Bernard "Bunny" Ross, Jr., as he appeared when he went missing in Aroostook County at the age of 18 in 1977, left, and a computer-generated image of what he might look like today. Credit: Maine State Police

PORTLAND, Maine — An anonymous letter-writer claims to know what happened to Bernard “Bunny” Ross Jr., who went missing at the age of 18 in Aroostook County nearly 40 years ago, police said Friday.

Lt. Troy Gardner of the Maine State Police told reporters in Portland, where Ross’ parents now live, that investigators want the author to come forward and talk to police.

“There’s no way to know for sure if the letter is truthful or if the information is accurate,” Gardner said. “There’s always a possibility that it’s a hoax. Obviously, if it is a hoax, that’s a horrible thing to do to somebody who’s been missing their son since 1977.”

Gardner said Ross’ parents, who lived in Fort Kent at the time of his disappearance, received the letter “a few months ago,” but would not disclose any other details about it, including whether it was handwritten or typed, how many pages it was, where it was postmarked or what the writer claimed happened to the missing man.

Gardner said police are reluctant to release more information about the letter without learning more about the author and, if the information in the letter is reliable, how that person knows it.

Ross went missing on May 12, 1977. That morning, he took a family car from their home in Fort Kent to his aunt’s house in Presque Isle. Then, Gardner said Friday, he took another vehicle without permission in Presque Isle.

That vehicle was later found in Ashland more than 20 miles away, and Ross was last seen on the Realty Road near the Ashland-Portage town line.

“I think the community was shocked,” said his father, Bernard Ross Sr., 80, on Friday morning.

“People had a hard time because there were no answers,” Ross’ mother, Carol, 78, said. “It’s not like there was a death. It was the unknown. … There was always the hope that he’d walk through the door one day.”

Carol and Bernard Ross Sr. moved to southern Maine in 1981 and lived in Gorham until 2001, when they moved to Portland. Carol Ross said Friday that Bunny Ross, one of six children, was “going through some ups and downs” emotionally at the time of his disappearance, but Gardner and the man’s parents on Friday characterized his state of mind as not abnormal for someone in his teenage years.

“There’s always been the hope or assumption that he’s alive out there,” Gardner said. “Certainly in their minds — and investigatively — there’s been nothing to suggest he’s not alive. The other side of that is that he’s been missing since 1977, and that’s a long time to go without contact with family.”

Gardner said he hopes the person who wrote the anonymous letter — or anyone else with information about what happened to Ross — calls state police at 1-800-924-2261 or 532-5400 and asks to speak with Sgt. Darrin Crane.

The Maine State Police also has an online tip form that can be accessed through their website.

Seth Koenig

Seth has nearly a decade of professional journalism experience and writes about the greater Portland region.