CORINTH, Maine — A 25-year-old homeless man Tuesday appeared to have everything he needed to rob a business — a way to cover his face, gloves, weapons and a ride, according to police.
What Jerome G. Richards II didn’t have was luck.
An off-duty Maine state trooper and investigative work by deputies from the Penobscot County Sheriff’s Office thwarted the transient’s plan to rob a local store or bank, Penobscot County District Attorney R. Christopher Almy said Thursday.
Richards was arrested about 6 p.m. Tuesday and charged with attempted robbery, failure to sign a summons and failure to give a correct name. He is being held at the Penobscot County Jail until he makes his first court appearance Friday at the Penobscot Judicial Center, where a judge is expected to set bail.
The investigation into Richards began Tuesday afternoon when Maine State Police Trooper Brian Bean, who was off duty, saw a person come from around a fence behind the Maine Savings Federal Credit Union on Route 15 in Corinth. The man was wearing what looked like a mask over his face and had black gloves on his hands, according to Bean’s report.
Bean saw the person walk across the Corinth Family Medicine parking lot and through the Family Dollar parking lot before getting into a “red Pontiac Grand Prix-type vehicle” driven by a female. Bean followed the car, which headed toward Bangor on Route 15, and called for backup from the sheriff’s office, according to his report.
When the car was stopped, deputies found Richards was wearing a black hooded sweatshirt backward with two holes cut in the hood for his eyes. Deputies also found two pellet guns, an extra clip for one of them and a knife inside the car, according to reports obtained from the district attorney’s office.
The 22-year-old woman Richards was with told detectives he was a friend but that she had not seen him for three years until he came to her Court Street apartment in Bangor on Memorial Day. He came by again on Tuesday and asked her to give him a ride past a gas station on outer Broadway to visit a friend in exchange for gas money, according to a report filed by sheriff’s Deputy Bob Pelletier.
When they got to Corinth, Richards told the woman driving to park at the Family Dollar store, according to Pelletier’s report. She told investigators that he walked toward a brown house, and she lost sight of him.
He returned about four minutes later and seemed angry, the woman told deputies. Richards allegedly told her, “‘The guy’s dad was there, and he was looking at [me] all sketchy,’” according to the report. Richards then asked her to return to Bangor.
A few minutes later, she was pulled over by Pelletier.
The woman was not charged in connection with the incident.
On Wednesday, a 21-year-old Bangor man told deputies that Richards, who is homeless, recently had been staying at his George Street apartment. Richards allegedly told his friend he was tired of being homeless and was going to rob a bank or store. The friend did not call police because he did not believe Richards was serious, according to a report filed by Detective Robert Jordan of the sheriff’s office.
Richards didn’t enter the credit union or the Family Dollar store, and neither establishment was robbed, according to Almy and police reports.
But “he took a ‘substantial step’ toward the commission of a crime because he had a masked hood on,” Almy said Thursday evening, explaining the legal underpinning of the attempted robbery charge against Richards. “Plus, the evidence showed that he told his roommate that he was planning to rob the bank or the store.”
Richards also was wanted on a drunken driving charge out of Piscataquis County and is on probation for an unrelated conviction. Information about what led to his probation was not available Thursday.
If convicted, Richards faces up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $5,000 on the most serious charge of attempted robbery.
BDN writer Dawn Gagnon contributed to this report.