Here's a look back at the most-read BDN stories of 2019. Credit: Composite image

Many of the stories that Bangor Daily News readers cared about the most this past year had one thing in common: loss.

We lost three heroic first responders in the line of duty. There was an exodus of health care providers. A popular wedding venue closed. So did longtime, beloved restaurants.

This year, we also saw justice for 10-year-old Marissa Kennedy, as her mother and stepfather were both found guilty of her murder. And we discovered a deeper understanding of Maine’s archaeological past.

Here’s a look back at the most-read BDN stories of 2019.

Credit: Linda Coan O'Kresik

1 . Detective Ben Campbell is struck and killed by a tire on I-95 in Hampden

Maine State Police Detective Ben Campbell was assisting a stranded driver on the side of I-95 during an April 3 snowstorm when two tires detached from the trailer of a passing logging truck and one fatally struck the 31-year-old. He left behind a wife and 6-month-old son.

It was the first line-of-duty death of a state trooper since Oct. 17, 1997.

“If there’s anything I can say as I try to wrap my head around this, it would be for all of you to slow down and take life in,” Campbell’s widow Hilary said through tears at his funeral, which drew a crowd of 3,000 in Portland. “Life gets crazy. Small things become larger than they should and get more attention than they deserve. If you’re mad at a loved one, that’s OK. But let it go. Don’t let negative emotions fill your heart.”

State police in June suspended the license of a mechanic alleging that his inadequate inspection of the logging truck contributed to the freak accident. Investigators also found that a week after the inspection, the faulty wheels had new tires mounted on them at Bangor Tire Co. 2 in Hermon, apparently without anyone noticing the wheels’ poor condition. The truck’s driver also failed to keep adequate maintenance records.

Credit: Gabor Degre

2 . Doctors quit EMMC as changes leave less time with patients, push morale to ‘all-time low’

Eight doctors resigned from Bangor’s Northern Light Eastern Maine Medical Center in May amid a push by the hospital to reduce their ranks, cut their benefits and have fewer doctors work each day, forcing those on duty to see more patients in a shift.

This, according to one of the hospitalists who resigned, forced doctors to devote less attention to individual patients with complex health problems and affected the overall care residents of eastern Maine could expect from the state’s second-largest hospital.

Northern Light Health, EMMC’s parent organization, is poised to continue to grow in the new year due to a proposed merger with Mayo Regional Hospital in Dover-Foxcroft. Evidence from around the country suggests that new revenue could come from charging people who use the Dover-Foxcroft facility more for the health care they receive there.

3. Jurors don’t buy ‘victim claim’ as they convict Carrillo mom for murdering daughter

In the year following 10-year-old Marissa Kennedy’s tragic death, the two people who killed her — mother Sharon Carrillo and stepfather Julio Carrillo — were both found guilty of her murder.

Julio Carrillo pleaded guilty to the crime in August and was sentenced to 55 years in prison. Sharon Carrillo was found guilty during her December trial in which disturbing details of the Carrillos’ abusive treatment of Kennedy came to light.

Kennedy was one of more than 20 children between the ages of 20 days and 10 years old who died since January 2017 after the state’s child protective services system received concerns about abuse or neglect involving their families, according to data from the Maine Department of Health and Human Services. A government watchdog agency reported earlier this year that the state’s Office of Child and Family Services caseworkers were overburdened and burned out.

Since Kennedy’s death, a state lawmaker proposed a bill to establish an ad hoc commission of lawmakers to reform child welfare services in Maine, and Gov. Janet Mills included $2.8 million in her two-year budget to hire more staff for the Office of Child and Protective Services.

4 . Archaeologists race to uncover colonial fort buried beneath a Maine road before it’s too late

Historians had long suspected a colonial-era frontier fort’s remains lay beneath River Road in Windham, but digging for evidence had been impossible since it was paved in the 1920s. In August, a long-planned road construction project gave archaeologists a chance to have a look.

The fort, a site of several clashes between Native Americans and white settlers, provided a unique look at Maine’s history. The archaeologists were searching for signs of other buildings within the fort, such as a blacksmith’s shop, and unearthed a 10-by-60-foot bed of stones that they suspect served as a boardwalk.

5. Couples scramble as popular Maine wedding venue says it will close by year’s end

Just three months after new owners purchased Point Lookout Conference Center in Northport, they decided that running it as a business was not financially viable and said in June that it would close by the end of the year.

The announcement left couples who had already booked the venue for 2020 reeling.

“The last couple of days have really been a scramble,” Mark Verrill of Marlborough, Massachusetts, said. “[My fiancee] was really, really upset. It was the only place we looked at. We’re basically trying to replan our wedding … now we’re starting the entire process over again.”

Three months later, the owners seemingly changed their minds, and said they would look for a partner to help them keep the venue open. However, two months after that they announced that those efforts had failed.

Credit: Gabor Degre

6. Farmington fire captain dead and 7 others hurt in massive building explosion

Farmington Fire Department Capt. Michael Bell, 68, died and his brother Terry, the town’s fire chief, was among seven others injured in a September explosion on Route 2 that leveled the home of a nonprofit, destroyed nearby homes and scattered debris for more than a mile.

Bell’s death was the second on-the-job death of a Maine firefighter in 2019, following Capt. Joel Barnes’ death in March.

Three months later the community still feels a void as Larry Lord, the maintenance supervisor at LEAP Inc. hailed as a hero for evacuating the building after smelling gas, remains in serious condition at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston.

In the wake of the explosion, lawmakers will consider a bill that would require natural gas and propane leak detectors in certain buildings.

Credit: Eesha Pendharkar

7. Bangor High told students of a peer’s suicide over the intercom, going against expert advice

Bangor High School Principal Paul Butler came onto the school’s intercom the morning of Nov. 20 with a somber announcement: a high school senior had died by suicide. But the announcement of a student’s suicide to 1,200 students over the school’s loudspeaker and other elements of Bangor High School’s response went against the advice of mental health professionals with expertise in helping students digest the news of a peer’s suicide.

In the weeks that followed, the Bangor School Department’s actions prompted criticism from some parents at a school board meeting, while administrators defended their response. A debate also played out on the BDN’s opinion pages.

8. St. Mary’s hospital employees created a ‘wall of shame’ of patients with disabilities

Employees at St. Mary’s Regional Medical Center in Lewiston created a “wall of shame” where they displayed confidential medical records of patients with disabilities detailing issues with their genitalia and bodily functions, according to an investigation by the Maine Human Rights Commission that found the exhibit had contributed to a hostile work environment.

The commission voted unanimously in January to support the investigator’s findings.

Readers were shocked to find that the very people they had trusted with their health care were mocking patients behind their backs and breaching patient confidentiality.

9. Step by step, 2 women detail Maine university’s failings in their rape cases

In January, two students at the University of Maine at Farmington came forward with troubling accounts of sexual assault — and how the university failed to act in response. In one case, the school allowed an alleged attacker to remain on campus even after a committee found him responsible for sexually assaulting her and issued a two-year suspension.

When the school’s response to both alleged victims was described to three national Title IX experts, they said there were clearly problems with due process and possibly violations of federal law.

After the BDN’s initial story was published, five more female students came forward to report that one of the alleged attackers in the original story — who had been cleared of rape by the university — had assaulted or harrassed them, too.

The male student has since been suspended from UMF and is under investigation for sexual misconduct against four women. He filed a lawsuit against the university in September, alleging that he was, in fact, a sexual assault victim and that the school did not protect him. In response, the University of Maine System argued the student had no grounds to sue.

Credit: Troy R. Bennett

10. Restaurant closings hint at a gentrifying Portland, but there’s more to it than that

In a span of four weeks this summer, four popular Portland pubs and eateries closed: Brian Boru Public House in the Old Port, Lolita on Munjoy Hill, Scattoloni Bakery in Monument Square and Silly’s in East Bayside.

What made these closures surprising is that none suffered from a lack of business.

Instead, experts pointed to a worker housing shortage, coupled with a service industry that has been reluctant to raise wages despite the rising cost of living in Portland and beyond.

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Lindsay Putnam

Lindsay Putnam is a senior editor for sports and features at the Bangor Daily News. Lindsay previously worked as an editor and reporter at the New York Post. She's a York Beach native and Colby College...