It was a Sunday evening in June of 1987 and David Nixon had just hung up the phone with his father. He called back home to let his folks know that he was staying over at their family beach house in Kennebunkport, Maine for one more night, and would drive straight to work back in Westport, Connecticut in the morning.
That phone call was the last contact David ever had with his family. Sometime after he put the phone back on the hook, David was killed just steps from the house on Goose Rocks Beach.
The investigation into the murder of David J. Nixon would span the entire eastern seaboard and even extend across the border into Canada before the suspect was finally apprehended, and unfortunately his time on the lam would result in a second violent homicide.
About David J. Nixon
On June 7, 1987, 30-year old David J. Nixon was on his way to Kennebunkport, crossing the arched Piscataqua River Bridge from Portsmouth, New Hampshire into Kittery, Maine, no doubt passing the brand new welcome sign that greeted all visitors traveling up I-95 into the Pine Tree State. 1987 was the year that the famous state slogan “The Way Life Should Be” was born, and the white letters were unmissable against a royal blue backdrop.
David lived in Naugatuck, Connecticut, but his parents had a summer home in Kennebunkport, right off Kings Highway on Goose Rocks Beach. He had the weekend off from his job waiting tables at Nitcisco’s Red Barn Restaurant in Westport, Connecticut, and made plans to head to Maine to meet up with his friend, Mogen.
Kennebunkport, a popular tourist town itself, is about 30 minutes north along the coast from Ogunquit, another well-known and beloved coastal destination celebrated for its artistic community, stunning beaches, and quaint seaside hotels and inns catering to summer people and folks from away. Ogunquit in the early and mid-1980s was also beginning to blossom into the vibrant LGBTQ+ destination it’s known to be today. An article published in Torso magazine in the 80s called Ogunquit “booming gay village”, and other sources say the town has been a welcoming LGBTQ+ community for at least a century.
As Ogunquit grew in popularity as a resort town, so did the need for staff at local restaurants and hotels. Many of these staff, even today, come from abroad and are often given housing onsite as part of their employment. That was the case for a man known as Mogen Berguin. At least, that was the story he told.
When he first arrived in the Ogunquit area, Mogen Berguin got a job at The Inn at 2 Village Square in Ogunquit, and was allowed to live in a room there. A man who lived in the next room over from Mogen at the Inn said that Mogen introduced himself as a Danish immigrant, though he spoke with an English accent. Mogen explained that he picked up the accent at school in England. Sometimes, though, the accent seemed to disappear. As reported by the Journal Tribune, Mogen lost the accent when he was angry, like one night on Memorial Day weekend in 1987 when he and two friends tried to get into a popular disco in Ogunquit called The Front Porch.
The bar was barely 500 feet away from the Inn where Mogen worked, and when the trio rolled up to the door, the bouncer asked for their IDs. Mogen didn’t have his on him, so he and one of the friends doubled back to his room and the Inn to grab it. According to reporting in the Journal Tribune, the friend spotted the name printed on the front of the ID, and it wasn’t Mogen Berguin. It was Dean Curtis. The friend asked Mogen what that was all about, and Mogen explained that Dean Curtis was the name of his cousin who lived in Orlando, Florida. Later though, Mogen told another co-worker at the Inn that his name was actually Dean Curtis, but his friends called him Mogen.
Back at The Front Porch, Mogen AKA Dean, was still refused entry. The bouncer just wouldn’t let him in. All of the sudden, it was like someone popped the cork off a shaken bottle of champagne, but this wasn’t a celebration. Mogen was mad, and yelled that he was going to burn the place down. Mogen’s accent disappeared as he shouted.
June 8, 1987
There are varying accounts of how this person known as Mogen Berguin came to meet David J. Nixon, but whatever version is true, we know that the pair knew each other in the summer of 1987 and had some kind of relationship, possibly more than just friends.
One night during that summer of 1987, Mogen told the innkeeper at the inn where he worked that he’d met someone, a man named David, and it seemed that David liked him a lot. Mogen confided in the innkeeper that he was happy someone cared about him, but he wasn’t sure if he wanted anything serious.
Whatever the label they were or weren’t putting on their relationship, when David arrived in Maine that June weekend, it was to spend time with the man he knew as Mogen Berguin. And the pair was seen together around town and at David’s parents house on Goose Rocks Beach.
Mogen and David hung out at the beach house on the afternoon of June 8, 1987 and a neighbor saw them tinkering on David’s car in the driveway around 4:30 p.m. According to court records, they later ventured out to the shops to pick up some ice and a bottle of champagne around 7:00 p.m. and then shortly after left Kennebunkport and headed down to Mogen’s room at the Inn in Ogunquit, arriving around 8 p.m.
By 10 o’clock that night though, David was back at the Goose Rocks Beach house. He called his dad from the landline there, telling his father that he’d be hitting the road by 5 a.m. the next day. His original plan was to be home that day, but instead he was staying an extra night and would drive straight to work in Connecticut in time for work. He mentioned to his dad that he and his friend Mogen had just changed the oil in his car earlier that day in preparation for the three and a half hour drive home.
David put the phone back on the hook and returned to his evening. At some point over the course of the night, he and his friend Mogen ventured outside to the powdery sand and frothy white waves that Goose Rocks Beach is known for. Exactly what happened next, and why, is known only to David and the man he knew as Mogen Berguin.
In the early afternoon of June 9, 1987, a woman walked onto Goose Rocks Beach with her children and nephew in search of the perfect spot for a morning picnic. As they trekked over the cool sand along the tide line, she noticed something in the water near the inlet of Little River on the north side of the beach. She walked over to the floating object, still unsure of what it was, even when she was standing over it. The woman reached down, thinking it was a rubber raft or some other innocuous nautical item when the outline of a human body finally registered in her mind.
Without hesitation, she ran to the nearest residence, keeping the children far away from what she’d seen. The homeowners, a husband and wife, called 9-1-1. Soon, the unique powdery white sand of Goose Rocks Beach in the quaint seaside village of Kennebunkport was swarming with police.
First responders to the scene found the body of a man wrapped in a blanket, though underneath he was wearing only socks and underwear. It was unclear how long he’d been there, washed up on the sand. As emergency responders and police descended onto the scene, they realized that the man appeared to have multiple stab wounds.
Amidst the sand and salt water, investigators quickly found several items believed to be related to the body. There was blood on the beach that tests later revealed belonged to their victim. A sweater, a pair of pants, and two wine goblets were collected and tagged as evidence.
It’s unclear precisely how police identified the man found washed up on the beach – maybe it had to do with the proximity to the beach house owned by his parents – but regardless, it wasn’t long before they had a name and confirmed that the man was 30-year old David J. Nixon. A later autopsy confirmed that he died as the result of four stab wounds to his upper back.
David’s family’s second home on Goose Rocks Beach wasn’t far from where his body was found, and so the investigation continued at the cottage. Police found even more clues as to how David spent his final hours. Inside the house investigators found an empty champagne bottle still sitting on ice, as well as a bottle of Irish Mist liqueur. Both were dusted and technicians were able to lift at least one fingerprint that didn’t belong to their victim.
Meanwhile, David’s car, a dark green 1976 Chevrolet Malibu with license plate DJN56 was missing from the driveway, and his wallet and credit cards were nowhere to be found either.
Between witness statements and evidence at the scene, investigators had a hot trail to follow from the very start. Their suspect wouldn’t make it easy though, and his tear of crime and violence would continue as agencies across multiple states and Canadian provinces tried to catch up with him. Another man would lose his life by the time police were finally able to track him down on the other side of the United States.
Episode Source Material
- 552 A.2d 530 (1988) STATE of Maine v. Dean Alton CURTIS. Supreme Judicial Court of Maine. Argued November 16, 1988. Decided December 12, 1988.
- Obituary for Dean Alton CURTIS
- Connecticut man died of stab wounds, police say, Bangor Daily News, 11 Jun 1987
- Death of local man probed in Maine, Hartford Courant, 12 Jun 1987
- Warrant issued in stabbing, Associated Press via Sun-Journal, 20 Jun 1987
- Suspect traced to hotel in Florida by Eric Wicklund, Journal Tribune, 22 June 1987, page 2 (with affidavit details)
- Customs officer found stabbed in his apartment, The Expositor, 07 Jul 1987
- Job-death link rejected, The Vancouver Sun, 08 Jul 1987
- Customs murder probe continues, Kingston Whig-Standard, 08 Jul 1987
- Man charged with murder, The Sault Star, 16 Jul 1987
- Deputies catch murder suspect, Bellingham Herald, 15 Jul 1987
- Murder suspect tied to 2nd death by Dean Kahn, The Bellingham Herald, 16 Jul 1987, page
- Maine man charged with Kennebunkport murder arrested in Washington State, Bangor Daily News, 16 July 1987
- Murder suspect seized in Wash. by Michele Valway, Journal Tribune, 16 Jul 1987, page 2
- Ocala man arrested in stabbing deaths of 2, The Tampa Tribune, 16 Jul 1987
- Man accused in 2 cases of murder by Scott Richardson, The Pantagraph, 21 Jul 1987
- Steven Ray Johnson Obituary, The Pantagraph, 21 Jul 1987
- Curtis to appear in county court by Michele Valway, Journal Tribune, 23 Jul 1987, page 2
- Accused stabber to arrive in Maine, Sun-Journal, 25 Jul 1987
- Curtis pleads innocent in Goose Rocks murder by Eric Wicklund, Journal Tribune, 27 Jul 1987, page 2
- Curtis enters no plea in beach stabbing death, Associated Press via Bangor Daily News, 28 Jul 1987
- Former Kittery man to face murder charge, Journal Tribune, 05 Aug 1987
- Attorneys for Curtis to ask for evaluation, Journal Tribune, 06 Aug 1987
- Evaluation scheduled for Curtis, Journal Tribune, 02 Sep 1987
- Curtis to undergo evaluations by Michele Valway, Journal Tribune, 18 Sept 1987
- State finds murder suspect mentally able to stand trial by Eric Wicklund, 23 Dec 1987
- Court to rule on Curtis statement, Journal Tribune, 14 Jan 1988
- Judge calls statement by Curtis voluntary by Eric Wicklund, Journal Tribune, 29 Jan 1988
- Murder trial begins today, Sun-Journal, 16 Feb 1988
- Murder trial under way in York Superior Court by C. Scott Hoar, Morning Sentinel, 17 Feb 1988
- Murder trial opens for Maine man, Associated Press via Bangor Daily News, 18 Feb 1988
- Testimony in Curtis’ murder trial begins by Eric Wicklund, Journal Tribune, 18 Feb 1988
- Suspect linked to knife, victim by Jonathan Gould and Eric Wicklund, Journal Tribune, 19 Feb 1988, page 2
- Prosecution continues death trial testimony, Associated Press via Evening Express, 19 Feb 1988
- Witness testifies Curtis used Nixon’s name in Montreal by Jonathan Gould, Journal Tribune, 20 Feb 1988
- Curtis telephone calls to family, police report by Jonathan Gould, Journal Tribune, 22 Feb 1988
- Curtis case goes to jury after abbreviated defense by Jonathan Gould, Journal Tribune, 23 Feb 1988, page 2
- Curtis found guilty of killing gay lover by C. Scott Hoar, Morning Sentinel, 24 Feb 1988
- Man found guilty of Kennebunkport murder by C. Scott Hoar, Kennebec Journal, 24 Feb 1988
- Curtis faces 25 years to life by Jonathan Gould, Journal Tribune, 24 Feb 1988
- Curtis sentencing delayed 2 weeks, Journal Tribune, 18 Mar 1988
- Curtis gets 40 years for killing his friend by Jonathan Gould, 05 Apr 1988
- Curtis given 40 years on murder conviction by C. Scott Hoar, Morning Sentinel, 06 Apr 1988
- Court upholds Curtis conviction, Associated Press via Journal Tribune, 12 Dec 1988
- Maine Supreme Court upholds murder conviction by Donna Halvorsen, Kennebec Journal, 13 Dec 1988
- Canadian officials want Curtis for murder charge by Jonathan Gould, Journal Tribune, 07 Jan 1989
- Death Record – Dean Alton Curtis