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Investigators believe hiker died in a fall at Breakheart Reservation

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Advocate Staff Report


Friends and relatives say Mark Edward Arsenault was a frequent visitor to Breakheart Reservation who loved to walk the wooded and rocky trails of the state park. Arsenault, 65, of Saugus, went to Breakheart for an early morning hike last week (Aug. 16) to look for some missing property, but never returned.

During the early evening – more than nine hours later – a family member reported him missing to Saugus police, and friends and family members organized a search party to go looking for him. A friend who was part of a search party discovered Arsenault’s body soon after at the bottom of Castle Rock, which is the highest point at Breakheart.

Essex County District Attorney Paul F. Tucker quickly ruled out Arsenault’s death as being suspicious – most likely the result of a tragic accident. “The missing hiker found dead in Breakheart Reservation in Saugus is not considered a victim of foul play,” Tucker said in a press release issued by his office.

“The man had injuries consistent with a fall,” Tucker said.

“The cause and manner of death will be determined through an autopsy conducted by the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner but the death is not considered suspicious and there is no apparent ongoing threat to the public,” he said.

Breakheart, which is owned and managed by the state Department of Conservation & Recreation (DCR), is a popular spot for hikers who love scenic views of Boston from atop rocky high places, which also pose life-threatening dangers.

The case remains under investigation by the Essex County District Attorney’s Office State Police Detective Unit and Saugus Police Department. Meanwhile, family and friends gathered this week to mourn Arsenault’s passing and celebrate his life.

“He was a master finish carpenter by profession, truly skilled in his craft,” according to an obituary from the website of A. J. Spadafora Funeral Home in Malden.

“Mark found immense joy in being active outdoors, surrounding himself with the wonders of nature. He cherished moments of hiking, boating, playing pickleball, golfing, and taking leisurely walks with his adored dog, Marley,” it continued. “Mark was also an avid motorcyclist and took great delight in cruising around in his antique Corvette. However, above all, his heart was filled with immense love for his family and friends.”

Arsenault was born in Malden and grew up in Saugus, where he spent most of his life. He leaves his wife, Jeanne, whom he was married to for 28 years. He is also survived by his son, Justin Mark Arsenault of Saugus; a daughter, Jamie Lee DiGiantommaso; two cherished grandchildren, Michael and Marco DiGiantommaso of Londonderry, N.H.; two brothers, Arthur Arsenault Jr. of Debary, Fla., and William Arsenault of Essex Junction, Vt.; two sisters, Denise Dragonetti of Brockton, and Gail Alexander of Saugus; and numerous nieces and nephews.

In lieu of flowers, the family kindly requests donations in Mark’s memory to the local chapter of Habitat for Humanity (habitatboston.org), an organization that had significant meaning to him.

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