PARIS — The mother of a Turner teenager killed two years ago in a hit-and-run incident in Paris is suing an Auburn man who had been a suspect but was never charged.

Sheila Cole, mother of 16-year-old Xavier Fuentes, filed a complaint in Oxford County Superior Court in February against Bert “Jay” O. Johnson, 43, for wrongful death and conscious suffering.

Police said Fuentes, who had been a student at Leavitt Area High School, was walking northeast along Route 117/Buckfield Road on the night of March 15, 2014, when he was struck by a vehicle, causing blunt-force trauma. He was pronounced dead shortly after arriving at Stephens Memorial Hospital in Norway.

A lieutenant at the Paris Police Department who investigated the incident concluded that Johnson “was driving the vehicle that struck and eventually killed Xavier Fuentes. Lt. (Jeffrey) Lange believes that if first aid was rendered by the driver and or first responders were immediately notified, the chances of prolonging Fuentes’ life could have been greatly enhanced and (possibly) saving his life,” according to a 25-page police report in court records.

Lange was acting police chief in the summer of 2015.

Prosecutors declined to present the case to a grand jury. Assistant District Attorney Joseph O’Connor wrote in a December 2015 letter to Lange that District Attorney Andrew Robinson concluded: “There is simply not enough evidence for us to have even a remote chance of proving any criminal charges against anyone beyond a reasonable doubt.”


O’Connor noted a “complete absence of physical evidence, the unreliability of the few witnesses who say the male suspect told them he was driving (they were or are in jail for drug and other crimes, and most if not all had a run-in with the male subject.)”

Moreover, O’Connor wrote that two people were in the vehicle that was believed to have struck Fuentes, which “means that even if we could prove that he was struck by that vehicle (and I don’t see how we could prove that,) it would be impossible to prove which of the two was driving at the time.”

According to court documents, Johnson and Laura Thenor, 30, of Sumner talked to police about the accident, attempting to cast blame on each other.

Thenor said Johnson confided in her early the morning after the incident that he had been driving a rented Ford Expedition SUV on Route 117 when he hit a “little girl” in Hebron. “I went out and tried to give her CPR and then I called the cops. They came and took her to the hospital and she made it,” Thenor said Johnson told her.

Thenor told police that a friend said she had been talking to Johnson, who had confessed to her that he had hit a little girl and that she had died.

Another woman told police that Thenor told her she had been in the SUV that Johnson had been driving when he struck Fuentes.


“She told me that they were on Route 117, I believe, and they were coming all f***** up on Oxy and Jay hit something and they stopped and saw blood and kept going,” the woman told police.

Johnson’s wife, Melisa, contacted police to say she observed her husband and Thenor talking about the incident. She gave police a memory card from a cellphone that showed Thenor sitting in the passenger seat of the SUV while Bert Johnson asked her: “You didn’t talk to anybody about anything?” Thenor answered: “No.”

Johnson’s brother, John, told police that the morning after the incident, Bert Johnson was driving the SUV, which had a newly broken side-view mirror on the passenger side as well as other passenger-side damage. Bert Johnson told him his wife had struck a mailbox with the vehicle.

John Johnson said the damage was more extensive than that which would be caused by a mailbox. Bert Johnson started to wipe what appeared to be dirt off the SUV. John Johnson said he noticed what appeared to be blood on his brother’s sneakers.

A confidential informant for the Maine Drug Enforcement Agency told police that Bert Johnson told him at Androscoggin County Jail that he had been driving the rented SUV, with Thenor as his passenger, when he passed out after having taken heroin and “struck the kid.”

Another jail inmate said Johnson told him he struck a kid in his rented SUV while he was looking down at his cellphone.


Police gave Thenor a polygraph test, which she failed, according to Lange’s report.

Bert Johnson, who was interviewed by police, also failed a polygraph test.

He told police that he and Thenor had driven Route 117 on the night of the incident in different vehicles. He had passed her, then waited for her at Lake Auburn. When she arrived, she told him she hit something, thinking it was an animal.

Johnson later told police he had actually been in Biddeford that night.

An inspection of the rented SUV in May didn’t turn up any evidence of having been in an accident, but it hadn’t been returned to Hertz on time and had since been repaired by the rental company and “cleaned very well and was put back into circulation as a rental,” Lange wrote in his report.

Police seized Johnson’s sneakers and a pair of pants during execution of a search warrant at his home and sent them to the Maine State Police Crime Lab for testing, but they failed to yield any physical evidence, according to the police report.


On the night he was killed, Fuentes was watching a movie with his family at Flagship Cinemas in Oxford. After a disagreement, he left, walking toward his grandmother’s house in Turner. He was found on an unlit stretch of road by a passing motorist near the Brett Hill Road intersection, about 4 miles from the movie theater.

According to some witness statements, he had been seen walking in the roadway, his arms outstretched as if he were walking a tightrope. Fuentes, who weighed 115 pounds and stood 5 feet, 5 inches tall, had been wearing dark clothing.

The medical examiner’s report and accident reconstruction report concluded that Fuentes was struck below the hips by a vehicle “with a high front end which was within the same height dimensions of the Ford Expedition.”

Asked in April 2014 by Auburn police about the broken mirror, Johnson said he hit a telephone pole. He denied there was damage to the front passenger corner of the vehicle.

Debris found at the scene included foam similar to what is used behind the bumper of an SUV-type vehicle, according to the police report.

Cole’s attorney, Jeffrey Wilson of Norway, filed a motion in the civil suit to attach Johnson’s home where he, his wife and 15-year-old daughter live.

In Johnson’s answer to that motion, his attorney, Peter Culley of Portland wrote in court papers that the plaintiff was “simply ignoring the totality of the evidence collected by authorities that demonstrates no one can prove who hit and killed Mr. Fuentes.”

Despite the many theories around the incident, “there is simply no evidence connecting Mr. Johnson to the accident,” Culley wrote.

While the standard of proof for a criminal conviction is “beyond a reasonable doubt,” the standard in a civil case is “a preponderance of evidence.”

Comments are no longer available on this story

filed under: