Thomas Napier did not have an easy life. His childhood years were plagued with pain and trauma, and then as a teenager his choices landed him in trouble with the law. But by the time he turned 22-years old, Thomas was on a better path. He had a job, a stable home life, and a new car he loved. Things were looking up.
Sadly, the progress Thomas was making in his life would never reach its full potential. One weekend in October of 1993 changed everything, and his family still asks the same questions all these years later — Who killed Thomas?
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About Thomas Napier
Thomas and his younger sister Melissa entered the foster care system when he was about 6-years old. They bounced around foster homes and experienced a great deal of uncertainty and instability until Thomas and Melissa were finally adopted together. However, for reasons unknown, that adoption did not last for Thomas. It was Christmas Day, and he was just 6-years old when he and his sister were separated; she remained with that first adoptive family without Thomas.
A 1995 piece by Jill Higgins in the Portland Press Herald shares the story of Thomas’s tumultuous childhood, being passed from foster family to foster family, close to a dozen different homes. One summer, the family he was living with dropped him off at summer camp. He never saw them again.
The trauma developed into trust issues, moody behavior. For four years, Thomas did not know or experience a stable, consistent home.
When Thomas was 10-years old, he was adopted for a second time. This one was forever. His parents, Kathy and Jim Napier, showed Thomas the love he deserved. Kathy told the Portland Press Herald in 1995, “Sometimes we’d have to hold him, physically hold him… It was hard to get him to trust, even though he knew we loved him.”
Thomas attended school in Wells and then Massabesic for junior and senior high. He learned how to cook at local restaurants and got a job at the Lucky Logger in Saco. He picked up a sketch pad and began drawing — his art became an outlet to process the challenges of his life. He journaled his thoughts and processed his trauma with ink on paper.
After high school, Thomas had several part time jobs, but eventually landed in a role with a paving company. His grandparents, Irene and Mike Baker, told Bangor Daily News reporter Eric Wicklund that the job put him in with a rough crowd. Trouble seemed to find Thomas, and in 1991 he was arrested on an assault charge in Millinocket, Maine. He was 19-years old when he was sentenced to three years in jail, all but 90 days suspended, and three years probation.
Thomas’ time in jail was transformational, and when he got out he was ready to turn things around. Thomas joined the Assembly of God Church, he got a new job, and he started living with his grandparents in Lyman, Maine, a small rural town just west of Portland.
The Bangor Daily News reported that by 1993, Thomas was really on a path of improvement. He bought a 1984 Oldsmobile Cutlass that became his prized possession, along with the upgraded stereo system he installed. He was social, going out dancing or roller skating with a new group of friends. Previously depressed about the prospects of his future, Thomas seemed optimistic about all the possibilities that lay ahead of him.
Thomas cared about his appearance and was particular about his clothing and hair. The photos I’ve seen of Thomas show a smirked smile topped with a groomed mustache, a collared shirt with a gold chain peeking out, and an earring in one ear — totally on-trend for the early 90s era.
On the evening of October 29, 1993, Thomas was getting ready for a night out. It was Friday of Halloween weekend, and although he wasn’t planning to wear a costume, he did have a brand new outfit. He wrapped up his work day at Cryo Industries in Sanford and headed back to his grandparents house in Lyman to get ready.
His grandparents remembered him showing off his new threads before leaving their house that night. He also gave his grandmother a gift — two small porcelain ducks. Irene told the Bangor Daily News that it was probably a token of his appreciation. She always made sure he was up in time for work and she even did his laundry.
Before he stepped out the door to begin his weekend festivities, Thomas kissed his grandmother goodbye and said he’d be back later. For two days, Irene and Mike waited to see their grandson walk back through the front door.
Press play on this episode to hear the full story of Thomas Napier — available now wherever you listen to podcasts.
Episode Source Material
- Grandson’s disappearance tied to underworld by Eric Wicklund, Bangor Daily News, 09 Feb 1994
- State police find body in Saco River, Bangor Daily News, 21 Feb 1994
- Lyman man’s body identified, Bangor Daily News, 24 Feb 1994
- Year-old drowning unsolved, Bangor Daily News, 21 Feb 1995
- Saco River drowning remains a mystery one year later by Jill Higgins, Portland Press Herald, 20 Feb 1995
- Cold Case: Suspicious drowning still unsolved two decades later by Marissa Bodnar, WGME News 13, 18 July 2016
- Police seek tips in baffling York County mystery by Staff Writers, Portland Press Herald, 09 Apr 2017