MILLINOCKET, Maine — A business owner’s sighting of a suspected burglar in his Somerset Street deli shortly after midnight Tuesday might give police their first break in the investigation of 10 town burglaries that have occurred since July 12.
After being warned by police on Monday that his business might be the next targeted for break-in, Rideout’s Market owner Gary Rideout returned to his business about 12:15 a.m. Tuesday and saw a man standing at the cash register, Police Chief Donald Bolduc said.
“He had gone back to check on the business and saw the person inside the business,” Bolduc said of Rideout.
The burglar, whom Rideout described as a man with a thin to medium build, about 5 feet, 9 inches tall, and wearing a dark hooded sweatshirt, ran out of the business. He disappeared down Poplar Street seconds before Officer Martin Legassey, who was close to Millinocket Regional Hospital, could arrive, Bolduc said.
“This incident is very similar to all the other burglaries,” Bolduc said. The burglar “very well could be the person responsible for the other ones as well.”
Bolduc said Monday that investigators suspect that a crew of as many as four burglars i s responsible for nine break-ins since July 12, with the most recent occurring this past weekend at a downtown automotive repair and supply shop and a nearby business.
The burglaries seem to occur from dusk to dawn. They typically involve the forcing of doors that lack deadbolts at small businesses , occur in low-traffic areas around town, and result in the theft of small amounts of cash left in cash registers. Sometimes registers have been forced open, Bolduc said.
The burglars seem to be ignoring items that could be pawned in favor of stealing money. Between $500 to $1,000 has been taken in total so far, Bolduc said.
With the burglary at Rideout’s, the burglar appeared to have pried open a side door. State police troopers and one of their tracking dogs came from Orono and briefly followed the track left by the burglar. Bolduc said he suspects that heavy rainfall that came shortly after the crime impeded the dog’s efforts.
Police recovered evidence from inside Rideout’s that will be examined at the state police forensics lab in Augusta. Bolduc said he is hopeful that it will help police identify suspects. Nothing was taken in the burglary, Bolduc said.
He encouraged anyone who might have seen suspicious activity to report it to police at the police station or by calling 723-9731.