August 7—David Guffey, a convicted sex offender who lived up the road from Sarah Cherry, has never been publicly linked to her murder. But police questioned him at one point, and his victims believe he could have been involved.
New DNA testing ordered by a judge could soon determine whether there is anything to their suspicions.
Guffey was indicted in July 1989 on six counts of unlawful sexual contact and one count of gross sexual misconduct with two female victims under age 14, for incidents that occurred at his home on Lewis Hill Road in Bowdoin between December 1987 and December 1988. Through a plea deal, the gross sexual misconduct charge and two counts of unlawful sexual contact were dropped, and he pleaded guilty to the other four counts. He was sentenced in January 1990 to three years in prison and four years’ probation. In 1991 a judge revoked part of his probation for contacting children under 16 by letter and a victim by phone.
State police detective Steven Drake interviewed Guffey at his home in November 1988 — four months after 12-year-old Cherry was abducted from a house on the same road, sexually assaulted and killed, and four months before Dennis Dechaine was convicted of her kidnapping and murder Drake wrote in an affidavit that Guffey admitted to sexually touching a girl under 14 years old shortly before school began in 1988.
One of the victims in Guffey’s case, who was a classmate of Cherry’s at Bowdoin Central School, told the Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram that after Cherry went missing, she accompanied Guffey and some of his children to help search the woods.
The victim, who asked not to be named (the Press Herald does not identify sexual assault victims without their consent) recalls Guffey scaring them by telling them he knew how she would be found.
“He said, ‘They’re going to find her in the woods. She’ll have a scarf around her neck, she’ll be covered in sticks, and she’ll be dead,'” the victim told the Press Herald. “I thought, ‘How would you know this?’ I was devastated.”
She said he explained that he knew because he was a reincarnated Indian and that gave him special powers, a claim she said she’d heard him make before.
When Cherry was eventually found in the woods — with a scarf around her neck, buried under forest debris — she started to question whether Guffey was involved.
“I do not believe the man is a reincarnated Indian,” she said, “so I believe he had something to do with it, somehow.”
This victim did not disclose his statement to authorities, but two other women told state police in 2004 about similar statements they say Guffey made during the search for Cherry, according to court documents.
One told Detective Abbe Chabot that Guffey said that Cherry’s body would be found in the woods across the street from where Dechaine’s truck was found; that she would have a yellow rope around her neck; that she would be buried in leaves; that she had been raped; and that he knew this because he was psychic, according to Chabot’s interview summary.
Another told Detective Adam Kelley that Guffey told her that Cherry would be found in a swampy area, that she was wearing a bandana, and that she was penetrated with a stick, according to documents in the Dechaine case files held in the Attorney General’s Office. Cherry had, in fact, been bound with rope and sexually assaulted with birch sticks, thought that had been widely reported by 2004.
The Press Herald could not reach either woman for interviews.
State police then interviewed Guffey. According to a 2004 report by Chabot, Guffey said he was doing odd jobs and delivering bulk newspapers to carriers around the time of Cherry’s murder. He told Chabot that he did not know Cherry but believed his stepdaughter was good friends with her. He also said he was searching for Cherry in the woods on horseback with children when a deputy approached him and told him that Cherry’s body had been found. The report states he consented to supply a DNA sample by finger prick.
According to a 2004 investigation summary by Kelley, he ordered criminal background checks on Guffey and forwarded the case to the Attorney General’s Office.
The State Police last week referred questions about the outcome of the investigation to the AG’s office, which would not discuss the case.
Another of Guffey’s victims in the 1989 case, who also asked not to be named, said she too believes he could have been involved in Cherry’s death.
“I would not put it past him,” she told the Press Herald. “He had mass murdered animals in front of us when we were little. He killed my goat and my dog to see if I liked them or not. He has tortured (children) in so many ways.”
Reached by phone last week, Guffey, who is 78 and lives alone with his dog and cats in Sebago, said he had nothing to do with Cherry’s abduction and murder, and denied telling anyone that Cherry was dead before her body was found.
“I never said that,” Guffey said. “I don’t know where that came from.”
He said he didn’t tell anyone he had Indian powers, even as a joke.
He said he did participate in searching the woods with other volunteers but did not see or hear anything.
Guffey said he was not questioned by police in 1988 or 1989 about Cherry’s death, although he recalled the state trooper taking a blood sample from him in 2004.
He also denied killing any animals. He talked fondly of his pets, about bringing back to health a dog that had been abused and starved, and about feeding kittens from eyedroppers.
“I’ve made enemies, I know that, in my lifetime,” he said, “and a lot of this stuff I’m being accused of I haven’t even done.”
He admitted to the crimes he was convicted of in 1989, but said it was accidental and that he only took the plea bargain because his lawyer advised him to.
“I did it, but it wasn’t on purpose,” he said. “I was accused of doing it on purpose.”
He sighed and said, “I think about it every day. It lives with you. I never thought it would happen to me, but it did. I never thought it would happen, because I was against stuff like that.”
Asked if there was any chance that the new DNA testing on evidence in the Cherry case would match his, he said, “No, I don’t think so.”