Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Murder by the Book: The Amy St. Laurent Case

Corpus Delicti

About a month after the Amy St. Laurent disappearance, Portland Police Detective Danny Young made a just-in-case inquiry to the National Crime Information Center to see if Gorman or his sedan had been stopped by law enforcement in recent months. He got back a stunning result: NCIC records showed that Gorman had been stopped by police for a headlight violation in the Portland suburb of Westbrook at 3:14 a.m. on the morning that St. Laurent went missingmore than an hour after he claimed that he had been home in bed.

Searchers on Unused Road Near the Crime Scene
Searchers on Unused Road Near the Crime Scene

At about the same time, police learned from Gorman's mother's boyfriend that the young man had borrowed a shovel from himtwo days after the night at Old Port. Investigators grew increasingly convinced that Gorman had killed St. Laurent and buried the body. But where?

Unused Road Near Crime Scene is Overgrown
Unused Road Near Crime Scene is Overgrown

In early December, six weeks after the disappearance, the police agencies involved held a sit-down to mull over locations at which the body might have been concealed. They came up with 19 likely sites, from Casco Bay to various wooded and remote locations in the Portland vicinity.

Police Prepare to Excavate the Grave
Police Prepare to Excavate the Grave

At dawn on Dec. 8, a force of more than 100 officers and search-and-rescue team members mounted what Portland's Capt. Loughlin called "our last-ditch effort to find Amy." One of the 19 sites was a wooded area dotted with ponds off busy Route 22 in Scarborough, a 10-minute drive from Old Port. It was regarded as a promising venue because it was just minutes from both Westbrook, where Gorman got the headlight violation, and Gorman's mother's home, where he had borrowed the shovel. Gorman knew the area well.

Police dig at the crime scene.
Police dig at the crime scene.

One team, using search dogs from the Maine Warden Service, spent most of the day combing the wooded expanse, which covered several hundred acres. At 2:30 p.m., after eight hours of work, the team was trudging along a long-abandoned, overgrown macadam road which cut through a swath of thick overgrowth. A volunteer stepped on a patch of loose earth, so the Warden Service brought in a cadaver dog, who picked up a hit on a scent. The earth below had been disturbed in the recent past.

The Grave of Amy St. Laurent
The Grave of Amy St. Laurent

Thirty minutes later, Detective Young was on his hands and knees at the site, carefully troweling the soil until he found was he was looking for: a bit of gray fleece, matching the Pratt & Whitney sweatshirt Amy St. Laurent had been wearing when she vanished. Police had found her body, and the missing person investigation became a homicide case.

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