I spend a lot of time reviewing the details of Maine’s Unsolved Homicide list, scrolling the names and seeing the faces of those whose cases still wait for their conclusion. They’re all familiar to me at this point, I know their photos by heart and even the years and dates stick with me now, but I notice something new each time I check the list, too.
Newport, Maine. 1975. Two names. Two unsolved homicides. I’d never picked up on it before – the cases of Robert McKee and Ellen Choate are not linked, at least not confirmed to be linked despite speculation, but they’re connected by time and place. The same month and year in the same small Maine town.
In the next two episodes of Dark Downeast, you’ll hear what happened that June of 1975 and about the two humans lost to still-unsolved violent crimes.
About Robert McKee
He was a sixth grade teacher at the Vickery School in Pittsfield, but when the kiddos were on summer vacation and his classroom was closed up until the fall, 35-year old Robert McKee picked up a full-time summer gig at McNally’s Texaco Station in Newport. He’d met his wife Dorte while stationed in Germany as first lieutenant for the U.S. Army in 1966 to 1968, and that extra cash from his service station attendant job meant he could afford to send Dorte back to Germany to visit her family.
Robert McKee, by all accounts, was a family man. He had two children with Dorte, a young son and a daughter. Mike McNally, owner of the gas station where Robert worked, told Bruce Hertz of the Bangor Daily News that Robert was the kind of person you would like to have as a father or a son.
Following his time in Germany, Robert stayed in the Army Reserves, but returned to his hometown in Aroostook county and earned his teaching degree from the University of Maine at Presque Isle. Robert went above and beyond as a teacher. He was active in the SAD 53 Teachers Association, the Maine State Teachers Association, and was the faculty advisor of the science club. It was a quiet yet fulfilling life in smalltown Maine.
Neither Robert nor residents of the Sebasticook Valley area knew that the mid-1970s would become a dark time for their community.
Shooting at the Texaco
In 1975, McNally’s Texaco station, where the Irving Oil now sits in Newport, was open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. In fact, the Texaco was the only all-night gas station between Bangor and Waterville, with just under 60 miles of dark Interstate connecting the two cities.
The area certainly wasn’t built up like it is now. Residents called it a lonely, quiet stretch of road just off I-95, and when Robert McKee clocked in for his shift on June 20th, he’d be the only person working at the lonely, quiet service station overnight.
A Maine State Trooper, also on the overnight shift, stopped into the filling station around 1 a.m. Robert was there, attending to his duties. There was nothing amiss or worrisome, just a man doing his job. 3 hours later, the scene would be different.
Fisherman in town with some buddies from Rhode Island pulled into the Texaco station. He and his friends had just fueled themselves up with an early morning meal at Shorette’s Diner and now they needed a little fuel for their vehicle, too. The pumps weren’t self-service like most of them are in Maine today, so the man and his friends waited for the attendant to come out.
It was just before 4 a.m. and the sun wouldn’t rise for another hour or so. The sky was just warming with hints of dawn; the air was quiet save for the buzz of the ice cooler and Coca Cola vending machine sitting in the dim glow of the gas station lights. The fishermen waiting in their car for gasoline noticed a light was on inside McNally’s Texaco, but no one came to greet them outside at the pump. Anxious to get their day started, the driver stepped out of the car to see what was the hold up.
According to reporting by Bruce Hertz for the Bangor Daily News, as he opened the door to the station, the unsuspecting fisherman found Robert McKee lying on the floor in a pool of blood.
Robert’s story continues on Dark Downeast. Press play for the full case wherever you get your podcasts.
Episode Source Material
- Attendant is Killed in Newport, Biddeford Saco Journal, 20 Jun 1975
- Robert C. McKee Obituary, Bangor Daily News, 21 Jun 1975
- Scene of the slaying in Newport (photos) Bangor Daily News, 21 Jun 1975
- Four booked, Bangor Daily News, 21 Jun 1975
- Gas attendant is slain by Bruce Hertz, Bangor Daily News, 21 Jun 1975, page 2
- Four charged in robbery case, Bangor Daily News, 23 Jun 1975
- Motorists’ aid sought in slaying, Bangor Daily News, 24 Jun 1975
- Police seek help on McKee slaying, Bangor Daily News, 28 Jun 1975
- Search still on, Bangor Daily News, 26 Jul 1975
- Group to aid robbery victims, Bangor Daily News, 02 Aug 1975
- Card of Thanks, Bangor Daily News, 05 Aug 1975
- Police implore reticent witness, Bangor Daily News, 07 Aug 1975
- Police get letter in murder case, Bangor Daily News, 16 Aug 1975
- Police seek help from Portland man in Newport murder, Bangor Daily News, 20 Aug 1975
- Gasoline Station Owners Create Fund on Holdups, New York Times, 31 Aug 1975
- Investigators report leads in slaying, Bangor Daily News, 26 Sep 1975
- Link seen possible in teachers’ deaths, Biddeford Journal Tribune, 30 Jun 1977
- Maine homicides frightening in rate, kind by Mary Plumer, Kennebec Journal, 06 Aug 1977
- Girl’s body identified by Christopher Corbett and Glenn Turner, Kennebec Journal, 10 Aug 1977
- McKee case investigation is reopened, Bangor Daily News, 29 Aug 1981
- Police dig up lawn looking for weapon, Bangor Daily News, 10 Oct 1981
- Investigation continues (photo) Bangor Daily News, 12 Oct 1981
- Weapon search continues (photo) Bangor Daily News, 29 Oct 1981
- Unsolved deaths piling up in Maine by Sharon Mack, Bangor Daily News, 10 Feb 1990
- New crime tip revives missing-person probe by Sharon Mack, Bangor Daily News, 15 Nov 1994
- New lead possible in Newport mystery by Sharon Mack, Bangor Daily News, 01 Nov 1995
- Teacher’s death at Newport gas station still unsolved, Fox Bangor, 24 Jun 2019
- Somewhere, someone knows who killed Robert McKee by Larry Grard, SVWeekly, 21 Oct 2010