Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Remembering . . .

March 18th marks the 45th anniversary of the tragic death of Effie (Terrill) MacDonald.

Aunt Effie, still in our thoughts - remembering the person behind the headlines.

Gone but not forgotten.

graphic by

Monday, December 3, 2007

Will 5 Maine Deaths Be Solved?

As reported in the Bangor Daily News on February 4, 1966

A remark by Attorney General Richard J. Dubord Monday in reference to solving crimes fits into Maine's crime picture, backed by statistics compiled over the past two years.

"Not all crimes can be solved, as everyone knows," Dubord said. The remark was made during an Augusta press conference at which the death of 14-year-old Cyrus Everett was announced as a homicide.

March 18 of last year, Mrs. Effie MacDonald, 54, was found strangled with one of her nylon stockings in an unoccupied Bangor hotel room. The incident raised speculation that the death could be tied in with Boston stranglings, many of the facts resembling the Massachusetts murders.

In four of the five cases, all termed by investigating officials as homicides, the victims died of head injuries. Mrs. MacDonald died of strangulation. Each incident, according to police is still under investigation.

The problems encountered in solving the five murders apparently stem from the lack of adequate proof. In each incident investigators say they have leads, but are lacking the facts to prove the crime to the satisfaction of legal minds who have the job of trying the cases.
SOURCE: Bangor Daily News, Bangor, Maine, February 4, 1966.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Vendetta lingers after eight years

As reported in the Bangor Daily News on March 17, 1973
Column One by Bob Taylor

If Cliff Sloane were an ordinary man, then tomorrow might be just an ordinary day.

But the former captain of detectives with the Bangor Police Department is anything but ordinary. Twenty years of police work have left scars that retirement and a new career as a bank employe can never completely erase.

Tomorrow, March 18, will mark the eighth anniversary of the “Bangor House Strangling,” probably the most bizarre unsolved crime in local police annals.

Cliff Sloane will sit down for possibly the thousandth time and leaf through his personal files on the crime. He will patiently study and analyze the countless facts that he has long since committed to memory.

He will inevitably come to the conclusion that he has known the identity of the murderer for these long eight years. He will also admit sadly to himself that he still lacks the evidence to get a conviction in a court of law.

Like a grim game of chess, his opponent’s king stands vulnerable and unprotected but the one right move that might end the contest remains maddeningly just out of reach.

The Bangor House case is especially galling to Sloane since it represents the only bit of unfinished business in an unusually successful career as an investigator.

The beaten and molested body of 54-year-old Effie MacDonald, a chambermaid at the hotel, was found in an unoccupied room on the third floor. She had been strangled with one of her own nylon stockings.

Police immediately noticed the similarity between the crime and the shocking list of atrocities committed by the so-called “Boston Strangler” which were just hitting a peak in 1965.

The special “Strangler Squad” organized by the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office immediately dispatched investigators to Bangor. They quickly determined that the Bangor murder, although equally as appalling as those in Massachusetts, was definitely not the work of the “Boston Strangler.”

That left local police with the task of finding a home-grown killer. The case wasn’t entirely lacking in clues, but the investigation soon leveled off to the dull, plodding job of chasing down one false lead after another.

It was the kind of work at which Sloane excelled. He had built his reputation on a methodical, tireless machine of a man whose patience and bulldog tenacity literally wore down his opponents.

Sloane definitely liked being a policeman. He thrived on the endless hours and found excitement in the chase. In short, he enjoyed his work which in turn gave him an air of confidence. Never before had he committed his energies to a case and lost.

The results of his labors are recorded in the secret files that still tantalize police investigators after eight years.

Sloane says that he has identified the killer. The fact that he lacks the evidence to present to a grand jury is only a temporary setback, as far as he is concerned.

There is not statute of limitations for the crime of murder which means the case will never be closed unless it is someday marked “solved.”

Sloane is certainly no dreamer and not the kind of man who would try to fool himself, yet he speaks of the case with a practical confidence.

“It’s just a matter of keeping on the pressure,” he explains. “One of these days one of us will crack and it won’t be me.”
SOURCE: Bangor Daily News, Bangor, Maine, March 17, 1973

Police Check New Leads in Strangling

As reported in the Bangor Daily News on March 25, 1965
by Jim Byrnes

Investigation into the strangling rape of Mrs. Effie MacDonald, 54, Bangor House chambermaid, last Thursday, spread from Fort Kent to Kittery, as the public furnished new leads. Bangor police have added extra phones to handle the calls.

Every facet of the state’s law enforcement complex was being pressed into service to track down leads as they were pressed into service to track down leads as they were phoned to Bangor Police, this included State Police, other local police and sheriff’s departments.

No Solid Clues

“No new solid clues have been uncovered as yet,” Capt. Clifton E. Sloan said Wednesday, “but we have uncovered some new leads through the public’s cooperation. Those will have to be tracked down and are being tracked down. It takes time and we are not giving up.”

The two special investigators from Boston assigned to the Boston “strangler” cases have returned to that city but one is expected back shortly to give local police further assistance in the case.

Earlier, police had indicated that the similarities between the Boston cases and the Bangor case were diminishing, but the announcements Wednesday that one of the special investigators would be returning, would indicate that the theory that the crimes might have been committed by the same men, was not entirely discarded.

Capt. Sloan said that the two Boston investigators are assigned solely to the Boston strangler cases and that they travel throughout the country investigating similar cases and assisting local police in such cases.

Lead Didn’t Check

It also was revealed Wednesday that one of Boston’s suspects had a history leading to Bangor but the lead did not check out. At the same time Capt. Sloan said one of Bangor’s prime suspects at the very beginning, was located in a Massachusetts institution.

The detective division of the Bangor police has been reinforced by patrolmen working extra hours checking leads phoned in locally while the long distance calls – and there have been many from all parts of the state – are being investigated by the other law enforcement agencies.

The reported trespasser who startled a girl in one of the rest rooms at Bangor High School Tuesday, and set off a wave of rumors that another girl had been strangled, had not been found Wednesday, although several men have been assigned to the investigation.

Before leaving Bangor, one of the Boston detectives gave an illustration of how important it is for persons with any scrap of information to report it to the police quickly.

Casual Conversation

A year after one of the murders in Boston – and investigators were going over the ground again – two acquaintances of the victim, reported that they had a had a conversation about the strangler and asked if she were not frightened of living in the area where several of the murders had been committed. She told the others that she wasn’t and would in fact be alone all the weekend. The next day she was found murdered.

“If police had known of that conversation a year earlier, where it had taken place, and who could have possibly overheard it, we might not be on this special assignment today,” he said.
SOURCE: Bangor Daily News, Bangor, Maine, March 25, 1965

Police Seek This Man in Strangling

As reported in the Bangor Daily News on March 23, 1965
by Bob Taylor

Have You Seen Him?

Police concentrated their efforts Monday in a search for a mysterious stranger who may have information in connection with the strangling last Thursday of a chambermaid at the Bangor House.

Officials said reports of a man seen in the hotel a short time before the crime was discovered provide the “best lead yet” in the five day investigation.

Mrs. Effie MacDonald, 54, a seven-year employee of the hotel, was discovered Thursday afternoon ravished and strangled with one of her own nylon stockings in a third floor room.

Investigators were armed Monday with a composite drawing which witnesses said was a fair likeness of a man seen under suspicious circumstances in the hotel Thursday afternoon.

He is described as being about five feet, 10 inches in height with a stocky build with brown hair and prominent brown eyes. He was further described as being in his thirties and wearing an open neck shirt with a brown jacket or short coat.

Witnesses all agreed that the stranger’s eyes were his most distinguished feature.

Police said Monday that the description and drawing could fit several known sex offenders in this area. All were being checked out Monday evening.

In the meantime, police continued to question a long list of persons who might possess some information in connection with the case. The number of persons already interrogated passed the 100 mark Monday.

Police admit that they are without any prime suspect in the case but say there are still a number of promising leads to be followed up.

Local investigators are still being assisted by two Massachusetts detectives who are assigned to a special “strangler unit” organized by the Massachusetts Attorney General. The sole assignment of the unit is to investigate 11 unsolved murders attributed to the “Boston Strangler.”

Although no definite link has been established between the Bangor slaying and the string of eastern Massachusetts murders, Bangor police said the Boston detectives have contributed valuable advice and assistance in the case.

SOURCE: Bangor Daily News, Bangor, Maine, March 23, 1965

Police Seek Man Who May Have Clue to Strangling

As reported in the Bangor Daily News on March 22, 1965
by Jim Byrnes

Bangor police, working around the clock over the weekend, failed to come up with any new clues in the strangulation rape of Mrs. Effie MacDonald, 54, in the Bangor House on Thursday afternoon.

Police are seeking to locate a man who may have valuable information and who was seen in the Bangor House Thursday between 1 and 2:30 p.m.

Police said the man who may have information valuable to them is around five feet ten inches tall, of stocky build, weighing about 175 pounds and is in his thirties. He has brown hair and very prominent brown eyes. When seen he was wearing an open neck shirt and had a brown jacket or short coat. Anyone having seen this man is asked to contact the Bangor Police Department immediately.

County Attorney Howard M. Foley also asked that anyone having information of any kind concerning the case write to him or the police and to either sign the communication or leave off the signature.

Two Massachusetts detectives are working with the Bangor Police on the case as there is some indication that the crime is similar to the “Boston Strangler” cases, although there are discrepancies in the method employed in the Bangor case and the Boston killings.

Numerous persons were interrogated over the weekend in an effort to get a lead. Laboratory evidence was being studied.

The partially nude body of Mrs. MacDonald was found in an unoccupied room at the hotel with a nylon stocking wrapped around her throat. Police said the woman had been raped. A maid at the hotel, she had worked there for seven years.

The Boston detectives who are assigned full time to Boston Strangler case said in the Boston slayings the nylon stockings used were tightly knotted about the victim’s throat, whereas in the Bangor case the stocking was wrapped about the throat but not tied.

Police are in hopes that the public will cooperate by passing on any information, no matter how trivial it may seem.
SOURCE: Bangor Daily News, Bangor, Maine, March 22, 1965

Police Seek Added Clues in Strangling

As reported in the Bangor Daily News on March 20, 1965

A police team that included two Massachusetts detectives sought clues Friday that might link 11 unsolved stranglings in the Boston area to the murder of a chambermaid Thursday at the Bangor House.

Officials were still undecided Friday whether the Bangor slaying was the work of the “Boston Strangler.”

Mrs. Effie MacDonald, 54, a seven-year employee of the hotel, was beaten and strangled with one of her own nylon stockings. The partially nude body was found in an unoccupied third floor room. Police said the victim had been raped.

The Massachusetts detectives conferred at length Friday with Dr. Rudolph Eyerer, pathologist at the Eastern Maine General Hospital, who performed an autopsy on the victim Thursday evening.

Seek Evidence

They were seeking pathological evidence that would be characteristic of the Boston slayings.

Although many details of the Bangor strangling are similar to the Boston murders, there are important discrepancies.

In most of the Boston slayings, they reported nylon stockings were tightly knotted around the victim’s necks. In the Bangor murder, the stocking was wrapped tightly four times around the woman’s neck but was not tied.

Lt. Andrew J. Tunny Jr. and Detective Steve Delaney are both assigned to a special “strangler unit” organized by Massachusetts Attorney General Edward W. Brooke.

Heads Unit

Lt. Tunny is the head of the unit whose sole assignment is to solve the 11 strangulation murders in eastern Massachusetts since June of 1962. The last of the Massachusetts stranglings occurred on January 4, 1964, with 19-year-old Mary E. Sullivan of Boston as the victim.

Seven of the Boston strangler’s victims were middle-aged or elderly women.

Going further into the Boston angle, investigators are checking on the three Boston area guests who checked out of the hotel just prior to the murder. One has already been cleared of any possible suspicion, officials said. The other two are still being investigated, although police admit there is no positive evidence to link them to the crime.

Press Search

Police pressed their search Friday for a mysterious stranger reportedly seen in the third-floor corridor a short time before the crime was discovered. Other hotel employees were able to provide police with what they termed a good description.

Some fingerprints were found in the room Friday by a state police identification expert. Officials said, however, that it is still too early to tell if the prints are those of the strangler.

30 Questioned

In the meantime, Bangor police questioned at least 30 persons in connection with the crime. All were released, although some will be called back for further questioning.

Police made it clear that all persons being questioned are not considered possible suspects. Many persons, police point out, could possess valuable information without being aware of its importance.

Virtually all of the hotel’s employes have been questioned in an attempt to link seemingly unimportant and unrelated bits of information.

Capt. Clifton E. Sloan admits that police are without a “prime suspect,” but said that investigators have numerous leads to follow up. He said that the present phase of the investigation is slow and unspectacular but essential to good police work.

Mrs. MacDonald had been divorced for nine years and had no children. She lived alone in a housekeeping room at 3 Boynton Street. Neighbors and friends described her as a “very quiet and pleasant woman.”
SOURCE: Bangor Daily News, Bangor, Maine, March 20, 1965

Killer in Bangor House Strangling Still At Large

As reported in the Bangor Daily News on March 20-21, 1971
by Bob Taylor, NEWS City Desk

Effie MacDonald’s killer is still at large.

Just six years ago, March 19, 1865, the beaten and ravaged body of the 54-year-old chambermaid was found in a third-floor room at the Bangor House.

Strangled With Stocking

She had been strangled with a nylon stocking.

The murder touched off one of the most intensive investigations in Bangor police annals. Investigators worked around the clock for several weeks, asking thousands of questions and chasing down countless microscopic clues.

Six years later, the crime is still officially unsolved and the killer remains free.

Unofficially, police are still smarting under a legal stalemate. They think they know, beyond any reasonable doubt, the identity of the murderer.

They are equally convinced, however, that their evidence would never stand up in a court of law.

Friendly And Popular

Effie MacDonald, quiet and not especially attractive, was an unlikely victim of a crime of passion. A divorcee, she lived alone and had worked for seven years at the Bangor House, where other employees described her as friendly and popular.

The body was found in an unoccupied room by another chambermaid about 15 minutes before what would have been the normal end to the victim’s work day.

Hotel records showed that the room had not been rented for two days and would not have required any maid service.

The partially nude body was found on the floor. Most of her clothing had been ripped off and the stocking was wrapped tightly four times around her neck.

Circumstances of the crime were strongly similar to the then-unsolved rash of sex murders in the Boston area credited to the “Boston Strangler.”

Assistance Offered

In fact, two detectives from the special Massachusetts “Strangler Squad” sped to Bangor to examine the body and offer any possible assistance. They agreed that the overall circumstances were similar to the Boston murders, but detected important discrepancies that soon convinced them that the crime was not the work of the “Strangler.”

Bangor police were left with the task of tracing down the killer with virtually no major clues. A check of the victim’s personal life offered no leads.

Her landlady said that she had been divorced for nine years and lived a solitary existence in a housekeeping room not far from Bangor police headquarters. She didn’t go out much, the landlady recalled and her visitors were limited to mostly to relatives. She spent most of her non-working hours alone in her room, watching television or listening to the radio.

Over 100 Questioned

Police started by checking out the other hotel guests. Within four days they had questioned more than 100 people and compiled hundreds of pages of typewritten statements.

Detective Capt. Clifton E. Sloane, who has since retired from the police department, probably remembers the case better than anyone. Sloan still lives with a burning desire to solve the case and bring the killer to justice.

Sloane worked on seven murder cases during his career as a police detective. Only the MacDonald murder still has loose ends.

Within a few days police had narrowed the list of possible suspects to a handful and finally to one.

They reconstructed the crime in light of known facts and went over the evidence dozens of times. They became convinced that a male guest at the hotel had to be the murderer.

Proof Another Matter

Proving it would be another matter. The suspect quickly obtained the services of a lawyer and refused to answer questions. The fragile web of facts, unsupported by witnesses or important physical evidence would melt under the weight of legal doubt in a courtroom.

Sloane believed that he had enough evidence to obtain an indictment from a grand jury but finally decided against it. If the suspect should be arrested and freed after a superior court trial he would be forever beyond the reach of the law.

Police decided to wait and hope for a break. That was six years ago and the final solution to the case seems further away than ever.

Might Make A Slip

Sloane admits that there isn’t much chance that new evidence will come to light at this late date. However, he still believes that the killer could make a slip.

Sloane’s theory is that the crime was the result of an emotional outburst. He believes that the killer attacked the chambermaid because he was dissatisfied with the room.

If the killer is truly a person given to such emotional tantrums, Sloan theorizes, he could “blow his top” at any minute and commit another serious crime. Perhaps, next time, he wouldn’t be so lucky.

On the other hand, Sloane believes, six years of living with the crime might weigh heavily upon the killer’s conscience. There may come a time when he will want to confess.

In any event, the retired veteran of more than 20 years of police work is still hoping . . . and waiting!
SOURCE: Bangor Daily News, Bangor, Maine, March 20, 1971

Strangler's Weapon

Investigators check the nylon stockings used in strangling Mrs. Effie MacDonald, 54, at the Bangor House Thursday. The stockings were identified as the victim’s. From left are County Attorney Howard M. Foley, Captain Clifton E. Sloan, Detective Sgt. James Scripture and Assistant County Attorney, Albert Blanchard Jr.
SOURCE: Bangor Daily News, Bangor, Maine, March 19, 1965

Obituary for Mrs. Effie MacDonald

Mrs. Effie MacDonald, 54, of 3 Boynton Street, was found dead at her place of employment in Bangor Thursday afternoon.

She was born in Houlton, the daughter of George W. and Daisy L. (Grant) Terrill.

She had been employed by the Bangor House for seven years and had previously worked for the Quality Bakery at Bangor.

Survivors are her mother, Mrs. Daisy L. Terrill of Glenburn; four brothers, Earl O., Harry U., and Albert Terrill of Glenburn and Chester A. Terrill of Hermon; two sisters, Mrs. Hilda McGann of Newport and Mrs. Avis Mower of Bangor; nieces and nephews.

Funeral services will be held at the Clark-Mitchell Funeral Home, 299 Union Street, time and day to be announced.
SOURCE: Bangor Daily News, Bangor, Maine, March 19, 1965

Employee, 69, Stricken at Death News

As reported in the Bangor Daily News, March 19, 1965

The Bangor House was the scene Thursday of two tragic events.

Miss Sara “Sadie” Bell, 69, employed for more than 30 years at the well known hotel, was admitted to the Eastern Maine General Hospital at 5 p.m. suffering from a heart ailment, hospital attaches said. Miss Bell was stricken after learning of the death, apparently by strangulation, of Mrs. Effie MacDonald, 54-year-old hotel chambermaid.

Miss Bell was operating the switchboard at the hotel at the time Mrs. MacDonald’s body was found.

“She was terribly upset about the tragedy, as we all were,” another hotel employee said.

Hospital attaches said Miss Bell’s name had been placed on the danger list.
SOURCE: Bangor Daily News, Bangor, Maine, March 19, 1965

Maid Found Slain in Bangor Hotel

As reported in Bangor Daily News on March 19, 1965

The beaten and molested body of a 54-year-old chambermaid was discovered Thursday afternoon in a third-floor room at the Bangor House. She was strangled with a nylon stocking.

The victim was identified as Mrs. Effie MacDonald, who had been employed at the hotel for the past seven years.

County Attorney Howard M. Foley said a medical examination showed that the victim had been sexually attacked and strangled. An autopsy was performed Thursday evening.

The discovery was made by another hotel employe about 2:45 p.m., less than two hourse after the victim had last been seen alive.

County attorney Foley said the woman had been struck about the face.

Police compared the slaying with a string of unsolved strangulation murders in the Boston area in recent years.

Capt. Clifton E. Sloane said he has accepted an offer of assistance from the Massachusetts State Police and two of their detectives were speeding to Bangor to help in the investigation.

Capt. Sloan also reported that the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office is making available a special file on the Bay State murders.

Mrs. MacDonald was generally described as a quiet and friendly person and popular with other hotel employees. She was a divorcee who lived alone at 3 Boynton Street.

Her normal work day at the hotel was from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. She reported for work as usual Thursday morning and spent the early part of the day at routine chores. She was last seen alive about 12:30 or a few minutes later..

Sometime after 2 p.m. her immediate supervisor realized that she had not been seen for an hour or more and, knowing that the woman had an asthmatic condition, asked the others chambermaids to look for her.

The body was found in a third-floor room in which the victim would not ordinarily have any business. Hotel records showed that the room had not been rented for the past two days and would not require any kind of maid service.

Police said the partially nude body was found on the floor. Most of the clothing had been torn off and the tightly knotted stocking was wrapped four times around her neck. Nothing else in the room appeared to have been disturbed.

Capt. Sloan pointed out the similarity between the Bangor murder and 11 unsolved stranglings of women in eastern Massachusetts since June 1962. The Massachusetts women all were strangled with stockings or underclothing and seven of the victims were middle-aged or elderly.

The last of the “Boston Strangler’s’ victims was 19-year-old Mary E. Sullivan whose body was found Jan. 4, 1964 in her Boston apartment.

A 32-year-old inmate of the Bridgewater State Mental Hospital in Massachusetts has recently admitted to the 11 deaths but officials have uncovered no evidence to link him to the slayings.

Mrs. MacDonald, who has been divorced for nine years, was described as a “very quiet and pleasant woman” by her landlady of nine years, Mrs. Roger Jacques, 3 Boynton Street. She had no children.

The last time Mrs. Jacques talked with Mrs. MacDonald was Tuesday night.

“I had company at the time,” Mrs. Jacques said, “and Mrs. MacDonald dropped in to see how I was.

“She was a woman who didn’t go out much, and her only visitors as far as I know were members of her immediate family.”

Mrs. Jacques. said Mrs. MacDonald hadn’t felt well the past few weeks.

“She kept more or less to herself,” said Mrs. Jacques, “and on Sundays she would clean her room and probably listen to the radio or watch television.”

The room in which Mrs. MacDonald stayed was a housekeeping room just up the street from the Bangor police station.

It was in this quiet solitude that Mrs. MacDonald during her time off from work sat and knitted and crocheted. She neither drank nor smoked, according to her landlady.
SOURCE: Bangor Daily News, Bangor, Maine, March 19, 1965

The Bangor House