PUBLISHED ON January 2, 2001
THOMASTON, Maine — A Maine State Prison inmate who pushed his third wife off a cliff at Acadia National Park — and who recently admitted to fatally shoving his first wife into a Montana stream — leaped to his own death Sunday.
Dennis R. Larson, 50, left a note before he opened the third-story craft room window at 8:05 p.m. and dove to his death on rocks and granite below. His mouth was covered with duct tape, which had “Geronimo” written on it, and a clothespin was clipped to his nose.
“All indicators are that it was suicide,” Warden Jeffrey Merrill said Monday.
According to Merrill, investigators are still trying to figure out the meaning behind the tape and the clothespin. Merrill said Larson left some correspondence — although he did not call it a suicide note. He said that Maine State Police and prison officials are still investigating the death, therefore he was reluctant to provide certain details. He did say that Larson was working in the craft room at the time, but would not say who else was in the area.
When Larson’s body was recovered, his pants were down around his knees, Merrill confirmed.
The warden explained that when Larson “dove” out the window, his pants got hooked on something and were pulled down. The fact that his pants were down had no sexual connotation, he said.
On the other hand, “the thing that buffaloes us is the duct tape and the clothespin,” Merrill said, confirming the fact that “Geronimo” was written across the tape. He said Larson might be of Indian descent.
“It’s all solid rock and granite down below,” Merrill said, describing the area of the recreation yard into which Larson leaped. His body was taken to the state medical examiner’s office for an autopsy, Merrill said.
“The staff responded very well,” the warden said, explaining that such situations are “tough issues to deal with,” especially on a night like New Year’s Eve. Many personnel worked throughout the night because of the incident, he said.
State police, as well as investigators from the prison staff, are interviewing prisoners to try to piece together what happened, he said.
Larson was serving a 50-year sentence for killing his third wife, Kathy Frost Larson, by pushing her off an 80-foot cliff at Acadia National Park on Oct. 11, 1987, just weeks after they were married. Around that time, he had returned to Maine to try to patch things up with his second wife, who had divorced him, according to published reports. Instead, he advertised in a couple of newspapers for a wife and Frost, then 25, was one of three women to respond. They married about seven weeks after meeting.
The day after they married, Larson took out a life insurance policy on himself with an additional rider that covered his wife for $400,000 for accidental death.
During the investigation into Frost’s death, Larson returned to Montana, but left several packages behind at Bangor International Airport. After finding dynamite in Larson’s apartment garage the day before he left, Maine State Police quickly notified Bangor police. The airport was searched and the packages were removed and exploded. Only tools and clothing were found.
In November 1994, the U.S. Supreme Court turned down Larson’s appeal of the 1987 murder conviction. He claimed he did not get a fair trial.
On Sept. 14, 2000, Larson admitted to a Montana detective that he killed his first wife, Leslee R. Larson, in June 1975. When initially investigated, Larson told officials that she fell into the fast-moving water near Wolf Creek, Mont., and he had jumped in to try to save her. The first law officer at the scene reported that Larson’s clothing was dry when he arrived. Seven years after her death, he collected on a $20,000 life insurance policy. Her body was never recovered.
Before that confession, the Montana native’s projected release date from Maine State Prison was 2022, Merrill said, noting that Larson was in the process of being extradited to Montana for that murder. Montana law enforcement officials could not be reached Monday for comment.
According to Merrill, Larson did not have many friends while at the prison, but he had not been a problem for staff. He had appeared remorseful when he confessed to murdering his first wife, Merrill said, noting Larson had admitted to the killing to bring closure for her family.
Larson had been incarcerated at the Thomaston prison since Aug. 24, 1989, after serving 567 days in a county jail before his sentencing for the 1987 murder, Merrill said. The only prior record that Merrill knew about was a felony theft in Montana, which carried a suspended sentence.