Accused 1983 church graffiti vandal dies


A man who gained notoriety in 1983 when accused of spray-painting graffiti on churches around Central Maine, and then causing a ruckus in court, has died.

Dennis Eugene Friel, 62, of Whitefield, died on April 29 at his home.

In 1983, Friel was accused of spraying the number “666” and the word “Babylon” on 30 churches throughout Androscoggin, Cumberland and Sagadahoc counties.

Friel, a fundamentalist Christian from Bowdoin at the time, was charged in the spree after churches in Lewiston, Durham, Bowdoin and several other towns were targeted. Friel went to trial on a charge of aggravated criminal mischief.

The trial quickly grew into a circus, with the judge ordering Friel out of the courtroom. His lawyer remaining silent in protest as the proceedings continued. A mistrial was declared, and both Friel and his attorney, Andrews Campbell, were jailed for contempt of court.

Before Friel could be tried again, the Maine Supreme Judicial Court ruled that he was entitled to the defense he chose, and could not be tried twice for the same crime.

Friel was free of the criminal mischief charge, but in May 1985 he was convicted on two counts of being a felon in possession of a firearm. Soon after, he became the focus of a manhunt when he failed to serve time on the conviction. In June 1986, he was captured after a dramatic chase in Bowdoin and was sent to jail to serve time for the felon-in-possession charge.

In 2005, Friel and his son Ian were arrested and charged with growing and dealing marijuana.

Friel is survived by his mother, his wife Charlotte, seven children, 10 grandchildren and one great-grandchild.