Deaths of Maine cop, wife were murder-suicide

By David Hench
Portland Press Herald

OLD ORCHARD BEACH, Maine — Authorities say the shooting deaths of a former police officer and his wife, a Unum executive, appear to be a murder-suicide.

Maine State Police believe that Bruce Savoy, 55, fatally shot his wife, Stacey Savoy, 50, on Monday afternoon as she returned home from the grocery store, then shot himself. They say he was distraught over the breakup of their marriage of more than 20 years.

Police say they found three suicide notes that Bruce Savoy had written, and a handgun alongside the bodies.

The Savoys' bodies were discovered by a friend who went to their home Tuesday morning to walk their dogs, Samson and River. The couple and their German shepherds were active in Maine Search and Rescue Dogs; Stacey Savoy was the group's secretary.

''I was just shocked,'' said Sandra Chretien, a neighbor who knew the couple well and had known Stacey Savoy since she was an infant. ''She was very, very quiet and smart. Just a lovely girl.''

Chretien said Stacey Savoy grew up in the small, compact neighborhood, across Pleasant Street from where the couple built their two-story gambrel.

Al Chretien said the couple seldom had friends at the house, although family members visited occasionally.

''They were kind of private,'' he said, noting that Stacey Savoy traveled often for her job with Unum.

She was assistant vice president of compensation for the disability insurer, based in Tennessee and Portland. She had been with the company for 28 years.

''We were saddened to learn today of the unexpected and tragic death of Stacey,'' the company said in a prepared statement. ''Our thoughts and prayers are with Stacey's family on this very sad day.''

Bruce Savoy was a former animal control officer in Old Orchard Beach and in Wells, and was outspoken on animal welfare issues.

The couple had no children, but won the Governor's Service Award in 2001 after being nominated by Sweetser Children's Services for mentoring an at-risk youngster for six years, starting when the child was 9.

Bruce Savoy was well-known in Old Orchard Beach. He grew up in town, serving as its animal control officer and as a police officer, before becoming a police officer in Wells.

As director of the Maine Animal Control Association in 2003, Bruce Savoy challenged Gov. John Baldacci's nominee for agriculture commissioner, saying he hadn't done enough to protect animal welfare.

As code enforcement officer in Old Orchard Beach in 2001, he cracked down on obscene T-shirts.

He worked as a full-time police officer in Wells from 2005 to 2007, when he became a town code enforcement officer, said Paul Hepp, Wells' human resources chief.

''He was very much a model employee, a very upbeat and positive nature, friendly and outgoing,'' Hepp said.

He said town employees, particularly Savoy's colleagues in the code enforcement office, were devastated by the news Tuesday.

The Savoys were devoted to their dogs, said neighbors, who often saw them walking the German shepherds. Bruce Savoy was especially involved with them.

''Those dogs were his life,'' said Richard St. Onge, a neighbor.

''He was so proud of his dogs,'' said Cindy Tatsak, who became tearful at the news of the deaths. ''He was always walking his search dogs,'' training them to follow scents and rewarding them with food.

The dogs were in the home when the bodies were found, said Stephen McCausland, spokesman for the state police. A friend of the Savoys took the dogs, which were unharmed, and is taking care of them.

Bruce Savoy seemed to be a wonderful person, Tatsak said, and once came to her aid after her hand was bitten by a pit bull that had fought with her border collie.

At the Savoys' home on Pleasant Street, the yard was well-kept Tuesday and the porch was adorned with pumpkins, cornstalks and hanging baskets of impatiens still in bloom.

Two immaculate vehicles, a GMC Yukon and a Chevrolet Express van, were parked in the driveway, both bearing the licence plates ''FIND-EM,'' one a commercial plate and the other a combination plate. The Maine Search and Rescue Dog emblem was on the side of the van.

The couple traveled around the state participating in searches for lost children, elderly people and others.

Tatsak found it hard to believe they died in such circumstances. ''It's so sad,'' she said.

Copyright 2009 Portland Press Herald

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