LEWISTON – A body found inside the trunk of a car on Horton Street Wednesday was that of an 81-year-old man who lived a mile away.

Police from several agencies were investigating the death of James McManus, whose body was discovered in the back of his Buick at about 11 a.m.

Lewiston and Maine State Police were canvassing the neighborhood where the car was parked at the side of the road. Other investigators searched McManus’ second-floor apartment at 18 Blake St. Wednesday night.

By late Wednesday no arrest had been made in the killing. Agents from the Central Maine Violent Crime Task Force were asked to join the investigation as a search for possible suspects got underway.

It was believed McManus was struck by the car he was found in. However, police were waiting for results of an autopsy before releasing details about the cause of death.

What appeared to be human hair and blood was plucked from the front of the car when police began to inspect the vehicle. There was also a large, round dent on the front of the passenger side of the car, although police did not say if it was related to McManus’ death.

Investigators also did not say how long the body may have been in the trunk, although it was not decomposed when it was found.

Neighbors said the Buick was frequently parked at the side of the road in front of 138 Horton St. On Wednesday morning, the car had been moved several times to different parking spots before police arrived, witnesses said.

While a crowd of approximately 200 people watched police working the crime scene, it was relatively quiet at McManus’ home several blocks away.

The apartment building at 18 Blake St. is directly behind the Kora Temple. On Wednesday afternoon, a police officer was guarding McManus’ apartment. Tenants said they were not told why investigators were at the tenement.

Jimi Bellmore, who lives directly beneath McManus’ apartment, said he had not seen or heard anything unusual Wednesday or in recent days. When he learned that McManus’ body was found in a trunk, he was stunned.

“He seemed very nice. He was always very, very quiet up there,” Bellmore said.

Other neighbors said McManus had moved into the building approximately a month ago. He lived on Acadia Avenue before that, and at several other addresses around Lewiston, according to court records.

Neighbors at 18 Blake St. said McManus occasionally had visitors, including a younger man and a woman. However, they did not know much about his lifestyle.

“I know he had some health problems,” Bellmore said. “He would get really winded going up the stairs.”

At about 7 p.m., a State Police detective accompanied Attorney General’s Office prosecutor Lisa Marchese to the Blake Street apartment building. There, they briefly inspected McManus’ apartment.

The AG’s Office will prosecute the case if a suspect is arrested in the death of McManus. Police detectives were at the apartment by 8:30 p.m., searching for clues inside the victim’s home.

When police first learned a body was in the trunk of the car Wednesday morning, they cordoned off a stretch of Horton Street to keep gawkers at a distance. Tenants who live at 138 Horton St. were not allowed to leave their homes through the front door.

Investigators called for help from city workers to search nearby drains. It was believed investigators were searching for the keys to the Buick as well as other possible clues. Police dogs were also used to help search for possible evidence.

As police prepared to pry open the trunk and look inside, rumors were circulating through the crowd of onlookers that the body may belong to that of a child.

“That’s the first thing I thought of,” said 35-year-old Jill Peddle. “There are several children missing and I was worried it might be one of them.”

Neighbors began to produce photographs of the missing children – two 13-year-old girls and a boy around the same age who are believed to have run away.

Police announced shortly after that it was the body of an adult man inside the trunk, not a child. Neighbors began to speculate on who else the victim may be.

“I have no idea,” Peddle said. “I’ve lived here for a year and it’s really quiet. This really surprises me.”

“There are a lot of young people in this area and they sometimes get loud,” said 48-year-old Ray Preston. “It may look kind of rough around here, but it’s not. This kind of thing is definitely unusual.”

When told who the victim was, Peddle and Preston said they did not know McManus. Police in both Lewiston and Auburn, however, are familiar with him.

McManus had a minor criminal record in this area, including convictions for theft, negotiating worthless instruments and driving offenses, according to court records. Those records date back to 2000. It was not clear how long McManus has lived in Lewiston.

Three hours after police were called, investigators pried open the trunk and took several photographs of the body inside. The car was then towed to the State Crime Laboratory in Augusta for further analysis.

Police did not identify the person who called in the report or say if that person had been located. No possible motive for the killing was offered Wednesday as police sought to locate friends and relatives of the victim.


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