LEWISTON — When Mike Tibbetts last talked to his fiancee on June 15, she told him she was on her way to a local hospital to be treated for a bad cough.
Danita Brown, 38, told Tibbetts she loved him. He told her they would fill her prescription for her bronchitis when she returned to their New Gloucester home.
But she never returned.
Police found her remains buried in the basement of a Main Street apartment building on Tuesday. Three days later, police brought a murder charge against Bob Ryder, 20, who allegedly confessed to her slaying.
A medical examiner said Brown had died from blunt-force trauma to the head.
Tibbetts said he tried to locate Brown when she failed to return to New Gloucester. He didn't panic, knowing her way of changing plans at the last minute. She had family out of state that she'd sometimes visit impulsively, Tibbetts said.
Brown was a "free spirit" and Tibbetts was not a controlling person, he said. "I just assumed she was with friends," he said.
He tried to reach her friends to learn of her whereabouts, but grew increasingly concerned as the days passed without word from her.
Then police told him they'd found her.
Tibbetts and Brown lived in New Gloucester with their 4-year-old son, Michael, and Brown's 18-year-old daughter, Ellie.
The loss of Brown is slowly sinking in, Tibbetts said. He and the children are still in the "shock stage," he said. Officials at the Maine Attorney General's Office advised it likely would be a "very long process" of grieving.
Tibbetts and Brown met in the summer of 2005 when Brown was living with her grandmother in Gray. Their daughters were friends at Gray-New Gloucester High School and plotted to get their parents together, Tibbetts said. The couple had planned to marry.
Brown, who had nine children, had a passion for dogs, cooking and gardening.
She also liked to sing inspirational ballads. She loved dogs and dreamed of grooming and breeding dogs as a profession, Tibbetts said. She owned two dogs, a Rottweiler and a Rottweiler mix and had successfully bred two litters of pups, Tibbetts said.
Brown dropped out of high school as a teen but was working to attain a GED, he said.
She grew up in Gray with three sisters. Her mother died when Brown was 14 years old. She suffered from encephalitis as a child and the effects had been debilitating all her life, Tibbetts said.
Brown was a pack rat and had a sentimental streak, Tibbetts said.