Mystery Stories Drawn From Annals of Maine State Police
WESTBROOK, Maine (AP) _ They were a familiar team on Maine’s backroads in the final years of Prohibition: the young motorcycle officer and Minnie, a 375-pound black bear who rode in his sidecar and had a nose for booze.
Trooper J. Edward Marks, one of the original members of the Maine State Police, delighted in Minnie’s companionship while on patrol on his Harley- Davidson. And anyone who might think to defy the trooper’s authority usually reconsidered when he took note of the bear.
″He enjoyed the expressions on people’s faces when he pulled them over. Also, the bear had a darned good nose for sniffing booze. The bear was really as much a partner as any two-legged one would be,″ said Marks’ daughter, Karen Lemke of Westbrook, who has written a book about the exploits of her father and others of Maine’s finest.
The relationship between Marks and Minnie went on for several years and ended only after the aging bear inexplicably turned on him while in its pen. The trooper was lucky to escape with minor claw wounds.
Marks, known to many as ″Captain Eddie″ because of the rank he held throughout most of his career, became a legend in the state police. He retired in 1975 as Maine’s public safety commissioner after 50 years on the force.
Growing up across te road from the state prison in Thomaston, Mrs. Lemke was regaled with a steady diet of dinner table stories about crime-fighting exploits involving her father and his fellow officers.
Mrs. Lemke, a former teacher in East Corinth, Old Town and Gorham and now professor of education at St. Joseph’s College, drew upon those conversations with her father in compiling material for her newly published book, ″Down East Detectives,″ which recreates nine mysteries in which the state police played a key role.
″He was my inspiration,″ she said. Much of the material in the book was derived from tape-recorded interviews with her father before his death in 1981.
She also based her stories upon old newspaper clippings, court transcripts and dozens of interviews with old-time state police officers and witnesses.
The partnership between bear and trooper reflects the loose, frontier-style atmosphere that prevailed in the early years of the state police, a law enforcement agency established in 1925 to succeed the state highway patrol.
″They were psychologically and physically distanced from headquarters - the further they were, the looser they were,″ Mrs. Lemke said, noting that troopers had no direct link with dispatchers until the introduction of radio communications in the 1940s.
″There was a distinct informality. They didn’t have the rules and regulations. They were self-styled free-lancers in many ways,″ she said. ″If they came across a homicide, they worked on it until it got completed.″
One story in the collection concerns the bizarre Carroll-Dwyer murder case, which took place in South Paris 50 years ago. Two people, youthful Paul Dwyer and Deputy Sheriff Francis Carroll, were sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder of a prominent physician, even though if either had committed the crime the other couldn’t have done so.