Two remain jailed in rash of break-ins

Posted Oct. 21, 2009, at 10:25 p.m.
Last modified Jan. 30, 2011, at 12:12 p.m.

BANGOR, Maine — Two Millinocket men suspected of breaking into more than 30 camps in four counties remained behind bars Wednesday night, unable to make bail.

James Willis, 34, and David Bechard, 30, who recently moved to Millinocket from the Augusta area, were arrested Monday night by state police in connection with the burglary of a camp on Mattaseunk Lake in Molunkus Township in Aroostook County.

So far, Willis and Bechard have been charged with one count each of Class C burglary, a felony crime punishable by up to five years in prison and a fine of up $5,000.

Authorities, however, say additional charges are expected. Because the two allegedly stole firearms, they also could be charged with violating federal gun laws.

During their respective initial appearances Wednesday in 3rd District Court, Judge Robert Murray set bail at $300 for Willis and at $1,000 for Bechard.

Murray attributed the reason for the difference in bail amounts to the fact that Willis has no criminal history and that Bechard has prior convictions for assault, terrorizing, criminal mischief burglary and theft. Those convictions range from 2001 through 2006.

In addition, Bechard was on probation for two counts each of theft and burglary at the time of his arrest this week, according to Penobscot County District Attorney R. Christopher Almy.

Also Wednesday, Murray imposed additional release conditions for the two men. Those are that they have no contact with each other or with the owner of the Mattaseunk Lake camp they are accused of burglarizing, that they not use or possess intoxicants, and that they submit to search and testing for intoxicants.

Both suspects are scheduled to appear in Penobscot County Superior Court on Dec. 4.

According to police, the two are suspected of more than 30 other camp break-ins in a four-county area.

Trooper Matt Grant told the Bangor Daily News earlier this week that he and Trooper Barry Meserve made the arrests with the assistance of Millinocket police.

Grant said the list of camp break-ins the two are believed to have committed includes more than 20 at Ambajejus Lake in northern Piscataquis County and others on Smith Pond and South Twin Lake in Penobscot County.

Police also believe the two men are responsible for two burglaries at storage units in the Augusta-Manchester area, Grant said.

Grant said the arrests came after the department received reports Monday of six break-ins at Mattaseunk Lake that occurred on Sunday night. The investigation into those break-ins led police to Bechard and ultimately to Willis, he said. The two reportedly were traveling in a maroon-colored vehicle.

State police and the Piscataquis County Sheriff’s Department both had the camp break-ins under investigation. The first was reported Sept. 1, and the numbers escalated over the past month.

Grant said a variety of items was taken from the camps, including electronics, television sets, VCRs, electronic games, camping items, household goods and two firearms.

Owners of camps that were broken into should contact either the state police or the Piscataquis County Sheriff’s Department to identify items taken. Owners who have not checked their camps in the Millinocket region in recent months should do so, he said, adding that additional camp break-ins might not have been reported.

Bangor Daily News writer Diana Bowley contributed to this report.

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