He was a traveler, fisherman and hiker who loved art, trains and astrology. She was a mother who was kind and willing to help, but not someone to hold back what she really felt.

Nicholas Gardner Courtesy of Lisa Francis

Nicholas “Wolf” Gardner, 36,  and Bethany Kelley, 23, were also homeless in Portland. Both were tragically killed in separate cases that over the last two months have left family and friends searching for answers, and the broader homeless community feeling shaken.

“The last few weeks have been particularly tragic in terms of the amount of loss we’re seeing,” said Andrew Bove, vice president of social work for Preble Street, a nonprofit that provides shelter, food and social services in downtown Portland.

Bove said the cases are part of a recent string of at least 14 deaths over the last two months.

Bethany Kelley Courtesy Tamara Pinkham

“The manner of loss is really tragic, as a lot of the deaths were unexpected, whether they were overdoses, suicide or homicide,” Bove said. “It’s outrageous. People should be outraged.”

It’s hard to know exactly how many people are homeless at any given point in time, but the city of Portland is currently sheltering about 950 people on a nightly basis.


Police are still investigating Gardner and Kelley’s deaths, which have drawn more attention after being ruled homicides. Portland Police Lt. Robert Martin said Friday that the department is not currently releasing a cause of death in either case.

At the same time, overdoses – some fatal – are rising in the city. The department issued a warning last week about the spike, which is also being felt statewide.

Martin said four of the last six people who died of overdoses in Portland were homeless, which is not uncommon. Homicides, however, are rare. And “having two in a row is odd,” he said.

Some people outside the city’s Oxford Street Shelter on Friday said they thought Kelley’s death might be part of a string of recent crimes against homeless women.

Asked about that, as well as whether people who are homeless should be worried about being targeted, Martin said he could not comment.



“It’s sad,” said Drew Shane, who has been homeless in Portland for two years. “I’m 26 and they probably weren’t far off from that in age. It goes to show this can happen to anybody. And it makes me worried, especially in Bethany’s case. A young woman like that is vulnerable in a city like this and homeless, living the lifestyle of roaming the streets at night.”

Kelley’s body was found on Nov. 18 on Kennebec Street near Chestnut Street by people walking in the neighborhood. Gardner was killed at an encampment at the end of Frederic Street last week.

Shane didn’t know either of them well, but said they were known among people on the streets.

Drew Shane poses for a portrait near Oxford Street Shelter in Portland on Friday. Shane, who is 26, has been homeless for two years. Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer

“I saw her around here,” Shane said of Kelley as he stood on the sidewalk outside the Oxford Street Shelter on Friday. “She didn’t travel too far outside this neighborhood, so most people knew her. She kept to herself, so most of us didn’t know her personally, but she’s been out here awhile … and it’s still tragic to hear about it.”

He said Gardner was the opposite, frequently roaming around the city on a bike, and that his death was also a shock.

“Obviously who did it is the biggest thing going around,” Shane said. “We don’t think it was a random person. I think it’s somebody in the community, probably somebody who knew them or knew of them. There had to be a motive and what that motive might be, that’s what everybody is speculating on.”


Monica Day remembered Kelley as one of her “street children.”

“I miss her so much,” Day said as she stood outside the shelter Friday. She and other friends of Kelley’s organized a vigil after her death.

Hardly a day goes by that she doesn’t hear about an overdose, shooting or death, though Day said she personally feels safe.

“Because I’m mama,” she said. “I’m the mama of the block. I don’t care what you do. I won’t judge you. I’ve been there. I’m not going to give you drugs or get you drugs … But I’m always going to make sure I have Narcan on hand to give to someone.”


Those closest to Kelley said Friday that they have been frustrated by the police investigation and want to see justice for Kelley, who mostly grew up in Maine but also lived in Oregon before returning home a few years ago.


“Bethany was someone who was loving and kind, but she kept it real,” said Tamara Pinkham, who was a close childhood friend. “She was not someone to hold back what she felt, she was honest and true to herself.”

She remembered that Kelley liked to draw when she was younger, listened to music a lot and liked to get dressed up and wear nice perfume. “She was genuine. She never pretended to be something that she wasn’t,” Pinkham said.

Monica Day becomes emotional in front of Oxford Street Shelter in Portland as she speaks about Bethany Kelley on Friday. Day, who is homeless, said Kelley was her “street daughter.” Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer

Even after Kelley moved to Oregon and after both women had children – Kelley had a 4-year-old son – they would stay in touch, Pinkham said. She knew Kelley had had some struggles and had spoken before of being sex-trafficked.

Kelley’s half-sister, Melissa Green, said that in September her sister had messaged her on Facebook about trafficking, providing few details but saying she had a lawyer and that, “I have a whole family after me.”

Green said she brought that information to police, but hasn’t heard much about whether it’s part of their investigation. Martin, from the Portland police, would not comment on whether trafficking is part of the investigation.



Green said Kelley, who was a few years younger than her, had fallen into depression and “started hanging out with not great people” and doing drugs.

But the night she was killed she had called their stepfather to tell him she was getting clean and trying to get her life together. “It’s really sad,” Green said.

In an obituary published by Mays Funeral Home of Calais, Gardner’s family this week remembered him as “extremely caring, funny, and loved his family.”

Jess Falero, a friend of Gardner’s, said Friday he had good relationships with people in the community and was known for making balloon animals, something he would often do at the Portland jetport to the delight of tourists.

“Tourists loved him because of his balloon animals,” Falero said. “He would always leave little gifts on my porch and my friends’ porch. He was a very generous and caring dude.”

Falero said Gardner was shot, though police have not confirmed that, and said the incident may have stemmed from a disagreement of some sort. “If you were to ever find yourself unhoused, he would’ve been the first to help you survive,” Falero said of Gardner.

Advocates this week said the recent deaths point to a need for more resources – detox facilities, shelter, help with mental health and affordable housing.

“People are suffering, really intensely,” Bove said. “The shelters are full every night. People are being forced into the woods or into situations that are really unsafe. Maybe that’s sleeping with their abuser at their apartment, or doubling up with someone who uses drugs. When the shelters are full, it’s not that people who need shelter disappear. They just go further into the margins, or further into places that are unsafe.”

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