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A Lewiston woman was beaten to death 45 years ago, and her daughter thinks she knows the killer

Dottie Milliken was 27 when she was found dead outside what used to be a laundromat on Lisbon Street on Nov. 6, 1976.

LEWISTON, Maine — Saturday marks 45 years since a 27-year-old Maine woman was brutally beaten and left to die outside what was a laundromat along a busy Lisbon Street.

Dorothy "Dottie" Milliken was doing her laundry in the middle of the night at the former Beal's Laundromat. Milliken usually did her laundry in the mornings, along with her daughter Tonia, but on Friday, Nov. 5, 1976, she decided to do her laundry at night. She was preparing to return to work that Monday from maternity leave, according to Maine State Police.

Milliken left her home around 11 p.m. after her husband went to bed. A newspaper delivery boy found her body the following day around 4:40 a.m. An autopsy revealed she died from blunt force trauma to the head.

Her daughter, Tonia Ross, was seven years old when her mother was killed. One of her last memories and interactions with her mom was refusing to leave her aunt's house with Milliken. She woke up the next morning to the news.

"I don't think it's possible for a seven-year-old to truly comprehend what somebody being murdered is," said Ross. "It would bring peace to my heart to know that the person finally admitted it. Because in my heart, I know who they are."

Maine State Police Det. Michael Chavez has been the primary detective investigating the case since he joined the Major Crimes Unit in 2012.

In a news release, Chavez:

“These kinds of cases are the most challenging to work on. Over the years, a number of other [Maine] State Police detectives have been working on this case, and we have still yet to uncover both the motivation for the crime and the person responsible.”

The family is offering a $15,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person or persons responsible.

Maine State Police said there are roughly five persons of interest in the case, but they have not been able to verify enough information on any one of them to name them as a suspect in the case.

"I think what’s missing is that piece of information that we need, possibly from the public that might be able to give it to us. Maybe they have been afraid to come forward in the past, and we’d love to listen to them. We’d love to talk to them," Maine State Police Lt. Scott Gosselin said. "Somebody should’ve seen something, and we just haven’t gotten that piece of information that puts us there yet. Especially on a Friday night. Especially during 1976. Lisbon Street was a wild ride."

"Given the brutality of the murder, I feel in my heart that it's somebody that she knew quite well," said Ross. 

Ross began her own investigation, one that was both heartbreaking and healing, she said.

"I didn't know what happened to her. And I needed to know everything. I questioned hundreds of people, read all the files, saw all the pictures. It's imprinted in your mind for the rest of your life," said Ross.

“There’s no doubt in my mind that the person who did this was so consumed by anger that they made a conscious effort to brutally strike down an unarmed woman without thinking twice about the consequences," Chavez wrote. "To make things worse, this person had the audacity to just walk away, which left the family consumed by anger, regret and sorrow."

"There's not a shortage of information. There's a deluge of information," said Gosselin, one of the investigators on the case. "How does this case go unsolved after 45 years?"

"I would be able to sleep at night knowing that the person finally came forward," Ross said. "You lose your best friend for life. You have special moments throughout your life that you should be able to share with your mom and you can't. You get married. You have children. You miss out on all of that."

"The investigation that I did—what I learned is that she fought for her life til the very last minute, second."

Now Ross is asking the person who knows what happened to come forward.

"You took 45 years away from my mother. You took 45 years away from myself and my family. I am asking you to come forward and give up the rest of your life so we can have the closure that we deserve," she said.

Maine State Police ask anyone with information to contact Major Crimes South at 1 Gray Farm Rd. Gray, ME 04039 or 207-228-0857.


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