Wayne Foss stands working on a fishing boat in this undated photo. Credit: Courtesy of the Foss family

Relatives and a longtime Whitneyville official are going public with their concerns about the unsolved 2017 killing of a local man, which they say is connected to Washington County’s illegal drug trade.

Five and a half years after Wayne Foss was killed in his home, they said there are witnesses in the case and are frustrated that his death remains unsolved.

Foss’ killing fits a pattern over recent years in Washington County in which drug dealers have been targeted or resorted to deadly violence as they try to assert control over part of the county’s drug trade, they said.

“My dad was always part of the drug scene,” daughter Brittany Look said. “It was a demon he fought for a long time. He was a good person, but had a really bad habit, and it got the best of him.”

Look, who is in her 30s, declined to speculate about who killed her father, but said that people her father hung out with around the time of his death must know who was responsible for it. A few of them have since moved out of state, she said, but neighbors who lived within eyesight of Foss’ home in Whitneyville’s small central village surely saw people coming and going.

“I’ve always known there’s been a major drug problem in Washington County, but I never thought it would get to the point of people being killed,” she said. “To have it happen to my family is just insane.”

Wayne Foss’ widow, Kim Foss, said that “the most difficult thing” about her husband’s death is not knowing who may be responsible.

“I would like some fresh interest to be taken in my husband’s case,” she said.

Since Wayne Foss, who was 48, was found dead in his home in late October 2017, very few details have been released publicly by authorities. Maine State Police said his death was a homicide and that his body was found by fire investigators after firefighters extinguished an overnight blaze at his Middle Street home, but have been mum on other information.

“Investigators continue to follow up on leads and ask the public to reach out if they have any information pertaining to the case,” said Shannon Moss, spokesperson for Maine State Police.

She declined to release other details such as how Foss died, how the fire started or whether police have identified possible suspects.

Foss’ death is yet another potential example of how the illegal drug trade has turned deadly in Washington County over the past six years.

If what friends and family believe is true, Foss would be the fourth person killed in the county since early 2017 to be directly connected to drug dealing. Disputes over drugs have also factored into two other homicides. Overall, 14 people have been killed in Washington County in the past six years, causing its share of homicides statewide to soar from 2 percent to 20 percent last year.

Look said that even before her father died, she was worried about him. She said her father had started using drugs years before, when he became addicted to painkillers after a car accident. She said he worked as a carpenter and dabbled in dealing drugs on the side, but that despite this she still viewed him as a loving and supportive father.

“I always felt that one day I would get a phone call about my dad, but I never thought I would get that phone call,” she said. “I thought it would be about an overdose.”

Instead, she learned a couple of days after his death that police believe he was killed. She said police told her he did not die from the fire, but have not said how he died.

“On the death certificate, it says ‘cause withheld,’” Look said.

more on maine’s drug trade

The state medical examiner’s office on Tuesday declined to release its findings on Foss’ death, citing the open investigation.

Nate Pennell, a Whitneyville selectman who has served on either the town’s select or school boards since 1972, said he said he and many other people are also convinced Foss’ death is drug related.

Pennell, 82, said he knew Foss and considered him to be a friend, but that local residents knew Foss was involved with drugs. He said he has heard there were witnesses who saw people at Foss’ home that night, hours before firefighters found him dead.

“There’s a lot of information available, if police want to know,” he said.

Pennell said that because Whitneyville is such a small town — its 2020 population was roughly 200 residents, according to the U.S. Census Bureau — many people in town have heard the same allegations he has. Drugs are “rampant” in Washington County, he said, and it is not hard to figure out when drugs are being sold or heavily used at someone’s home.

“We have people dying,” said Pennell. “It’s tough for us trying to find a place free of drugs for young people to be.”

Look said she was heavily invested for years in trying to get information that could lead to an arrest for her father’s death, but she has decided to focus more on her living family. She said her father wouldn’t want her to put that responsibility on herself.

“I would love to see somebody charged,” Look said. “If people think they can get away with this, it will continue and it will get worse.”

Moss said anyone who may have info about Foss the day before his body was found or other information that may be pertinent to the investigation can contact Maine State Police at 207-973-3700.

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Bill Trotter

A news reporter in coastal Maine for more than 20 years, Bill Trotter writes about how the Atlantic Ocean and the state's iconic coastline help to shape the lives of coastal Maine residents and visitors....