BREWER, Maine — A murder suspect captured Wednesday morning in Brewer was seen swimming across the Penobscot River shortly after his escape from the Dorothea Dix Psychiatric Center on Tuesday night, police said.
The eyewitness, who went fishing at the Penobscot Salmon Club on Tuesday night, told Bangor police detectives Wednesday morning that he had seen a man matching the description of William L. Hall, 29, of Bangor “swimming across the river from the Bangor side toward Brewer,” Deputy Bangor Police Chief Peter Arno said.
Hall was arrested near the fishing club on North Main Street on a felony escape charge.
Others in the area — including a Brewer businessman who came face to face Wednesday with the man accused of strangling Melvin F. Abreu, 28, on June 9 and then throwing him out of his second-story window at 96 Fourth St. in Bangor — provided the clues needed to secure Hall’s capture, police said.
Hall, who had been undergoing an evaluation at the psychiatric hospital, was in an enclosed outside smoking area at Dorothea Dix when he climbed the tall black fence at around 7:40 p.m. to make his escape, Bangor police Detective Sgt. Paul Kenison said at a press conference shortly after the capture.
Hall, who wasn’t wearing shoes, was on the lam for about 14 hours.
The Brewer businessman told the Bangor Daily News that he was outside Wednesday morning when he saw a “disheveled” man wearing dirty white socks and called police.
“He walked in and said he was looking for a friend,” the man said, standing in the driveway of his business on North Main Street. “I told him everyone was gone and he needed to move on.”
The business owner, who asked that his name not be used, said he immediately looked at the BDN’s story about Hall’s escape and decided to call Brewer police. He made the call at around 10 a.m., and Brewer police Lt. Chris Martin stopped Hall shortly afterward just down the street from the Penobscot Salmon Club, Brewer Police Chief Perry Antone said.
The businessman said Hall was in rough shape.
“He seemed very delusional,” he said. “I’m glad my wife wasn’t here” working.
Danny Ward, who lives on North Main Street, was visiting a neighbor and drinking a cup of coffee outside when he saw Hall walk by.
“He was wearing shorts and a T-shirt but no shoes,” Ward said. “He looked like he was going to the beach.”
Then it clicked. Ward remembered reading in the BDN that morning that a shoeless murder suspect has escaped the night before. He called 911 at 10:20 a.m.
“Five minutes later, they were interviewing me and then they were off down the street and had him in custody,” Ward said.
Brewer police Cpl. Nelson Ferro took Hall to the Bangor police station for questioning.
“He will be taken to the Penobscot County Jail, where he will be held on felony escape charges,” Kenison said.
Hall’s former neighbors at the apartment complex on Fourth Street said they were relieved when they heard he had been captured and would not be returning to Dorothea Dix.
“I think this guy should have been in jail in the first place,” said Rhonda Levesque, a former downstairs neighbor of Hall.
Hall admitted to police that he killed Abreu, according to an affidavit written by Bangor police Detective Joel Nadeau.
“Hall said that he had ‘choked the [expletive]’ out of Abreu and then threw him out the window,” the investigator wrote.
It was the fall from Hall’s upstairs window that killed Abreu, according to his autopsy.
Police took Hall to Dorothea Dix on June 9 for a mental evaluation, and that is where he remained until June 17, when he was arrested and charged with murder in connection with Abreu’s death. He was booked into the Penobscot County Jail, had his first court appearance via videoconference from jail, and was returned the same day to the psychiatric hospital.
Crystal Stevens, another former neighbor of Hall’s on Fourth Street, said the murder suspect, who had lived at the eight-unit apartment building for about six months, should have been under armed guard.
“It should never have happened,” she said of the escape. “He should have been in jail.”
Hall has a long and violent criminal history — including a May 5 arrest in Bangor for assaulting a police officer, assault and refusing to submit to arrest, as well as three assault convictions and a disorderly conduct conviction, according to his criminal history record from the Maine State Bureau of Identification.
In the May 5 incident, Hall grabbed the clothing of Bangor police Officer George Spencer, who was dealing with an unruly patient at Eastern Maine Medical Center, and knocked him off balance and into a glass window, said Peter Arno, Bangor’s deputy police chief.
After Hall climbed the fence at Dorothea Dix on Tuesday night and escaped, an intense manhunt was conducted by at least a dozen officers from Bangor Police Department, Maine State Police and the Penobscot County Sheriff’s Department, some of whom used tracking dogs.
“The dog team lost Hall’s scent along the railroad tracks behind Qualey Granite on State Street near the Veazie line,” Arno said Wednesday morning. “Detectives worked through the night following up on leads in an attempt to locate Hall.”
Kenison said that during the night the investigation led authorities to Dover-Foxcroft, where they were assisted by police in that town and the Piscataquis County Sheriff’s Department. Bangor police also were assisted by Veazie police officers and agents with the Maine Drug Enforcement Agency. Kenison thanked all of the law enforcement officers who assisted in locating Hall.
“These types of searches are very exhausting,” he said. “We’re very fortunate.”
Hall faces 25 years to life in prison on the murder charge and an additional five years in prison on the new felony escape charge. He is expected to make his initial court appearance on that charge on Friday.
BDN writers Dawn Gagnon and Eric Russell contributed to this report.