LEWISTON – Police discovered a body in a shallow grave behind the Promenade Mall on Monday and believe it to be that of 38-year-old Donna Paradis.

With the discovery shortly after noon, what was once a missing person investigation is now being handled as a homicide, police said.

“Obviously, our goal now is to find out who’s responsible for her death,” said Maine Department of Public Safety Spokesman Stephen McCausland.

The body was found buried near abandoned railroad tracks along an all-terrain vehicle trail, police said. The wooded area is off the dead-end portions of Summit Avenue and Rosedale Street.

The cause of death was not immediately known. The body was taken to the Maine Medical Examiner’s Office for positive identification and an examination for clues.

“In all likelihood, we believe it is probably her,” McCausland said.

Paradis, more than seven months pregnant and the mother of two daughters, had been missing since Oct. 23. Lewiston police found her body Monday after days of searching in the area behind the Promenade Mall.

The spot where the body was found is less than a mile from Affiliated Computer Services on East Avenue, one of two offices where Paradis worked. Lewiston police have interviewed co-workers at ACS as well as the Sun Journal, where she worked nights.

By Monday night, no arrests had been made. But police said they have been following up on several leads generated since Paradis was reported missing.

“There has been an incredible amount of work done so far,” McCausland said. “Both agencies have compiled a great deal of information.”

Last week, information in the case steered Lewiston police to the area behind the Cavalier Bingo Hall on the backside of the Promenade Mall. Investigators began to search the area and found items believed to be linked to Paradis.

Police did not specify what those items were, but the discovery prompted them to broaden the search and to invite State Police, the Medical Examiner’s Office and the Maine Wardens Service to join the investigation.

After a day of searching with cadaver-sniffing dogs on Sunday, Lewiston police discovered the shallow grave in the early afternoon Monday. It was dark before the body was unearthed and taken away. Evidence technicians were examining the dirt and surrounding area as part of the investigation.

It was not known Monday how long the body had been in the area where it was found. The spot is accessible by a narrow dirt lane just wide enough to accommodate a small car or truck. Police said they didn’t know if Paradis was killed near the abandoned tracks, or whether her body was moved there.

By mid-afternoon, the Paradis family was notified that a body had been found. They were told that it was most likely that of Donna Paradis.

“If it is her, I hate whoever did this to her,” said Jeanette Paradis, Donna’s 17-year-old daughter.

Friends at the Sun Journal said the night before Paradis disappeared, she complained of a medical problem possibly related to her pregnancy. They also said she appeared agitated as a co-worker took her to Central Maine Medical Center.

“To me, she seemed very nervous,” said Sandra Bruno, customer service manager at the newspaper who took Paradis to the hospital that night. “It seemed like something was bothering her.”

That was the last time any of her co-workers from the Sun Journal saw Paradis. Police said there was no indication that she ever went into the hospital seeking medical treatment.

“She did her work. She was very quiet,” Bruno said Monday night. “We didn’t know her very well, but this is affecting all of us. It really bothers us.”

Paradis does not own a car, according to those who know her. She often walked to work but avoided Kennedy Park at night. Occasionally, she took a city bus from her her job at ACS back to downtown Lewiston. She typically got rides home from co-workers at the end of her shift.

“She walked an awful lot,” said Amy Lanois, a friend and colleague at the Sun Journal. “She would take the bus from her other job and then walk here from the bus station. She told me she was trying to buy a car from somebody.”

Lewiston police Sgt. David St. Pierre said his department interviewed the people close to Paradis and searched locations she was known to frequent when they began investigating her disappearance.

As they searched for Paradis, police also examined the circumstances of her personal life.

Earlier this year, Paradis was divorced following a 10-year marriage. In the spring, she flew to Syria, in the Middle East, where she married a man she had met on the Internet, according to friends and family members.

They said Paradis was pregnant when she came back to the United States but her new husband remained in Syria.

“She didn’t talk about that a lot,” Lanois said. “She was friendly, but she was quiet.”

The report from the Medical Examiner’s Office was expected to be released today. State Police are keeping their detectives in Lewiston to assist local police with the case.

“Obviously,” McCausland said, “it’s still very early in this phase of the investigation.”

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