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AUGUSTA – John P. L’Heureux, a Sanford man known for his wild rage and violent
past, is accused of killing two people, torching two houses and firing a shot
at a trooper before quietly surrendering to police early Wednesday morning, 25
hours after his crime spree began, police said.

L’Heureux, 28, has been charged with two counts of murder in the deaths of
Kristen Smith, 16, his stepdaughter, who recently completed her sophomore year
at Cony High School in Augusta; and Mary Small Turner, 87, a hairdresser and
his former landlady.

Smith was apparently beaten with a piece of wood and left half-naked in a
shallow grave outside Augusta, police said. Turner was smashed with a vacuum
cleaner and strangled before her Augusta home was set on fire, court documents
show. L’Heureux also has been charged with arson.

L’Heureux, shaggy-haired and heavy-lidded, made his first appearance in
Kennebec County District Court on Wednesday afternoon.

He did not enter a plea. A bail hearing is set for Monday. He is being held
without bail at Kennebec County Jail.

L’Heureux’s arrest came after hours of non-stop work by police from central and
southern Maine. Their efforts to solve arsons in Augusta and Shapleigh and to
find a girl missing from Vassalboro mushroomed into a manhunt for a killer.

L’Heureux, released from prison in February 1995 after serving time for a
savage attack on a Sanford woman in 1991, was the common link.

The chain of events, which spanned 90 miles, began about 11:30 p.m. Monday when
L’Heureux spotted Kristen Smith outside an Augusta convenience store, according
to an affidavit filed by police.

Beth White, 24, who was with Smith that night, said Smith told her she was
going for a ride with L’Heureux because he said he had had a fight with her
mother and he needed to talk to someone, according to police reports. Smith
never returned.

L’Heureux told detectives he drove her to St. Mary’s Cemetery in Manchester,
about three miles from downtown Augusta. Once there, he assaulted her, beat her
with a piece of poplar wood, then buried her in a shallow grave near the
cemetery, police said. Her body was found there early Wednesday morning. She
was naked from the waist down.

Police say L’Heureux left the cemetery and headed back to Augusta and Turner’s
home at 25 Myrtle St., where he and his wife and stepchildren had lived in an
upstairs apartment for seven months before moving to Sanford in mid-June.
L’Heureux knew Turner’s back door would be unlocked, police said.

”He said that he intended to kill her because she had complained about getting
old and how difficult it was growing old,” Maine State Police Detective
William Harwood wrote in his affidavit. ”He said he hit her with a vacuum
cleaner and then set the house on fire. He said that Ms. Turner was still alive
as the fire was starting and he stepped on her throat.”

Turner’s neighbors reported the fire about 2 a.m. Tuesday. Turner’s body was
found in the living room. An autopsy, performed Tuesday, showed Turner died
from strangulation, and that her face and head were battered.

Tuesday morning, as investigators sifted through Turner’s charred home, Kristen
Smith’s family reported her missing to the Kennebec County Sheriff’s Office.
Smith’s mother, Joy Robie L’Heureux drove up to Vassalboro, where Smith had been
staying with her father, Arnold Smith.

Joy Robie L’Heureux and Arnold Smith declined to comment Wednesday.

By 6 p.m. Tuesday, L’Heureux was back in southern Maine, torching a cabin in
Shapleigh, police said. Detectives said L’Heureux may have had some sort of tie
with a former caretaker of the cabin, but no specifics were provided.

Not far from the cabin, firefighters spotted a car on fire, a tip that this
fire was no accident.

A check of the car’s registration revealed the names John and Joy L’Heureux.
The puzzle was coming together with one piece missing: John L’Heureux.

L’Heureux did not make much effort to hide from police, according to court
documents. About 12:30 a.m. Wednesday, he shot out the rear window of Trooper
Gerome Carr’s cruiser as Carr left the scene of the Shapleigh fire. Police
descended on the area.

L’Heureux then stepped out of the woods and told Carr and Trooper Peter Sheldon
that he had been on the run for two days. He asked the troopers if they were
looking for him.

”Should we be?” Sheldon countered.

”I killed that old lady in Augusta and torched the house,” L’Heureux told the
troopers, according to a police affidavit.

Maine State Police Lt. Tim Doyle said police still haven’t been able to answer
one vexing question: Why did he do it?

”We’re looking into the facts and circumstances,” Doyle said. ”But right now
there is no apparent motive.”

The details of the murders dumbfounded some of L’Heureux’s acquaintances in
Augusta and Sanford.

Flossie Panek, who visted her elderly friend Mary Turner daily, and helped
Turner with her errands and her tenants, said she knew John L’Heureux as
clean-cut, quiet and well-mannered.

”I could not believe when everyone said this was the gentleman who had done
this,” Panek said. ”I thought ‘No, it can’t be.’ ”

Panek went to Kennebec County District Court to see the accused killer for
herself, and her disbelief soon turned to anger.

”This man is beyond sick,” she said.

Panek said Joy and John L’Heureux left Turner’s apartment on amicable terms
with the former landlady, after L’Heureux lost his job in Augusta.

L’Heureux’s new neighbors in Sanford were similarly disturbed by the charges.

”He seemed like a hell of a nice guy,” said Joe Dionne, who lived next door
to L’Heureux on River Road. ”My wife is in shock today.”

L’Heureux’s criminal history, however, is well-known among some in Sanford,
where he was raised and where he attacked a woman in 1991.

Tammy Andrews was beaten, then run over with a car and left – grievously
injured – by the town dump. Her pelvis was broken in four places, her hips in
nine, and for more than a week her face was swollen beyond recognition.

L’Heureux was originally charged with attempted murder in that case, but he
pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of aggravated assault because prosecutors
acknowledged their case was largely circumstantial. Andrews could not remember
the attack.

At his sentencing hearing in 1992, L’Heureux apologized to Andrews.

”There’s no excuse,” he told her. ”I know what I’ve done and I wish I could
change what happened. You were an innocent victim to my rage.”

By Sarah RaglandĀ 
Staff writer Gregory Kesich and news assistant Will Bartlett contributed to
this report.

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