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    Quiet Maine island left searching for answers after Groton slayings

    “Oh, little Orion. People can’t understand where all that came from,” said Felicia Dunson (pictured), a resident who baby-sat Krause.
    Fred J. Field for the Boston Globe
    “Oh, little Orion. People can’t understand where all that came from,” said Felicia Dunson (pictured), a resident who baby-sat Krause.

    MONHEGAN ISLAND, Maine — He was the son of a lobsterman and the grandson of a local artist, a quiet smiling boy who savored his summers on this rocky retreat 10 miles out to sea.

    Memories of Orion Krause, playing on the beach or hitching a ride on a golf cart with a Popsicle in his mouth, remain vivid here.

    But now his name evokes darker thoughts — shock, disbelief, and heartbreak — with Krause, 22, accused of killing his mother, her parents, and their caretaker in Groton, Mass., earlier this month.

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    “Oh, little Orion. People can’t understand where all that came from,” said Felicia Dunson, a resident who baby-sat Krause and stayed in touch with him over the years.

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    Authorities have provided no motive for the murders, leaving this small, close-knit community — about 40 people live here year-round — at a loss over what lay behind such violence.

    “People are horribly upset,” said Kim Murdock, a summer resident whose nephew is close to Orion Krause and his twin brother, Cooper.

    Krause, a graduate of Oberlin College and talented jazz drummer, has pleaded not guilty to the killings, which happened at his grandparents’ home Sept. 8. He has been ordered held without bail. Prosecutors alleged that Krause apparently carried out the attack with a baseball bat.

    The Krauses have long been mainstays on Monhegan, an outpost of stunning beauty whose residents are fiercely protective of each other. The family moved to the mainland when the boys approached school age but returned each summer from Rockport, just up the coast.

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    Still, their departure left a void, residents said.

    “People were very, very sad when Lexi left,” Murdock said, using the nickname of Orion Krause’s father, Alexander. “He was a very good, dedicated fisherman.”

    They missed the Krause twins, too, but welcomed them back each year with the other summer residents, drawn by the slow pace and natural beauty of a place apart. It’s an aura that attracted Orion Krause’s late grandfather, Glen Krause, a painter who also served as director of the Lamont Gallery at Phillips Exeter Academy in New Hampshire.

    Elizabeth Krause, 60, was also deeply entwined in island life. Her family had money, like more than a few summer residents of Monhegan, but she was unconstrained by social status, residents said.

    “They’re ours,” Dunson said of the family.

    Judy Schubert of Portsmouth, NH painted the idyllic scene on Monhegan Island, Maine.
    Fred J. Field for the Boston Globe
    Judy Schubert of Portsmouth, NH painted the idyllic scene on Monhegan Island, Maine.
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    Orion Krause was one of about 10 friends who passed the summer with slow-paced diversions that seem plucked from earlier times. There are no fast-food restaurants here, no nightspots, not even a paved road. Instead, they usually gathered on a small beach to toss a Frisbee, go for a swim, or simply talk.

    Dunson said she saw Orion Krause a few weeks ago, and nothing appeared out of the ordinary.

    But on Sept. 7, not long after leaving Monhegan, Krause abruptly left his family’s house in Rockport, prosecutors said. His mother became worried and called police, but Krause contacted her early the next morning to ask for a ride back from the Boston area.

    Elizabeth Krause picked him up in Massachusetts and stopped at her parents’ house in Groton on the way back to Maine. Later that night, police found the four victims after Krause, naked and bloody, allegedly walked to a nearby house and told a neighbor, “Help me, please. Help me, please. I murdered four people.”

    The victims were identified as Elizabeth Krause, her parents Danby Lackey III, 89, and Elizabeth Lackey, 85, and their health aide, Bertha Mae Parker, 68.

    Orion Krause, 22, at Ayer District Court.
    Josh Reynolds for the Boston Globe
    Orion Krause, 22, at Ayer District Court.

    In an interview with the Globe last week, Krause’s father spoke of the importance of paying attention to mental illness, but he did not elaborate. Orion Krause is being evaluated at Bridgewater State Hospital, a psychiatric facility overseen by the Massachusetts Department of Correction.

    For residents who watched Krause grow up, it’s nearly impossible to accept.

    “He seemed to be the Orion that we all know and love,” Dunson said of his recent visit. “We can’t understand how this could happen to a family of that caliber, people who extend themselves to so many others.”

    The Monhegan Island home where Orion Krause spent part of his childhood.
    Fred J. Field for The Boston Globe
    The Monhegan Island home where Orion Krause spent part of his childhood.

    Krause’s parents instilled a spirit of generosity in their sons, Dunson said. Other young people might simply wave and say hello to people they knew, but Orion would stop and chat — just like his mother, known as Buffy.

    “Buffy had a genuine nature to know and care and give,” Dunson said. “She taught the boys to do the same.”

    She recalled how Orion last year had cradled her newborn son, the first baby he had ever held, after his mother encouraged him to give it a try.

    “He was so tender about it,” Dunson said with a slight smile.

    The horrific allegations against him are hard to reconcile with that memory, she said.

    “If we had known, if there had been a sign, people would have spoken about it,” Dunson said. “They would have been there to lift him up, and let him know how much he was loved.”

    Even in the midst of grief, that love was expressed during a vigil for Elizabeth Krause last week in Rockport.

    Among more than 200 mourners, a lone voice broke the silence atop a hill overlooking Penobscot Bay.

    “God bless you, Buffy. God bless you, Lexi. God bless you, Cooper,” the man said. “And God bless you, Orion.”

    Brian MacQuarrie can be reached at brian.macquarrie@globe.com.