Mikaela Conley, 19, was found dead in Bar Harbor. A former classmate is accused of her murder.

Conley’s body was found Saturday by a police dog in a wooded area near an elementary school.

Mikaela Conley. —Facebook

She was reported missing on Friday. The next day, a police dog found the 19-year-old’s body in a wooded area near an elementary school, just outside the downtown of Bar Harbor, Maine.

Authorities say Mikaela Conley, of Bar Harbor, was murdered and have charged a former high school classmate, Jalique Keene, 21, in connection with her death. The Bar Harbor man and former running back at Mount Desert Island High School was ordered held without bail during his arraignment on Wednesday.

The discovery of Conley’s body and Keene’s arrest on Monday has left the small Maine community they both belonged to reeling, with residents mourning the teen’s death and questioning why the tragedy occurred. Police have not released details about the circumstances surrounding Conley’s death, and, on Wednesday, court documents related to the case were impounded, the Bangor Daily News reports.  

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Here’s what we know.

The suspect

Keene did not enter a plea to the murder charge he is facing during his Wednesday court appearance but told the judge he understood the charges filed against him, according to the Daily News. He is being held without bail, though a bail hearing could be scheduled at the request of his attorneys in the future.

According to the newspaper, Keene was a sports star at Mount Desert Island High School, playing running back on the football team, before he graduated in 2015. He went on to play football at West Virginia State University, where he was listed on the roster as a freshman in 2015 but not for any other seasons.

The 21-year-old returned to Maine recently from playing football for an amateur team in Serbia, according to the Daily News.

Conley was a underclassman at the high school when Keene was a senior, according to the newspaper. They were “friends” on Facebook. 

Keene had a prior criminal record that began in 2012 when he was sentenced for a felony charge of burglary at the age of 15, the Daily News reports. He was ordered to serve a year of probation and pay restitution of $260.70.

Four years later, he was convicted of three misdemeanor counts of furnishing a place to consume liquor and served two days in jail, the Daily News reports.

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According to a report by the Mount Desert Islander from 2016, Keene was 19 at the time, and his arrest was part of the break up of a “post-prom” party. His younger brother, Isaiah Keene, was also arrested and among the 16 people charged. Police told the newspaper the Keenes were “in control” of the lakefront property where the party was taking place.

Keene’s father, Gerald Keene, passed away later that year, the Daily News reports. According to the obituary for Gerald Keene, he left behind eight children, including Jalique, when he died following a battle with cancer.

According to the Daily News, Keene is one of four siblings adopted by Gerald Keene and Barbara Smith-Keene.

Grady Dobbs, who said Keene is one of his best friends, told the Daily News that his friend was no more a troublemaker than anyone else.

“He didn’t do it,” he told the newspaper.

The victim

Scores of people helped search for the 19-year-old after she was reported missing on Friday, according to the Daily News. The young woman’s mother, Danielle Timoney, pleaded for help searching for Conley.

By noon Saturday, a state police tracking dog and its handler found a body in the wooded area close to the Conners-Emerson School, near Route 3 and West Street, not far from 2Cats, a breakfast and brunch spot owned by Conley’s stepfather and family.

The restaurant shared a message on its Facebook page after authorities identified Conley’s body.

“Our hearts are broken with the loss of Mikaela,” the post read. “Thank you to all who searched for her and prayed for her safe return. The Island community is so close knit and caring. In our grief we are comforted by your thoughts and prayers.”

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According to the Daily News, bouquets of flowers and a photo of Conley were left on the steps of her family’s restaurant on Sunday.

The next day, the restaurant posted a second message: “We are overwhelmed with the community’s support and outpouring of concern and comments after the tragedy.”

Bar Harbor residents told the Daily News that Conley was a vibrant, bubbly teenager who enjoyed working in the restaurant industry and came from a well-loved family.

“When you saw her around town, her smile made you smile,” Monica Stanley told the newspaper. “She was only 19 and her life was just beginning.”

Conley worked at Mount Dessert Bakery in Bar Harbor, according News Center Maine. The business shared a photo of a chalkboard drawing by the teen on social media, extending condolences to the young woman’s family.

“We are so saddened by the loss of Mikaela Conley,” the bakery wrote. “Our thoughts and love are with her family as we remember a girl with an electric smile, amazing art skills, work ethic, enthusiasm, determination, and so much promise and potential.”

How the community is reacting

Many residents of Bar Harbor told the Daily News their sense of security and safety in the small island town was shaken after the discovery of Conley’s body on Saturday.

According to the newspaper, the area where her body was found is known as a place where underage kids hang out without being seen from the road or from the nearby school property. But because of the nearby playgrounds and soccer fields, passersby are a normal occurrence.  

“There’s definitely a ton of shock,” Kristin Clements told the newspaper. “There’s a kind of misbelieving that it’s real and that it’s happening. And people are really reaching out to her family. The community is so close, I know there’s going to be a ton of outreach and a ton of help … but there’s also a huge sense of fear. I hate that. I don’t want to live in fear.”

Tim Rich, owner of Independent Cafe in Bar Harbor, said the sense of safety in town has been “shattered,” particularly because so little information has been released by the authorities.

“I can tell you that I’m terrified,” Rich told the Daily News. “At my cafe, on slow nights we have one person closing, and I’m not comfortable with that anymore.”

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