Ottawa Citizen
Saturday, August 17, 2002

Friends shocked by arrest

Woman charged in man's slaying 'not a monster'

Sarah Staples
The Ottawa Citizen Saturday, August 17, 2002

Aimee Pelletier kept to herself, her friends remember.

Aimee Pelletier was the quiet type, who sat at the back of the class, kept pretty much to herself and did what the teacher wanted.

Former co-workers remember a shy young adult, who talked very little about her personal life, but always managed a ready smile and a kind word. She wasn't a monster, they say.

Which is why people in her hometown can't understand how the 23-year-old former waitress could, police allege, watch a man be beaten to death in front of her eyes and then tamper with evidence.

"Me, I don't think she was in (on) it, or maybe she got forced into it," said Roxanne Michaud, a waitress in Madawaska, where Aimee grew up. "It doesn't sound like her at all."

Maine State Police believe Ms. Pelletier was one of three witnesses who watched as her boyfriend of two years, Ben Humphrey, 29, killed Sgt. Derek Rogers of Marionville with blows to the head on a beach in Ocean Park, Maine.

The sergeant, a trumpet player in the Canadian Armed Forces, died in the early morning hours of July 31. He was so battered dental records were needed to identify him.

Ms. Pelletier is accused of "hindering apprehension," a felony charge laid because police allege she tampered with crime scene evidence.

She is in jail in Rapid City, South Dakota, where the couple fled after the attack, awaiting extradition back to Maine as early as next week.

Still, Ms. Michaud finds it hard to reconcile those facts with the Aimee she knew.

A year and a half ago, the two were co-workers at the local McDonalds, where Ms. Pelletier seemed to work hard flipping burgers or working the cash.

Her friend was a quiet girl, but she liked to tease. "It was just friendly teasing, though," said Ms. Michaud, who now works at Wonder Bar, on the town's main strip. "Everybody liked Aimee."

It wasn't always so.

As a young girl, the chubby, introverted child was shunned by other schoolchildren at Madawaska Elementary School, said her mother, Lisa Mims, from her home in Madawaska yesterday.

An only child, the taunts increased her feelings of isolation, Ms. Mims said. She would come home crying every day after school -- an experience that made it difficult to confide in anyone.

"It takes her a while to trust somebody. If they're not like her, and she senses they don't understand her, she won't connect with them at all."

At Madawaska High School, she started to come out of her shell, making friends, going to parties and dances. By her graduation in 1998, she had a few good friends.

She kept in touch with her birth father, who lives in California, and looked forward to his visits. (Her stepfather, Dale Mims, is an ambulance driver in town.)

And she began the first of several jobs in the service industry, working as a waitress, a cook's assistant and so on, in restaurants and bars dotted along the Maine-New Brunswick border.

Don Roy, 27, a cook at Jeff's Pizza & Subs on Main Street, recalls her working there three years ago, for just about three or four months, as a cook's helper.

She chopped vegetables and chatted with the pizza chefs.

"She was quiet, nothing crazy; she wasn't the one to take the spotlight," Mr. Roy said. "A nice person at the wrong place, I guess."

But she came in late a couple of times, and was eventually fired, winding up at McDonald's. No one there remembers her.

By then, she was dating Mr. Humphrey. Roxanne Michaud remembers seeing them on the street sometimes. Early this summer, the pair came in to Wonder Bar, where she met up with an old friend.

"She just popped in to say hi, and one of her friends was here. The three of them talking and laughing," the waitress said.

That was two months ago, and a lifetime before.

© Copyright 2002 The Ottawa Citizen