Slain lottery winner leaves mixed legacy -- The Maine Archive on the Queer Resources Directory

Sunday May 11, 1997

Slain lottery winner leaves mixed legacy

By Brian Macquarrie, Boston Globe Staff

LEWISTON, Maine - To the gay community, he was a risk-taker known as Megabucks Mike.

To some nightclub workers, he was a skittish, insecure man trying to buy popularity.

But to neighbors and employees, he was an incomparably warm and generous friend.

He was Michael Allen, a 34-year-old Army veteran who went from cab driver to millionaire when his Tri-State Megabucks number came up on Christmas Eve, 1988.

Today, Allen is dead, beaten savagely about the head April 28 in a cramped motel room at the edge of this grim city. For many who knew him, the trail to his death began the night he won the $5.8 million jackpot.

``I was petrified for him,'' his mother, Claire Madore, said last week. ``I told him just three days before this happened: `Be very careful.'''

Allen had been having dinner with friends when he received a call on his cellular phone from two men he had ordered evicted. They arranged to meet in the Holiday Motel, and it was there in blood-spattered Room 1 that Allen's short, slight body was found by a housekeeper the next morning.

The motive is thought to be robbery, because Allen routinely carried hundreds of dollars in cash. But the victim, who is gay, also is believed to have had previous sexual relations with one of the suspects, police and family said.

Whatever the reason for the motel rendezvous, his mother said, Allen's sudden wealth had transformed him from a crime-wary cab driver into a frenetic, cash-flush entrepreneur who opened two bars, bought several apartment buildings and lavished cars, motorcycles and boats on his friends and family.

``He was the perfect picture of a lottery winner,'' said Jeff Polley, a carpenter who had worked for Allen since 1991. ``He lived every day like he had just won it yesterday. A financial planner might say he squandered his money, but that was just his nature.''

The son of a woman who was married six times and a father he never knew, Allen joined the Army shortly after high school and began as a cook. After his discharge in 1985, he bounced from hospital cook to cab driver.

Then came the jackpot. After the first annual check of $220,000 rolled in, Allen began spending. He donated to AIDS research, bought clothes and food for needy friends, and spent Christmas driving from house to house delivering gifts to acquaintances from the back of a pickup truck. Allen even would buy extra presents in case he met someone he didn't know at his friends' homes, Polley said.

He also had a passion for interior decorating, liked to bake cakes, and delighted in comedy shows and Chinese food.

``I've never met anyone who was as giving,'' Polley said. ``Our community has lost a very, ve ry nice guy.''

To some family members, Allen's mercurial, generous nature made him vulnerable to predators who saw a golden opportunity to score easy money in one of the poorest areas of Maine.

``He was constantly flashing that cash around,'' his mother said. ``The hounds got after him. What they'll do for a dime, you won't believe.''

One of the suspects, Brad A. Chesnel, had known Allen for several years. At the time of the slaying, he was awaiting sentencing in the 1996 beating of a man with a hammer. Chesnel, 24, also was being sought by police following an assault complaint filed by his girlfriend 10 days before Allen's death.

Chesnel and Leroy P. Tomah Jr., 27, were arrested Tuesday at the YMCA in Palo Alto, Calif., where police believe they had fled by bus.

Authorities said they believed the suspects had been evicted recently from one of Allen's apartment buildings for nonpayment of rent.

``I talked to the Tomah guy, and he seemed to know wh at room he wanted,'' said Martin Finley Sr., who owns the Holiday Motel. ``He wanted peace and quiet. `You can count on it,' he said to me. `I'm gonna get some sleep tonight.'

``Well, there was blood everywhere the next morning. You could even see where they had thrown him against the wall. It don't pay to evict anybody, I guess.''

Allen knew of Chesnel's violent past, family members said, but the relationship fit his pattern of risk-taking behavior. He once bought a badge and passed himself off as an undercover cop in a Lewiston gay bar - only to have his jaw broken by several men who discovered the ruse.

He opened two nightclubs - The Alternative and Mike's Place - and closed them only because he became bored with the business, friends say. He declared bankruptcy in 1995, but only as a maneuver that gained him an advance on his winnings at the expense of future annuities.

Although Allen's social world expanded with his income, his appearance did not ref lect the change. Craig Coulombe, a bartender at the Court House Tavern in Auburn, said Allen sported the same jeans and leather jacket he had worn before the prize.

``He didn't take a jump up in style, just a jump up in spending,'' Coulombe said. ``I think he thought it would buy him some popularity.''

If it bought him popularity - ``People were asking him to buy them heating oil the day after he won the damn thing,'' one family member said - it also led to the breakup of a steady relationship with Alan Crocker.

Allen's mother said Crocker was the first person to persuade her son to curb a wild drinking habit he had developed in Germany with the Army. He had begun to settle down, she said, and had stopped the alcoholic binges that had consumed many of his days.

He also did not gamble, but bought a Megabucks ticket on Christmas Eve 1988 because the prize was so high. That night, when Allen saw his number flash on the TV screen, he told Crocker they would never have to wor k again. He said nothing to his mother.

``He crossed the room in front of all of our family and said that [to Crocker],'' one of Allen's siblings said. ``That hurt me hard - it nearly broke my heart - because my mother comes before anything.''

Later, when the spree of real estate purchases and business ventures had begun, Crocker filed a lawsuit against Allen. He settled for an annual payment of $30,000 for 13 years.

Allen's mother also hired a battery of lawyers, she said, to force her son to make timely mortgage payments on the home he had bought for her. Claire Madore settled for a house trailer in nearby Poland and a Cadillac.

The most tangible legacy of Allen's $5.8 million windfall is the apartment buildings he always seemed to be renovating. But in the different worlds he inhabited, the recollections will be of other things.

One memory will be of a man who could not manage wealth in a community burdened by poverty. But in the realm inhabited by his cl osest friends, the memory will be of an almost-childlike fascination with each passing day - and its possibilities.

``He always had a plan,'' said Polley, the carpenter. ``As soon as he got up in the morning, until he went to bed at night, it was go, go, go.''

``For anyone who was having a hard time, he was there for them,'' said Monique Duquette, who lives near Allen's home. ``He was like a son to me. I didn't give him birth, but he was like my son.''

This story ran on page b1 of the Boston Globe on 05/11/97.

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