A woman who for years provided a home for the fugitive suspected in the killing of a Maine sheriff's deputy said yesterday that she discovered the officer's body in her yard.

Kimberly Sirois said she found the body of Somerset County Cpl. Eugene Cole around 7am on Wednesday. Authorities say Cole was killed by 29-year-old John Williams earlier that morning in Norridgewock, Maine.

Sirois, an education technician at Mill Stream Elementary School in Norridgewock, said Williams lived with her when he was in high school after having a falling out with his parents. She said he also stayed with her last fall, but she asked him to leave because she was suspicious he was using drugs in the house.

Undated photo released by the Maine State Police shows John Williams, who is being sought in connection with the shooting of a sheriff's deputy. Photo / AP
Undated photo released by the Maine State Police shows John Williams, who is being sought in connection with the shooting of a sheriff's deputy. Photo / AP

"He was certainly struggling with addiction," Sirois said, "and it seemed to get progressively worse from September to after Christmas when he was asked to leave."

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She said Williams last visited earlier this month, and he discussed his recent arrest in Massachusetts on gun charges, for which he was due in court Wednesday.

Upon searching the house and surrounding area, police told her they found body armor and a rifle in her vehicle, which she said was unlocked. A state police spokesman declined to confirm or deny details of her story.

But Chris Shulenski, who's friends with Williams, has more details. The two initially met while working together as telephone-pole repairmen, Shulenski said.

He said Williams called sometime after midnight Wednesday asking for a ride. Shulenski and his girlfriend then picked up Williams from a home in nearby Skowhegan. Williams was acting "paranoid" and asked to be dropped off at a house on Mercer Road in Norridgewock, Shulenski said.

It was Sirois' house.

Williams had with him two duffel bags and a backpack that Shulenski noticed contained a bullet-proof vest.

"I said, 'Don't do anything crazy,'" Shulenski said, adding that Williams said, "As of tomorrow, I'll be a fugitive."

Somerset County Sheriff Dale Lancaster, foreground, and Maine State Police Lt. Col. John Cote hold a briefing yesterday. Photo / AP
Somerset County Sheriff Dale Lancaster, foreground, and Maine State Police Lt. Col. John Cote hold a briefing yesterday. Photo / AP

The manhunt is now in its third day.

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It's taking place in the heavily wooded rural community about 96 kilometres west of Bangor, Maine. More than 200 officers from multiple agencies, including the FBI, have been working on the case.

Sheriff Dale Lancaster said Williams may want to communicate with his investigators but wouldn't elaborate further. Lancaster said his office is willing to listen and encouraged him to reach out.

"If John Williams is listening to me, I'd like to address him directly," Lancaster said. "We will do anything to resolve this situation peacefully."

Governor Paul R. LePage suspended hunting in parts of the towns in Maine where the manhunt is taking place: Norridgewock, Skowhegan and Fairfield.

A Federal Bureau of Investigation wanted poster for John Williams, the main suspect in the killing of a law enforcement officer. Photo / AP
A Federal Bureau of Investigation wanted poster for John Williams, the main suspect in the killing of a law enforcement officer. Photo / AP

State Police Lt. Col. John Cote said authorities have interviewed family and friends of Williams and now have a good understanding of his whereabouts and activities in the 24 hours leading up to the shooting. Cote said police are looking for people who may have had contact with him afterward, from 2.30am Wednesday on, saying they are "critically important."

Sirois said she has no idea what happened that morning and hopes Williams turns himself in.

"Maybe because of this," she said, "people will be more willing to step in when people are having a hard time."

Community members on Friday created a memorial for Cole decorated with flowers, red balloons and a framed picture of the deputy.

- AP