ROCKLAND, Maine — Although she said she never cried that day, a prison librarian who was tied to her desk for seven hours, threatened, cut and hit by an inmate on June 30, 2008, said Tuesday during court testimony that she was just happy to have survived.
“I’m grateful to be alive, and I appreciate every breath. I was back into the facility in 48 hours,” Jacqueline Weddle said during the second day of the trial against inmate Michael Chasse.
“I thought that I would at some point die,” she told jurors in Knox County Superior Court.
Chasse is charged with several counts of assault, kidnapping and terrorizing for allegedly holding Weddle and fellow inmate Ryan Currier hostage in an office at the Maine State Prison library.
Weddle was the first witness called Tuesday in the trial that is expected to last more than a week.
According to Weddle, she was in her office around 2 p.m. that June day, chatting with Currier, a prisoner who works in the library, when Chasse walked in, shut the door and demanded to talk to her alone.
Weddle said she told Chasse she would be glad to speak with him and ask Currier to leave, but that the door had to remain open. After some argument over the door, Weddle walked toward the door to open it.
When she approached Chasse, who was blocking the door, she saw his hand fly up and she was struck on her left side, she told the jury. He lifted his arm again, and this time she saw a metal “ice-pick” shaped weapon, so she put her arm up to deflect the blow and his home-made knife cut her head and arm.
Shaken by the blow, which she said felt as if her “brain was rattling in my skull,” she backed up a few steps and Currier yelled, “No” to Chasse. This distracted Chasse and gave Weddle time to set off an alarm.
Hearing the alarm over the prison intercom, Chasse told both Weddle and Currier to get on the floor, which they did.
At this time, prison staff began evacuating the library of all other prisoners and staff. Prison Sgts. Antonio Mendez and Robert Brownell stayed in the library to handle the situation. Both men also testified Tuesday.
Weddle’s office was described as a “fish bowl within a fish bowl” because it is glass from the waist up, and is in the library, which also is mostly glass. The two sergeants remained in the library, but outside the locked office.
Chasse warned the officers if anyone else came into the library, he would stab Weddle 50 times and kill her.
At some point soon afterward, Chasse broke open a typewriter and used wires from it to tie Weddle’s arms to a chair and her legs to a desk. Chasse used shoelaces to tie Currier to another chair, according to Weddle. Then, while she and the prison guards watched, Chasse took out two razors and cut Currier’s face from his ear to his jaw, she said.
Chasse also threatened Weddle, saying he would stab her in the eye. He then demanded that she help him access several pornography websites, the season finale of “Tila Tequila,” MySpace accounts and public records on a woman he once knew. Failing to get the pornography he desired, Chasse demanded a credit card from the prison staff, who gave it to him.
After about seven hours, Chasse released Weddle. About three minutes after her release, police broke through the glass-encased office and entered at gunpoint, forcing Chasse to surrender.
Weddle was treated for her injuries at Pen Bay Medical Center’s emergency room, where she received three staples in her head and three stitches in her arm to mend her cuts.
Chasse, who is representing himself, told Weddle on Tuesday, “You are a very resilient person.”
In his opening argument Monday, Chasse told the jury that he unknowingly ingested LSD from an anonymous letter he received in jail. The drug is what caused him to act the way he did that day, he said.
During his hour-long opening statement Monday, Chasse also said he was angry with Weddle and that he had intended to hold her for 10 hours as a “righteous protest” against the librarian, who he said was not treating inmates properly.
Chasse said he expected the protest to end with his death. He said he has several mental abnormalities, which include the “want to be murdered.” He said these abnormalities were an effect of being in jail for 13 years.
No mention of the letter or the drug was made Tuesday in court during his cross-examination of the witnesses.
He did not refute any of the witnesses’s accounts of what occurred, but suggested again that his actions were intended as a protest of the librarian’s policies.
At one point, Chasse asked Weddle if she remembered him telling her, “You need to change your attitude about the law library and how you deal with inmates.” She said she remembered that.
Chasse also recalled telling Weddle that if he died in his protest not to let his words be in vain, and that if she did not change, that he hoped he would haunt her after his death.
The trial is set to resume at 9 a.m. today.
Chasse is charged with four counts of kidnapping, one count of elevated aggravated assault and two counts of aggravated assault — all Class A crimes. He is also charged with two counts of terrorizing — Class B crimes — and two counts of trafficking in prison contraband, both Class C crimes. Chasse faces up to a total of 240 years of additional jail time and up to $400,000 in fines for all of his crimes if convicted.
Chasse has been in jail for about 13 years on convictions for robbery, aggravated assault and escape. He is not scheduled for release until 2029.