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Homicide victim's mother demands answers, weeks after the Portland woman was found dead

"I want people to know she was loved, she did have a family, and just because she was unhoused it doesn't make it less of a crime."

PORTLAND, Maine — Julie Kelley said the night before her daughter Bethany Kelley was killed, Bethany reached out to her stepfather.

"She sounded better than usual," Julie said. "She sounded like she was trying to turn her life around."

Bethany, according to her mom, fell into addiction and cycles of homelessness a few years ago. For the last year, she wasn't in much contact with her family.

"We weren't really a whole lot close," Julie Kelley said. "I wish we were back in that time." 

Julie said her daughter dropped out of Freeport High School during her sophomore year and was living in Portland unhoused until she was 23, when on Nov. 18, 2022, her body was found by police. They first called her death suspicious but have since ruled it as a homicide.

Two months later police have not given any update.

"Nobody seems to know exactly who did this ... could be more than one person," Julie alleged.

Julie said police gave her updates, such as the fact that Bethany tested negative for drugs at the time. She said police told her the cause of death last week but warned her not to tell anyone, as it could compromise the investigation into who killed her.

NEWS CENTER Maine reached out to Portland police for an interview about the investigation, but the request was declined. The department wrote in an email that it is remaining in contact with the family.

Julie said her and other family members are worried an arrest won't happen.

"I would say so. We all are," Julie Kelley said. 

"I want people to know she was loved, she did have a family, and just because she was unhoused it doesn't make it less of a crime," Kelley said.

Donna Yellen, vice president of strategic initiatives for Preble Street, said there has been a string of 10 deaths in the homeless community in Greater Portland since the death of Bethany Kelley.

"We grieve, as individuals and as an agency, every single one of these deaths, and we have to take action at the local, state, and federal levels to increase funding for professionally run and dignified shelters, affordable housing and more site-based Housing First programs, as well as expand services for physical and behavioral health and substance use disorders. That’s how we can keep people safe," Yellen said in an emailed statement to NEWS CENTER Maine.

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