public, the little information that was being made public did more harm than good.

When information started to come, including the few details released at the hearing and Monday’s revelation from the Waterville Police Department that it had learned of similar allegations in New Hampshire, where Reiter worked at a high school from 1998-2004, it inflamed an already volatile situation.


That was obvious on, where sometimes thoughtful and informed discourse by readers was punctuated with vulgar, graphic and childish posts that forced the Sentinel to cut off reader comments to two stories Monday night. The Sentinel had done the same last week when someone posted the student’s name.

Some readers were not happy about that, and let us know. But our policy for commenting is clear, and when it’s violated, we stop comment.

The Waterville-Augusta area is a tight, intimate community. We live here, work here and in a lot of cases were born and grew up here. We know each other and are connected in many ways, even easier now with social media.

News events that heighten emotion have an impact on the community and we feel it too. We listen and strive to be fair. We understand our responsibility and do our best to inform and engage our readers.

Maureen Milliken is the news editor of the Morning Sentinel and Kennebec Journal. Email her at Twitter: mmilliken47. Kennebec Tales is published the first and third Thursday of the month. To read previous Kennebec Tales, go to

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