PORTLAND, Maine -- Daniel Bondeson, the only one implicated in last year's arsenic poisonings at Gustaf Adolph Lutheran Church in New Sweden, visited a lawyer the day before he shot himself to death.
Attorney Peter Kelley of Caribou said yesterday the information that Bondeson, 53, gave him on May 1 could shed light on the case.
"I would very much like to tell what I know," Kelley said, explaining that attorney-client privilege obligates him to keep silent.
Kelley said he could turn the information over to authorities and reveal it to the public only if he obtains a waiver from Bondeson's estate, which has not agreed to a waiver. The estate includes Bondeson's three siblings and the child of a fourth sibling who predeceased him.
Investigators said Bondeson's suicide note, the contents of which have not been released publicly, convinced them that he did not act alone. The investigation remains open, with a detective assigned nearly full time to the case.
Alan Harding, the Presque Isle lawyer hired to settle Bondeson's estate, stated earlier that the suicide note did not appear to implicate anyone other than Bondeson. He acknowleged he was not privy to all the evidence.
Harding would not speak on the record yesterday about the issues raised by Kelley in regard to a waiver. He did say, however, that "the estate isn't the one preventing Mr. Kelley from talking to the attorney general's office."
Kelley and Harding have been at an impasse over the waiver. One stumbling block has been Kelley's request for an indemnification agreement to protect him from lawsuits that might arise from disclosing what was said. Also at issue, according to Kelley, is whether the waiver would be restricted to the release of information only to authorities and the estate.
The question of whether attorney-client privilege continues after death has apparently not been decided in Maine, said professor Orlando Delogu of the University of Maine School of Law. But he suggested that Maine is likely to find itself among the majority of states which conclude that the privilege remains in force.
A lawyer who fails to resist a subpoena from law-enforcement authorities seeking such privileged information risks disciplinary action for breaching his ethical duty to his client, Delogu said.
Maine State Police Lieutenant Dennis Appleton, who oversees the investigation into the April 27 poisonings at the northern Maine church, questioned whether Bondeson's statements to Kelley would move the case forward.
"That carrot has been out there on the stick for a long time, and I wonder if the carrot has any nutritional value to it," he said.
Appleton said he understood that lawyer-client privilege extends past Bondeson's death, but the state attorney general's office would have to deal with that aspect of the case.
Deputy Attorney General Bill Stokes, who has been involved in the matter, was on vacation and could not be reached for comment.
Appleton said the investigation was proceeding as if that information never existed. "If Peter Kelley knows something and goes to his grave with it, it becomes a moot issue with us," he said.
Kelley said he knew Bondeson because the two had skied together during the 1970s. He said he had not done legal work for Bondeson before his visit and didn't think he had had an attorney handling his affairs.