HOWLAND — The search for Dean Levasseur came to an end Wednesday morning after a canine team found him dead near a stream a few hundred yards from the site of Chickenfest, the party he disappeared from late Saturday night.
Sgt. Ronald Dunham of the Maine Warden Service said Tuesday that Levasseur, 24, of Freeport, was scheduled to play in a band at Chickenfest on Saturday but disappeared and didn’t make his gig.
Josh Hunnefeld, a long-time friend and band mate, said Monday that he reported Levasseur missing late Sunday, after friends and family confirmed that no one had seen him.
“We got to the festival park and then we all walked to the stage together, dropped off our stuff, and we didn’t see him after that,” Hunnefeld said after learning of Levasseur’s death. “I just remember standing by the stage, and then he wasn’t there.”
Lt. Kevin Adam of the Maine Warden Service announced the news to searchers and media at 11 a.m. after it was confirmed that Levasseur had been found. Family members were sequestered in a warden service trailer after they were told the news.
“One of our canine teams found a male deceased in the woods, which we tentatively identified as Dean,” Adam said. “The body was found a few hundred yards west of the stage, near a stream.”
Hunnefeld, of Bangor, rode to Chickenfest with him in preparation for their gig at 11:30 p.m. Saturday. He heard the news of Levasseur’s death soon after the family.
“When I first heard, it was a shock,” Hunnefeld said. “And then it was just quiet. Driving down the road and trying not to tear up really. I got to the site and I talked to Dean’s family who was there, his brother mainly, a couple of his friends, and there’s nothing else I could really do.”
Hunnefeld said he is unsure of why Levasseur wandered off. He suspects that contents of a conversation that they had earlier in the week may have had something to do with his disappearing, but can’t confirm anything.
“I don’t know,” Hunnefeld said. “I don’t know if he was depressed and just said f— it and walked off into the woods, or if he went off to use the bathroom and disappeared, I don’t know.”
Sgt. John Cote, a Maine State Police detective, is heading the investigation aimed at determining Levasseur’s cause of death. An email late Wednesday afternoon from Maine State Police spokesman Stephen McCausland said no foul play is suspected.
Cote said state police are working with the medical examiner’s office, which will conduct an autopsy to determine cause of death in the coming days.
The search for Levasseur was difficult due to the environment he was eventually found in, with dense underbrush and numerous paths for travel leading to the site. Crews searched fruitlessly from morning until around 6 p.m. Tuesday, but underbrush was thick enough that crews and the multiple aircrafts in the area had difficulty searching.
“They can’t even see the ground in a lot of the places here,” Adams said. “It’s really thick in this area.”
The searchers, according to Adams, may have just missed Levasseur on Tuesday after the search path took them nearby where he was eventually found.
“Any time we do a search, we’re eliminating an area,” Adams said. “Which means we don’t have to go back there.”
Cote Rossignol, a friend of Levasseur’s from Hudson, was aiding in the search.
“He’s one of my best friends,” Rossignol said. “I was supposed to hang out with him Sunday night.”
Rossignol said Levasseur had stayed at his house Friday night before Chickenfest on Saturday. After he received a call on Sunday asking if he had seen Levasseur, he realized what might have happened.
“Then I knew it was real,” Rossignol said.
Wardens and police searched on Monday, and after Levasseur was still missing, state organizations stepped up their search.
The search Wednesday included over 100 volunteers, seven certified search teams, four canine teams, multiple horse teams and two aircraft: one fixed-wing and one helicopter.
Down East Emergency Medical Institute, the Maine Warden Service, and Dirigo Search and Rescue all aided in the search.
According to Game Warden Rick Laflamme, the searchers had been conducting a grid pattern search in areas that Levasseur was suspected to have traveled through. The areas were determined after interviews conducted with friends and family.
Cote said the search protocol the state has in place aided them in discovering Levasseur’s body.
“He was very caring. Kind of quiet,” Hunnefeld said. “He was a really good person.”