Mother of missing Washburn man responds to arrest of former police officer

2 months ago

The arrest of a former Washburn police officer for allegedly falsifying records in the case of missing resident Erik Foote raises even more questions for his family. 

Brenda Foote last saw her son for lunch and shopping on Jan. 29. Since then he’s  been the subject of a months-long search that so far has been unsuccessful. 

Erik Foote, 39, of Washburn was wearing jeans and a blue jacket when he was last seen on Jan. 30, according to the Aroostook County Sheriff’s Office. His disappearance has riveted Washburn, a town of about 1,500, and inspired a Facebook page dedicated to search efforts. 

Deputies recently arrested former Washburn Police Sgt. Chandler Cole for allegedly falsifying records in the case. Cole refused to meet with investigators about his reports and resigned in February, according to Police Chief Cyr Martin. 

Cole remains free on $2,500 bail.

In an interview conducted via email on Thursday, Brenda Foote said Cole’s arrest was the right thing to do, but it brings more questions and little comfort. 

Former Washburn police sergeant Chandler Cole was arrested for falsifying records in the missing person case of Erik Foote. (Photo courtesy of Donna Turner)

“There is no relief at this time because we still don’t have the answers as to why the officer lied repeatedly and would quit his job over it,” she said.

Foote said her son, who served in the U.S. Army in Korea and Iraq, suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder and depression when he returned from overseas. He also experienced poor physical health, though she declined to specify his ailment. 

Because he’d been in Washburn only a short time, he didn’t know many people, she said.

Brenda Foote and her husband, Allan, want people to know their son is a kindhearted person who would always lend a hand to others. 

“He would give up his coat or last dollar for anyone in need and did so many times, throughout his life,” she said. “He never met a stranger and called everyone his friend.”

Erik Foote is also a father and loves his children, his mother said.

The Footes are originally from Aroostook County and had lived in Arizona. When they both retired, they wanted to come home, she said. They settled in Washburn about a year and a half ago. Erik also moved to town.

The Footes saw their son at least once a week prior to Jan. 29, she said.

When they couldn’t reach him by phone for several days and found his home empty, they reported him missing and started calling people to see if anyone had seen him. On Feb. 6, they spoke with then-Sgt. Cole at the Washburn Police Department, who told them he had taken their son to the hospital, Foote said. But hospital staff told them Erik had never been there. 

They called Sgt. Cole again, who repeated he had taken Erik to the hospital, Foote said. The family was convinced the officer had lied. 

An independent investigation launched by Washburn Police Chief Cyr Martin concluded there had been criminal wrongdoing.

Sheriff’s deputies arrested Cole on March 29 and charged him with aggravated forgery, tampering with public records or information, falsifying physical evidence and unsworn falsification, according to court records. 

Court documents also reflect the following: 

– Several people had reported a noticeably distressed Erik Foote walking on the Washburn roadside on Jan. 30. 

– Cole reported he had picked Foote up and dropped him off at Freshies, a Presque Isle convenience store, but told the family he’d taken Foote to the hospital. He allegedly altered his police report afterward to indicate he had taken Foote to the hospital.

– Washburn Police Chief Cyr Martin noted what appeared to be discrepancies in Cole’s reports and hired an investigator, who with deputies concluded Cole had committed crimes by falsifying records. 

Brenda and Allan Foote, along with law enforcement and local residents, continue to search for Erik Foote. 

Deputies have interviewed approximately 80 people and received about 50 tips in the case, according to Aroostook County Sheriff Peter Johnson. 

Johnson did not immediately return a request for comment on whether news of Cole’s arrest had generated further tips. 

Attempts to reach Cole have been unsuccessful.

Another search will take place this weekend, according to the Help Bring Erik Foote Home Facebook page. 

Anyone with information is asked to contact the Aroostook County Sheriff’s Office at 1-800-432-7842.

Brenda Foote said she and her husband have slept little over the past two months and their hearts are broken. They are grateful for the efforts of residents and sheriff’s deputies.

“That being said, as a grieving family, no effort will be great enough until we have our son back home,” she said. “The only hope we have is from the wonderful people that continue to look for him. I hope they never give up.”