Inside an unplugged freezer, they found a set of human remains that investigators believe may be those of the man's girlfriend, who disappeared in 1983, when she was 29. Now investigators are trying to confirm the identity of the female body, the cause of death and who may have been involved.
State police detectives were awaiting results of an autopsy being performed Monday. DNA tests may be needed to confirm whether the body was that of Kitty Wardwell, who was last seen with her on-again, off-again boyfriend Frank Julian.
"The answers are going to come from the medical examiner's office," said Stephen McCausland, spokesman for the Maine Department of Public Safety.
The storage unit was rented in 1992 by Julian, who died on Oct. 1. Back in 1983, he occasionally lived with Wardwell 100 miles away in Holden.
Julian told police in New Hampshire that he last saw Wardwell after an argument that June, when he dropped her off at a motel in Salem, N.H., before returning to Maine, police said. She was reported missing the following month by a close friend.
A state police investigation indicated she was likely a victim of foul play in Maine. Because of that, the investigation officially remained open.
The freezer was inside a 10-by-10 storage unit at Moore Self Storage Facility in Lewiston, where Julian dutifully paid in advance for the unit, coming around the first of each month to pay in person, owner Gary Boilard said. The last payment was made on Sept. 6, so the unit was rented through November, he said.
The storage company's previous owner kept good records, indicating Julian rented the unit 19 years ago on Oct. 6, Boilard said.
Boilard described the situation as "bizarre."
"How do you keep a secret that long?" he said.
The family was going through boxes inside the storage unit when the remains were discovered, and half of the unit was still filled with boxes when state police alerted Boilard on Saturday. "There were boxes on tops of boxes. From front to back, from top to bottom, it was full of boxes," he said.
Other than the freezer, there was little else of interest stashed in the unit - mostly household items, McCausland said.
At the time of his death, Julian was operating a secondhand store on Main Street. Before that, from 2001 to 2007, he'd run the One Stop Shop in a building owned by Hubert Nadeau, selling T-shirts, Christmas decorations, knives and "just about anything," Nadeau said.
Nadeau said he was surprised by the news of the body's discovery. "He was a very nice guy," Nadeau said Monday. "I had no idea what it was all about."
Both Wardwell's and Julian's families are being kept in the loop on the investigation, and both families are cooperating, McCausland said. Dwight Collins, Wardwell's brother, said the family was awaiting further word on the body but declined to comment further. Other family members either couldn't be reached or declined to comment.
The process of determining the body's identity could be time-consuming because of the condition of the body. Wardwell's family members have donated DNA samples that will be compared against DNA from the body, McCausland said.
Julian was 52 when Wardwell disappeared. An obituary in the Bangor Daily News described Julian as a former restaurateur and novelty salesman who played on John Bapst High School's 1948 championship football team.
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)