PORTLAND (AP) — The 20-year-old man charged in a brutal triple murder in northern Maine told the family he was staying with that the killings followed a confrontation over a $10,000 drug debt, according to a man who had let the suspect stay in his home.
Robert Strout, 63, said he and his wife opened up their home in Orient to Thayne Ormsby, who showed up covered in blood a few weeks later after the stabbings of Jeffrey Ryan, his 10-year-old son, Jesse, and Jason Dehahn, a friend and neighbor, in the nearby town of Amity.
Ormsby told Strout he went to Ryan's home after Ormsby's father told him that Ryan owed him money.
"He said Jeff Ryan owed his father $10,000 on a drug deal and that his father wanted to collect it," Strout said Monday in a telephone interview with The Associated Press.
Ormsby's father could not be located for comment on Monday.
Ormsby was brought to Maine on Monday from New Hampshire, where he was arrested July 2 and later waived extradition. He is being held without bail pending arraignment on July 21 at the Aroostook County Jail. An attorney will be appointed for him, according to the attorney general's office.
The victims' bodies were discovered the night of June 23 by Dehahn's father and brother, who had gone looking for him after he had failed to return home.
In the weeks leading up to the killings, Ormsby had been staying with the Strouts. Robert Strout's wife, Joy, said she and her husband are disabled and that Ormsby helped them by cooking and cleaning and tending to their pheasants, quail and other birds. Ormsby's mother is good friends with one of the Strouts' daughters, she said.
During his stay, Ormsby was respectful, polite and helpful, she said. He didn't drink alcohol, and he rolled his own cigarettes. He sometimes smoked marijuana, but never at their home, she said. The Strouts encouraged him to earn a GED diploma and to find a job, she said.
But the Strouts' image of a smart and polite young man soon came crashing down.
Robert Strout told police that after the killings Ormsby rode up on his bicycle to his home, where Strout saw that his shirt, pants and shoes were covered in blood.
Robert Strout, who said he feared for his life, drove Ormsby to Strout's daughter's house in the town of Weston, where Ormsby burned his clothes in a furnace. He then drove Ormsby to a rural road where Ormsby set fire to Ryan's truck, which Ormsby had stolen after the killings.
Two days later, Robert Strout drove Ormsby to his son's house in Dover, N.H., but only because he feared for the safety of his family after Ormsby threatened him, he said.
"He said, 'Keep your mouth shut and nothing will happen. If you say anything, I will hurt your family,'" said Strout, who has not been charged with a crime.
Maine State Police and the state attorney general's office declined comment Monday.
Details of the motive for the killings have been scarce.
According to an affidavit, Ormsby told police he killed Jeff Ryan because he was a "drug dealer." But Jason Dehahn's brother, Jake, offered another potential explanation in which Ormsby was angry after being told to stay away from Ryan's 16-year-old daughter, who lives with her mother in another town.
None of those theories — including Robert Strout's comments about the drug debt — help explain how Ormsby turned from a decent person one moment into a "monster," Joy Strout said.
"All I can say is that the Thayne that was here at our house helping us when we were sick is not the person that went up to the trailer and killed those people," she said. "I don't know why, I don't know how."