On the night of April 20, 1999, 41-year old Bessie Selek was walking along Route 202 near the Waterboro-Lyman, Maine town line when she was hit and killed by a passing vehicle. The driver fled the scene, leaving Bessie there to die on the side of the road not far from her own home.
Detectives zeroed in on her boyfriend, Raymond Wood. They’d had a tumultuous relationship. A long history of domestic violence and abuse. Maine State Police were certain that Raymond was their guy. During an intense interrogation by two State detectives, Raymond Wood even confessed to the crime.
But as the investigation continued, it appeared the evidence wouldn’t so easily fit the foregone conclusion reached by police, and the confession by their primary suspect wasn’t exactly proof that he did it.
If you have information regarding this case, please contact the Maine State Police Major Crimes Unit – South at (207) 624-7076 x9 or toll free at 1-800-452-4664. You may also report information about this crime using the leave a tip form.
About Bessie Selek
Small and feisty. Strong. She had a sharp tongue. She was a brat, one friend said with a chuckle… And also one of the nicest people you ever met. These are just a few of the ways that those closest to her described 41-year old Bessie Selek.
Bessie was born and raised in Chicopee, Massachusetts and by all accounts, she had a rough life. She confided in friends that she’d been in violent relationships. She’d spent time in jail. But for all the challenges she endured, Bessie was trying to change her course in life, and was doing a great job of it, too.
Bessie and her boyfriend Raymond Wood reportedly moved to Maine in 1994. They had been living in Providence, Rhode Island where Raymond said he operated a jewelry store. He once saw someone shot out in front of the store. Bessie was mugged. Maine seemed like a great place for a safer life. They lived together in a mobile home that Bessie owned just off Route 202 in Waterboro.
Everyone knew that Bessie Selek loved cats and had at least 20 of them herself. She prided herself on their care and was particular about them venturing outside where they lived so close to a busy road. She’d walk alongside the cats as they explored the yard, but always herded them back towards the safety of the house before they could enter harm’s way. According to the Press Herald, Bessie once considered finding some of the kittens a new home and put a “Free Kittens” sign out front of the house, but took it down soon after. She couldn’t bear the thought of giving any of them away.
Bessie worked at Lyn-Flex Industries and was a hard worker and applied herself to any new task that came her way. The company manufactured footwear components like insoles, heel lifts, and other materials used in the assembly of shoes. Bessie’s supervisor told Gregory Kesich of the Portland Press Herald,, “She cemented, she logo’ed. Everything she did, she did well.”
Relationship with Raymond Wood
Bessie and her boyfriend Raymond were known to have a troubled relationship. There are several documented incidents of Raymond’s abuse and violence towards Bessie. She’d show up to work with black eyes and bruises, one time even missing some teeth.
Court records show that Bessie had Raymond arrested for assault and attempted to file a protection from abuse order against him. Gregory Kesich reported for the Portland Press Herald that Bessie wrote a letter to the Biddeford District Court as part of that POA filing, stating that Raymond, “Has threatened to burn my trailer down to the ground and has become very abusive, verbally and physically, to the point I had to go stay with a friend out of fear of him,” she continued, “I feel like my mind is going to snap soon because I’m so afraid.”
Bessie did not complete her filing for the protection from abuse order though. According to the Press Herald, she left the courthouse before answering questions from a judge, so the order was denied.
Beyond the multiple incidents of domestic violence, some leading to charges and some not, Raymond Wood had quite the criminal history. The Journal Tribune listed off several violations – violating bail, failure to answer a summons, carrying a pistol without a permit, placing a bomb in a building, driving to endanger, and multiple OUIs.
Bessie once put her land up as collateral for Raymond’s bond after he was arrested for stealing a car in Florida. When he returned home, out on bail, Bessie refused to share her bed with him and pointed at the couch. The Press Herald reports that Raymond allegedly pushed her into a wall, scaring her and her friend who was staying at Bessie’s house with her two kids. Bessie later asked the court to revoke his bond. She feared him and the possibility that Raymond would skip bail and she’d lose everything.
In August of 1998, Raymond was ultimately arrested for domestic violence abuse against Bessie, but he never showed up for his court appearance. Due to staffing issues, as the Portland Press Herald reports, the warrant for his arrest was not filed for months. It wasn’t on record and Raymond wasn’t arrested in December of 1998 when police responded to another domestic incident at Bessie and Raymond’s house. The Press Herald notes that Bessie’s employer actually paid to bail her out of jail following her arrest for her own charges in that domestic incident. However, the charges against both were later dropped.
That was the ongoing state of their relationship in April of 1999, when Bessie Selek lost her life.
April 20 & 21, 1999
On the night of April 20, 1999, one of Bessie’s co-workers had driven her home from work. The co-worker remembered seeing a Chem-Clean work van parked out front of Bessie and Raymond’s home – That was where Raymond worked and he was known to drive the company van. And so he must’ve been home as Bessie walked inside to greet him and her beloved cats.
Sometime around 9:15 that night, something caused Bessie to leave the house and venture out for a walk along a route that she knew well. She wasn’t far from her home when tragedy struck.
On the morning of April 21, 1999, word of a fatal accident began to circulate around the small communities of Lyman and Waterboro. A pedestrian hit and killed on Route 202 where Route 5 splits off. Around 9:20 p.m. the night before, someone driving a utility vehicle or truck struck a woman from behind as she was crossing the street. The early investigation indicated it was a hit and run accident. The story made the morning news, just before Bessie Selek should’ve been arriving for her shift at work.
Employees at Lyn-Flex immediately thought of Bessie. She didn’t have a driver’s license or her own transportation and so she often hitchhiked along Route 202 to get to work or wherever she needed to go. When she didn’t show up by 6:45 a.m. on April 21, it was all but confirmation that the unnamed woman from the news report was their co-worker, their friend, Bessie Selek.
Episode Source Material
- Man charged in fatal hit-and-run by Gregory Kesich, Portland Press Herald, 22 Apr 1999, Death, page 2
- Boyfriend charged in hit-and-run death, Bangor Daily News, 22 Apr 1999
- Police: Hit-and-run was deliberate by Giselle Goodman, Journal Tribune, 22 Apr 1999, page 2
- Victim of hit-and-run wrote of her fears about boyfriend by Gregory Kesich, Portland Press Herald, 23 Apr 1999, page 2
- Hit-run death was murder, police charge by Gregory Kesich, Portland Press Herald, 24 Apr 1999
- Saga of Lyman woman’s terror all-too-common by Gregory Kesich, Kennebec Journal, 24 Apr 1999
- Woman told friends she feared her boyfriend, Sun-Journal, 24 Apr 1999
- Suspect: Hit-and-run was an accident by Giselle Goodman, Journal Tribune, 24 Apr 1999, page 2
- Obituary for Bessie J Selek
- No bail for man accused of killing girlfriend with van by Kati Cornell Smith, Journal Tribune, 05 May 1999
- Man pleads innocent to girlfriend’s murder, Portland Press Herald, 14 May 1999
- Lawyer: State can’t prove hit-run killing case, Journal Tribune, 09 Dec 1999
- Bail sought in Waterboro road death by Andrew D. Russell, Portland Press Herald, 09 Dec 1999, page 2
- Bail decision on hold for murder suspect, Portland Press Herald, 11 Dec 1999
- Murder suspect to get new try at bail by Gregory Kesich, Portland Press Herald, 16 Dec 1999
- Judge refuses to free Wood by Kati Cornell Smith, Journal Tribune, 18 Dec 1999, page 2
- Ruling is setback in murder case by Grace Murphy, Portland Press Herald, 12 Apr 2000, page 2
- Police lesson: Judge was right to toss out parts of Wood Confession [Editorial] Journal Tribune, 14 Apr 2000
- Police stand behind videotaping their interrogations of suspects by Grace Murphy, Portland Press Herald, 17 Apr 2000
- In Memoriam: Bessie Selek, Portland Press Herald, 20 Apr 2000
- State drops murder charge by Giselle Goodman, Journal Tribune, 09 May 2000, page 2
- Charges dropped in vehicle homicide by Gregory Kesich, Portland Press Herald, 09 May 2000, page 2
- Raymond Wood says he was browbeaten into falsely confessing to killing girlfriend by Gregory Kesich, Portland Press Herald, 11 May 2000
- Ex-defendant mourns late girlfriend by Tammy Wells, Journal Tribune, 11 May 2000, page 2
- Now free, Wood prepares to mourn by Gregory Kesich, Portland Press Herald, 22 May 2000, page 2
- Time to call the cops [Editorial], Journal Tribune, 11 May 2000
- Man accused of murder goes free by Gregory Kesich, Kennebec Journal, 12 May 2000
- ‘No closure’ for relatives of homicide victim by Giselle Goodman, Journal Tribune, 16 May 2000, page 2
- Former suspect sues over victim’s benefits by Tammy Wells, Journal Tribune, 23 Sept 2000
- Ex-defendant settles death benefits lawsuit by Tammy Wells, Journal Tribune, 30 Nov 2000, page 2
- Insurance firm settles with man accused in killing, Portland Press Herald, 01 Dec 2000
- Local man to appear on show about involuntary confessions, Portland Press Herald, 07 Feb 2002
- Why Innocent People Confess to Murder by ABC News, 06 Jan 2006
- Obituary: Helen Caron