Stephen McCausland, spokesman for the Maine Department of Public Safety, speaks with reporters in 2017 about fatal shootings at the town line of Skowhegan and Madison. McCausland, whose last day on the job will be Tuesday, says he has reported on more than 500 homicides, 500 fatal fires and thousands of car crashes over the last 32 years. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

CAMDEN — Stephen McCausland, spokesman for the Maine Department of Public Safety for more than three decades, is retiring Tuesday.

“It’s been a great ride. I’m honored to have been the messenger for the men and woman of public safety,” McCausland said during an interview Thursday.

McCausland grew up in Brunswick. He worked for eight years as news director for Bath radio station WJTO. After radio, he sold insurance for a decade.

Then the public safety information officer position opened and he applied. He had applied for the same job a decade earlier but wasn’t hired.

Over 32 years on the job, he has reported on more than 500 homicides, 500 fatal fires and thousands of car crashes, he said.

But a law enforcement case from the fall of 1975, when he was a news director for a radio station, may have been the most memorable he has been involved in, he said.

He and a Rockland-based newspaper reporter interviewed three Maine State Prison inmates who were holding a guard at knife-point inside a wing of the old Maine State Prison.

To get to the interview, he and the late Bangor Daily News Bureau Chief Ted Sylvester had to step over the body of an inmate who had been killed during the prison uprising.

As a reporter, McCausland said, he had become familiar with law enforcement, covering crimes, fatal fires, and car crashes.

“I looked at myself and I thought I could contribute,” McCausland said.

Cases that stick out to McCausland during his time with the public safety department include the 2003 arsenic poisonings at a church in New Sweden, the motor vehicle crash along the Allagash waterway in 2002 that killed 14 migrant workers, and the propane explosion in Farmington last fall that killed a firefighter and seriously injured several more.

But topping them all was the disappearance of toddler Ayla Reynolds in Waterville in 2011, which prompted the largest police investigation ever conducted in Maine and remains active. The child has never been found.

Ayla was 20 months old and staying with her father, Justin DiPietro, at his mother’s house in Waterville when he reported her missing on Dec. 17, 2011.

DiPietro denies he had anything to do with Ayla’s disappearance and he has never been charged. In September 2017, a probate judge ruled that the child was dead, opening up the right of the child’s mother, Trista Reynolds, to file a wrongful death lawsuit against DiPetro.

“I had hoped I would make the announcement of the case being resolved. But it will be resolved someday,” McCausland said.

Technology has changed the job, he said. He recalled there was no fax machine in the public safety office when he was hired. He was told to buy one.

The fax posed some consternation with members of the media since he could only fax to one news organization at a time. He said it could take 10 minutes to send a fax to all reporters requesting one.

In the 1990s, came personal computers in which news releases could be sent out via email. Now, in addition to emails, there are social media postings.

McCausland has had a front seat view to media changes over the past 50 years. There are fewer newspapers, and fewer reporters both in print and television. There also use to be many radio stations with strong newsrooms, but now radio newsrooms are virtually gone.

As for the future, McCausland, who moved to Camden three years ago, said he looks forward to spending the summer on a lake without getting telephone calls throughout the day and night.

 


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