Editor’s Note: This column has been edited from its original version for libel. Dorian and Brianna Ames were never charged in the death of Feltis. A Grand Jury found there was not enough evidence to charge them. 

The promotion of former Knox County Sheriff’s Office Patrol Deputy Dan Landers to a job in Washington, D.C., that has already involved one teleconference with President Joe Biden is probably just a coincidence, even if it is also a reflection of our times.

It is not possible to read Camden native Jesse Ellison’s recent feature article in Esquire magazine about the June 2020 murder of Roger Feltis on Vinalhaven without concluding that Landers, at the very least, botched the investigation.

“Frankly, not to be offensive” Landers told Esquire “they’re (Vinalhaven islanders) just not sophisticated enough to understand the facts.” Precisely the sort of thing someone in Washington might say.

In addition to Ellison’s Esquire feature last week, the often-jingoistic Daily Beast also ran a long piece on the case in October. That amounts to two national spotlights on the improbable conclusion to a violent death that, authorities seem confident enough to say, was a case of “self defense.”

I’m not sure why this whole case has absorbed me as much as it has.  When Feltis was hacked to death on Vinalhaven 18 months ago, I was either in Camden or North Haven, so in the general vicinity. The vigor with which Waldoboro State Rep. Jeffrey Evangelos took up the Feltis family’s cause in the aftermath of Roger’s killing impressed me at the time. And the strong suspicion of unequal protection at play makes it impossible to look away.

According to the Daily Beast account, there were 500 text messages between Brianna Ames, one of two people, either or both of whom killed Feltis, and then-Deputy Dan. That is eyebrow-raising. So too is the state’s conclusion that it was Brianna who killed Feltis with a fillet knife.

Here is where my expertise comes in. In November of last year, I managed to get stabbed six times in the back and twice in the head in Washington, D.C., by a man my own size, and considerably bigger than Brianna. Yet I’m writing this column. Five Vinalhaven witnesses went on record to say they saw Dorian Ames strike Feltis in the back with an axe, yet their accounts were apparently unconvincing to a Rockland grand jury last year. Weird.

In my experience, the Daily Beast has a way of whipping up tragedy and injustice into a toxic brew that returns clicks, so I’m inclined to discount their crime reporting. It’s easy for someone from New York City to create a stir and then beat it. Full disclosure: I’ve known Ellison since she was a little kid, so maybe I’m being biased when I say what she does well is present the facts and then step back to let readers draw our own conclusions.

Like we did last month when we learned that two men who sat in prison for the 1965 murder of Malcolm X not only didn’t do the crime, but the FBI knew who actually did and protected them.

The pattern of behavior of Dorian and Brianna Ames on Vinalhaven tracks with that of people who believe they can get away with anything because they have special protection. If true, it is a hideous form of corruption that makes people hate the government. The town of Vinalhaven voted to sever its ties with the Knox County Sheriff’s Office. That is not a small matter.

Let’s see if this much-needed spotlight changes anything in what looks very much like an unsolved crime. The narrative of officialdom, that law and order prevailed over rough island justice, is shakier than your chances of making the afternoon boat if you stop for lunch and more shopping just before.

I smell a rat.

Sam Patten is a recovering political consultant who was raised in Knox County and worked for Maine’s last three Republican senators.