This week marks 34 years since teenager Steven O’Neil died heroically, saving his family after someone set their house on fire.
With the creation of Maine’s first cold case unit just weeks away, CBS 13 is looking at the long list of unsolved cases.
A makeshift memorial for Steven O’Neil is right outside the house where his mother lives.
Ersal May doesn’t remember much about her son, but she has a lot of memories.
Steven, who was 14 years old, never gave up a fight and was known to skip school. His mom said he was as nice as the roses he always gave her.
“He snuck in the shed until his dad went to work, ’cause he didn’t want me to be home with the kids after having an operation,” stated May.
He would ride his bike five miles to bring his grandmother dinner and shovel snow for a neighbor who was pregnant.
“If you needed his help he was always there,” stated May.
They will never forget Steven’s last act of service.
They lived in a house in South Paris that caught fire on November 3, 1989.
May said that Shawn, her older son, ran downstairs to set off the smoke alarm.
“When he opened up the front door, it shot the flames throughout the living room and the first floor,” she mentioned.
Steven helped his stepdad and two little brothers get away through a window on the second floor, while Shawn helped from below.
May said she told Steven to get out, but he made her go first. She fell asleep and does not remember anything after waking up on the cold ground outside.
“I told him, ‘Steven is at the window.'” Hey Steven, did you get Steven? May said, “He’s at the window.”
Two feet away from that window, his body was found.
“I wish he had gone out and it was me that would’ve been left in that fire,” she stated. “No mother wants to bury their kids before themselves.”
Author Marissa Bodnar asked, “Do you think of him as a hero when you think about that night?” “Yes, I do,” May said.
There were signs of arson at the scene.
“It’s a m*urder, and it was caused by arson,” State Police Lt. Brian McDonough said.
Even though the case was looked into, it went cold.
“I don’t know how anybody could live with it for 26 years,” stated May. “Really, it’s got to be eating somebody inside.”
May said she has doubts about one man, who was Shawn’s friend and has nothing to do with Steven.
She said, “There’s that one person.” “He made threats.” He made threats about it two or three days ahead of time.
McDonough said that the case is still open.
“I think there’s some things that can be done there, where hopefully, some movement can be made,” he stated.
“I need that closure,” May said. It’s not going to make things better. No, it’s not. It can’t take his place.”
Still, knowing who and why would help calm my nerves.
“I will never forget it, it will never be forgotten,” she stated. “It’s something, like I said, I live all the time.”
Call the state police at 207-657-3030 if you know anything.