An acquaintance of the parolee said Edward Hackett had emotional “baggage.”

VASSALBORO (AP) – A Vassalboro store owner who had befriended a Utah parolee who is charged with the murder of a Colby College student said he had hoped to help Edward J. Hackett turn his life around.

Carl McCaslin said Hackett spent hours each day at his convenience store, where they often played cribbage and talked about life’s disappointments. McCaslin said he viewed Hackett as a mission, someone he could reform. He said Hackett did not have a full-time job, but was doing volunteer work at a woodworking shop in Winslow in the hope that one day he could become employed.

“Ed had a lot of baggage. A lot of emotional problems,” said McCaslin. “Though he had experienced a lot of turmoil in his life, he was trying to be a good person.”

Hackett has been charged in the slaying of Dawn Rossignol, 21, a Colby senior from Medway. Police allege that Hackett abducted her from a Colby parking lot on Sept. 16. Her body was found the next day near a stream in Oakland.

Hackett moved to Vassalboro in March to be with his parents after he was paroled from the Utah State Prison, where he had been for nine years for kidnapping and robbery.

Hackett’s parents, Edward Sr. and Mary Hackett, retired to Vassalboro from Connecticut in 1998 to be near China Lake, where they used to rent a cottage.

Neighbors and friends said the couple left town on Monday after the publicity surrounding their son’s arrest became too much to bear.

“They are very nice people, but they are devastated by what has happened,” said Conrad Babb, who lives next door and sold the Hacketts their house. “They just up and left and told me to keep an eye on their house.”

Babb, who is 70, said he had little contact with the younger Hackett, who seemed to enjoy walking the family dog along Main Street.

“I knew him by sight and that’s about it. He was a bit of a loner,” Babb said. “He seemed a little strange to me. Anyone who has been in and out of prison for 30 years isn’t like you or me. After he got a car (in June) I didn’t see him at all.”

Freddy Pullen, who owns an auto repair shop across the street from the Hacketts’ house, said he replaced an alternator in a used car that Hackett’s father bought for his son in June.

“(Edward Hackett) came across as being an ordinary guy,” Pullen said. “I think the town’s reaction was … wow, it’s hard to believe he could have done this.”

But McCaslin is less shocked by Hackett’s arrest.

“I believe he did it and he deserves all the punishment in the world,” he said. “There was another side to Ed. Now he’s a lost cause to society.”

AP-ES-09-27-03 1140EDT

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.