PARIS — There is no bringing Troy Ripley’s daughter back.

Ripley, whose 18-year-old daughter, Megan, was shot and killed by a hunter in the waning days of the 2006 hunting season lives with that hard fact every day.

Ripley, 52, also lives with the reality that efforts to strengthen landowner rights and public safety laws since Megan’s death have had little impact when it comes to hunting on private land in Maine.

“In the nine years since my daughter’s death, there has been no significant headway in protecting private property or public safety,” Ripley said. “And each and every year since then our wound is torn back open.”

He has been approached by various publications to retell his family’s tragic story, but Ripley, who retired home to Paris with his wife, Jeri, and three children, after a 20-year career in the U.S. Army, is adamant that he doesn’t want what he calls another “boo-hoo” story. 

Nothing anybody writes or says is “ever going to fix” the pain he and his family continue to endure in the wake of Megan’s death, he said.

What Ripley does hope for is that state policymakers and others, especially those in the hunting community in Maine, will reconsider resistance to some law changes that he says more and more people see as common sense, fair and practical.

A 15-year veteran of the Army Special Forces, Ripley is a firearms expert. He said he’s not against hunting or hunters, and he even allowed a friend to hunt on parts of his property this year because the friend wanted to teach his son to hunt.

Ripley said the young man was successful in tagging his first deer on the property. Ripley said he believes most hunters would welcome a check of their backgrounds.

Trouble and tension

Driving much of Ripley’s frustration, anger, disappointment and efforts to change Maine’s laws is the ongoing and seemingly unending conflict – including land ownership and hunting trespassing disputes — between his family and family members of the man who pleaded guilty to manslaughter in Megan’s death, Timothy Bean.

Bean, 51 at the time, mistakenly shot Megan from 277 feet away with a .50 caliber single-shot muzzleloading gun, thinking he was aiming at the hindquarters of a deer, according to investigators at the time. Timothy Bean had no criminal record and immediately took responsibility for his actions, according to reports from 2006.

Walking past the spot where Megan died, Ripley recently grabbed a sapling and wiggled it around. “He saw some movement like this and decided to shoot at it,” he said.

Bean pleaded guilty to a single manslaughter charge in January 2007 and was sentenced to two years in prison with all but 30 days of his sentence suspended.

The light sentence, at the time, was based largely on the Ripley family, who said they had forgiven Timothy Bean and “didn’t want to ruin his life” following a tragic accident.

Since Megan’s death, Timothy Bean has not been among the Bean family members who have had repeated disputes with Ripley, and Troy Ripley said his family doesn’t hold Timothy Bean responsible for the actions of his brothers and others that have led to disharmony on Christian Ridge.

One of the most recent examples occurred two weeks ago when the Ripleys and other neighbors reported to wardens their land was being trespassed on by hunters.

Responding to those concerns, wardens were watching the posted lands when one of Timothy Bean’s brothers, Andrew Bean, 51, was charged with operating under the influence on Nov. 21 as he attempted to join a hunting party at the camper of another brother, Stephen Bean.

The camper sits on an acre on Stock Farm Road and shares a border with Troy Ripley’s land.

Andrew Bean, according to the Maine Warden Service, may also be summonsed on a charge of being a felon in possession of a firearm.

The next day, a Sunday, the Ripleys discovered two other relatives of Andrew Bean tearing down “posted” signs on the Ripley property that abuts the land Andrew Bean’s house sits on. The house is just across the road from the Ripleys’ home.

Ripley said he took photos of those individuals and that the Paris police were notified. They ordered the relatives to reinstall Ripleys’ signs. The signs were placed back on the trees with small swatches of duct tape and, by Thursday, Dec. 3, they were falling off.

Four days after Andrew Bean’s arrest and the day before Thanksgiving, he was arrested again, charged with violating his conditions of release on the OUI charge. He was again able to post $200 cash bail and leave the jail.

But early last week the Oxford County District Attorney’s Office filed a motion that Bean’s bail be revoked. A hearing before a judge on that motion has not yet been scheduled but is expected soon, according to Assistant District Attorney Richard Beauchesne.

Beauchesne said the state will argue, given Bean’s record and his propensity to disregard bail conditions, “He ought to have a little more skin in the game.”

Lengthy criminal background

A review by the Sun Journal of the 22 pages in Andrew Bean’s criminal record shows he previously served prison time for being a habitual offender of the state’s drunk-driving laws.

Bean has four felony convictions, including two for operating under the influence, and eight misdemeanor convictions, most of which are for violating conditions of prior release.

The felony convictions all stem from incidents in Paris, the first of which was in 2001 when he was charged with operating after revocation, eluding an officer and OUI. The eluding charge was dismissed as part of a plea deal, and he was sentenced to serve two years at the Maine Correctional Center in Windham, plus pay a $2,400 fine on the remaining two charges.

In 2006, he was charged with OUI and operating as a habitual offender and sentenced to serve five years, all but two years and six months suspended. His license was suspended for four years and he was fined $1,000.

Bean was convicted of disorderly conduct, a misdemeanor, in 1986, stemming from an incident in Norway and fined $75. In 2005, he was convicted of two charges of disorderly conduct and fined $100.

Between 1998 and 2006, he was charged with eight counts of violating conditions of release. Of those, three were dismissed as part of plea deals. In all, he spent five days in jail on sentences totaling 66 days.

Wardens are also investigating David Foster, 39, who was with Andrew Bean and the others on Nov. 21 when Bean was charged with OUI.

Foster has five misdemeanor convictions on his record. They include a 1995 criminal trespass in Lisbon Falls, for which he served 24 hours in the Androscoggin County Jail, convictions for unauthorized taking and receiving stolen property in Lewiston in 2000, and theft by unauthorized taking in Calais in 2004. 

Troy Ripley said wardens may also be investigating who provided Andrew Bean with a firearm. As a felon, Andrew Bean is prohibited from having a firearm.

Maine Warden Service spokesman John MacDonald said wardens were looking into that and that they confiscated two firearms from Andrew Bean and David Foster, a .270 caliber hunting rifle and a .12 gauge shotgun. Wardens charged Foster with fraudulently obtaining a hunting license.

MacDonald said he couldn’t offer any more information on any additional charges Foster and Andrew Bean may be facing because the case remains an open investigation.

Outdoor latrine across the property line

The camper owned by Andrew’s brother Stephen Bean also has been a source of frustration for the Ripley family and town of Paris officials who have had to intervene to enforce town health and sanitation codes.

Between June and October 2014, Stephen Bean was sent four letters from the town’s code enforcement officer and its attorneys urging him to stop using an outdoor latrine he had created on the border between his property and Ripley’s.

The problem, according to Code Enforcement Officer Fred Collins Jr., was that it appeared Stephen Bean and guests at his camper had created what amounted to an outdoor latrine with some of it on Ripley’s property in a wooded area along a stone wall that marks the property line.

“It has been brought to my attention that you or your guests may be defecating illegally on your neighbor’s property,” Collins wrote in a June letter to Stephen Bean. “Please cease immediately or legal action will be taken.”

An attorney for the town, Phillip Saucier, again wrote Stephen Bean in October, urging him to follow the town’s health and safety codes. Eventually, Stephen Bean had a portable toilet installed on his property with the camper.

The woods surrounding the camper, which is less than 100 yards from where Megan Ripley was shot, is scattered with signs of firearms target practice including empty beer cans that have been blasted by shotguns.

Tighter hunting regulations

One law change that Ripley believes is important would require the state to ensure it doesn’t issue firearms hunting licenses to felons who are already prohibited from possessing firearms.  

While a hunting license applicant must attest that he or she is not a felon, those who issue licenses, including the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife’s online system, do not have the means to check an applicant against the state’s criminal background system, which is accessible to both the public for a fee and to law enforcement for free.

The only time a hunter’s felony status is checked is if they are being investigated for a possible game violation or other crime by a warden, according to officials at both the Maine Warden Service and the Maine Attorney General’s Office.

If a warden is simply checking a hunter in the woods to see whether they have a license, it would be unlikely a check of a felony status would occur, according to the Warden Service’s MacDonald.

Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife spokesman Mark Latti said about 60 percent of all fish and game licenses in Maine are now purchased online — a system that not only can’t verify the applicant is not a felon but can’t confirm the applicant took a certified hunter safety course when required.

‘There ought to be a link’

Ripley said that shouldn’t be the way Maine’s hunting license system works, that a hunter should be denied a license at the point of application if it is determined he or she is a felon or is unable to show proof of attending a hunter safety course.

State Sen. Paul Davis, R-Sangerville, the Senate chairman of the Legislature’s Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Committee, said Ripley may have a point on the felony issue. Davis seemed tentatively in agreement with Ripley and said he intends to look into the situation.

Davis said it was only common sense that the state or whoever is issuing a hunting license would have the ability to determine an applicant’s felony status.

“It seems to me there ought to be a link there,” Davis said.

But it’s an idea that others are less supportive of, including former state Sen. David Trahan. Trahan, now a lobbyist and executive director of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine, said his organization is all for keeping felons from obtaining hunting licenses, but he is leery of any kind of law that would require what some will see as a criminal background check for all hunting licenses in Maine.

“Basically going hunting is not the same as buying a firearm,” Trahan said. He said the notion of forcing some kind of background check on hunters could turn into a political “can of worms with many long-reaching tentacles.” 

Trahan suggested a random sample of hunting-license holders may achieve the same result without the same invasive impact as a criminal background check for hunters.

Davis said he didn’t follow Trahan’s reasoning. He said the check he is suggesting would merely determine if any known felons were also purchasing hunting licenses. “There ought to be some easy way to cross-check them to see if they are criminals,” Davis said. “I’m going to look into it.”

Another law change that Ripley wants is to require hunters to obtain permission to hunt on private land. Ripley also said he believes those who are found guilty of intentionally trespassing in order hunt should have the firearms they are using confiscated.

Currently, private lands that are not posted against hunting or trespassing can be accessed by hunters without permission. Ripley said even when a property is posted, those who trespass to hunt usually face only a verbal warning or a small fine. And if they mistakenly shoot somebody, they are often charged with manslaughter and given a light sentence, as was the case in his daughter’s death.

Both Trahan and Davis said the issue of requiring hunters to seek permission to access unposted private land has been before lawmakers before and the proposal has never gained any headway.

Both said it’s a complicated issue. Trahan suggested that the situation in Maine — where many private owners of large parcels of land don’t live on their land — makes getting written permission difficult.

Trahan said both proposals would be highly controversial and most hunters already seek permission when hunting on private land. 

Honest people OK with background checks

That said, Trahan said he would reach out to Troy Ripley to see if there were some law changes that might be possible. He also said Ripley’s experience with some of his neighbors may be a worst-case scenario, but it is also reflective of people who have no regard for the law.

“Honest people are going to be OK with a background check,” Trahan said. “But the dishonest people just don’t care. I would turn this right around and say, ‘This is really an example of when bad people want something, they just go ahead and do it and they don’t give a crap about the law.'”

For Troy Ripley, such answers feel dismissive because they fail to acknowledge public safety concerns and, he feels, are an excuse to not even try to fix or improve a system so obviously porous that it all but invites abuse.

Ripley argued that even youth sports programs require volunteer coaches to submit to criminal background checks to ensure they aren’t a danger to children.

He said it makes no sense to him that there wouldn’t be the same standard for anybody who wants to carry a deadly weapon onto another person’s private property to hunt.  

Ripley, who now has grandchildren who play on his property, said they and the other families with children who live along Christian Ridge — or anywhere in Maine for that matter — deserve the same protections as those who may be playing on youth sports teams.

Megan’s two brothers, one older and one younger, still live in the area. The younger one is attending college and the older works with Troy in the family’s construction business.

Troy Ripley said policymakers often are too quick to promise a solution and then not deliver, or to dismiss out of hand problems because finding a solution is deemed too difficult. He said he doesn’t accept those kinds of answers and wonders why others would.

And for those who may question why he and his family didn’t simply sell their property and move away from Christian Ridge, Ripley has an answer.

“I don’t choose to let continued poor behaviors by others rob me of the wonderful memories of my daughter on this, our family property,” he said.

Attempts to contact both Stephen and Andrew Bean for this report were unsuccessful.

[email protected]

“In the nine years since my daughter’s death, there has been no significant headway in protecting private property or public safety. And each and every year since then our wound is torn back open.”

— Troy Ripley of Paris

“This is really an example of when bad people want something, they just go ahead and do it and they don’t give a crap about the law.”

— David Trahan, executive director, Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine


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