Correction: This article originally misstated the boat launch where police found Robert Card’s abandoned vehicle. It has been edited for accuracy.
More than 40 hours after shots rang out at two popular nightlife locations in Lewiston Wednesday night, Maine’s largest manhunt continues to scour the state in search of a Bowdoin man accused of murdering 18 in cold blood.
The ongoing search for Robert R. Card Jr., which initially involved searching the area around his abandoned white Subaru in Lisbon, has grown to include aerial surveillance of a site in Monmouth, ground searches in Orono, Belgrade, and other towns, and FBI raids on multiple properties in Bowdoin.
Although law enforcement says they have recovered a note that appears to have been left behind by Card, they haven’t hinted at what other leads there may be.
Media reports indicate that the U.S. Coast Guard may be patrolling the waters of the Kennebec River and the Gulf of Maine on the suspicion that Card may have used a 15-foot boat registered in his name to make a water escape.
Late Thursday night, a Surveillance P3 Orion registered to U.S. Customs and Border Protection landed at Brunswick Executive Airport, a site many surveillance aircraft involved in the manhunt have used as a staging area. The P3 is equipped with some of the best infrared imaging tools available, and they are usually used to hunt submarines.
With so many powerful tools, dozens of federal agents, and hundreds of local law enforcement now involved in a search that is coming up on 48 hours without sign of Card, some Mainers are starting to wonder: will Card ever be found?
Maine Department of Public Safety Commissioner Michael Sauschuck, asked Friday morning whether he was concerned that the trail had run cold, remained confident.
“There’s no question in my mind that we will bring this individual into custody one way or the other,” he said.
Sauschuck said that law enforcement were working to track down more than 400 tips.
As any one who has listened to the urgent calls of police scanner traffic over the past 40 hours knows, tracking down those leads can be a frustrating and complicated endeavor.
Dozens of local police departments, sheriffs departments, state police units, and federal agencies are all coordinating simultaneously. But they’re still relying mostly of siloed radio channels, local dispatchers, and multiple unconnected command-control systems to cover a vast number of tips and territory.
Part of the search Friday morning will include sending dive teams to the area of the Androscoggin River where Card’s abandoned car was found Wednesday night near the Paper Mills Trail and Miller Park Boat Launch on Frost Hill.
Although there has been much speculation that Card committed suicide and divers are hoping to recover a body, there has also been speculation that Card may have used a Ski-Doo jetski registered in his name to further cover his tracks Wednesday night.
Admittedly in the realm of speculation: If Card recovered a jetski left at the Paper Mills Trail and Miller Park Boat Launch on Frost Hill, his passage south would be almost immediately blocked by an impassable dam. Traveling north, he would ultimately have re-entered Lewiston.
However, along the way, Card would have encountered several opportunities to easily get out of the water and recover a vehicle left behind at an earlier point. The most obvious end point would be the Durham, which would have put him right on to Route 136, little over an hour’s drive to Kittery and the bridge into New Hampshire.
Total distance for such a trip over the water would amount to roughly six miles.
On a Jetski, at dusk, navigating that entire stretch would have taken less than an hour — maybe far less for someone familiar with the river and the watercraft. And with few homes or camps along the river’s banks, there would be few if any witnesses to report hearing watercraft zooming up or down the river at an unusual hour.
Though plausible, no abandoned watercraft has been recovered. Perhaps he scuttled the jetski and divers will recover it. Or maybe he managed to remove it from the water at either location, something which would have been challenging and time-consuming for a single person.
If he did effect a waterborne escape and recover a vehicle on the Durham side of the river, however, he would have found himself a short drive from I-295 and his nearest pathway out of Maine.