After Desiree York moved to Bangor from Waldo County several years ago, she drifted away from her family, sinking further into a life of drug addiction and homelessness, according to friends and relatives.

York, 36, and Michael Bridges, 43, were found dead on March 28 in a burning box truck. She left behind a young daughter, her parents, who live in Knox, and seven half-siblings.

“Drug use and stuff like that, that all happened in the last four or five years,” said her half-brother, Jason York, 43. “But the kid’s 36. For the first 31 years of her life, she was happy. Sometimes something snaps inside.”

Bridges and York had been homeless since September, a friend said. Another local homeless man, John De St. Croix, 25, has been charged with two counts of murder in connection with their deaths, although authorities have not described a possible motive.

York’s parents, who are caring for her 7-year-old daughter Miracle, declined to speak to reporters, but her siblings remembered her as a bubbly, charismatic person.

“Our choices, sometimes, our addiction, got in the way, and we chose to be around unhealthy people and be in places that we probably shouldn’t have been,” said Desiree’s half-sister Torie York, 40, who is in recovery for her own drug use.

As a kid, Desiree often conspired with Torie to play good-humored tricks on her older brothers, “putting shaving cream in your hand while you were sleeping and tickling your nose — whatever it was,” Jason said.

Thanks to Desiree, joking around was a defining part of the family’s home life and annual summer camping trips, Torie said.

Desiree, Torie said, had a passion for children and a childlike innocence about her well into adulthood. If Desiree walked into a house and had to choose between a roomful of adults or a roomful of children, she almost automatically chose to be with the kids. Desiree helped raise Torie’s three children — 20-year-old Tamika, 18-year-old Nikiesha and 16-year-old Taniesha, Torie said.

After she graduated from Mount View High School in Thorndike, Desiree worked through her 20s at a Unity restaurant and then at a scrap metal business with Jason and her father, said Jason, who is now a carpenter.

Desiree never appeared to have an interest in going to college. She liked cooking and waitressing and helped her father run a restaurant in Knox for several years, Torie said.

She was an avid NASCAR and Jeff Gordon fan and attended her brother Donald’s stock car races regularly. She was a member of his pit crew, tracking tire pressures and making sure it looked clean, Donald said.

“She was into that pretty good,” Donald said. “She just loved to be around family.”

She and Torie usually loved to root against their male family members’ teams, just for argument’s sake, Torie said.

Desiree started pulling away from the family in her early 30s, when she moved to Bangor and lived on and off the streets, Jason said. “Once she was up there, I didn’t see her,” he said.

Torie said she suspects that some of Desiree’s addiction issues traced back to the death of Desiree’s daughter, Nevaeh — Heaven spelled backward — who was stillborn about 10 years ago.

But even before then, York had several brushes with the law. In 2005, she began collecting misdemeanor drug and OUI convictions, according to a criminal background check with the Maine State Bureau of Investigation. When she died, she had theft, domestic violence, disorderly conduct charges pending in Penobscot County.

Desiree tried to overcome drug addiction at least once while in Bangor, according to Angela Dyer, who said she met York in late 2014 when the two sought treatment at a the same methadone clinic.

They coincidentally became neighbors last summer, when York moved into an apartment at 30 Ohio St., said Dyer, who lives nearby.

Dyer said last week she could tell York was using again. “Her overall appearance had deteriorated,” she said, recalling York’s weight loss and lined face.

York started dating Michael Bridges around June, said Dyer, who knew Bridges because he lived in the building where she served as property manager.

York and a friend moved in with Bridges. It took around two months for Dyer to evict them and a third roommate for partying and failing to pay rent, she said.

After the eviction, they became homeless, and Bridges and York went to live along a nearby footpath. They were in an on-and-off relationship, spending nights in various places around the city, until they died.

Desiree York’s siblings, Jason and Torie, said their sister may have been homeless, but she could always have gone home to her family.

“She chose to be where she was and to be with who she was with,” Torie said. “The family didn’t leave her homeless.”

BDN writers Nick Sambides Jr. and Judy Harrison contributed to this report.

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Callie Ferguson

Callie Ferguson is an investigative reporter for the Bangor Daily News. She writes about criminal justice, police and housing.