A Maine man serving a 40-year prison sentence in New Jersey was found dead in his cell Thursday, according to the Maine Department of Corrections.
Michael Chasse, 37, was housed at the New Jersey State Prison in Trenton, according to a press release issued late Thursday.
Chasse was found unresponsive in his single cell, but information about the cause of death was not released. New Jersey authorities are investigating his death, according to the press release.
Chasse was transferred to the New Jersey prison on Jan. 3 after he was sentenced to 40 years in prison in connection with a hostage situation involving a staff person and another prisoner in 2008 at the Maine State Prison.
Chasse effectively was going to be incarcerated for life. Before the 40 years were tacked on for kidnapping, aggravated assault and terrorizing in the hostage taking, he was supposed to be in prison until 2030 for robbery, burglary, escape, trafficking in prison contraband and criminal threatening.
The inmate had gained notoriety in November 1998 when he escaped from custody while being escorted out of District Court in Dover-Foxcroft where he was standing trial for stabbing and robbing a man in 1997 in Brewer.
Chasse escaped by throwing laundry detergent into the eyes of two officers as they led him out of the courthouse.
Chasse ran through a construction site, briefly held a woman hostage in her home, then left with a butcher knife before being confronted by the same two officers in downtown Dover-Foxcroft. He stabbed one of the officers in the arm and the other in the hand, then commandeered a pickup truck and fled. He was arrested five hours later in a canoe on Sebec Lake.
On June 30, 2008, Chasse locked a librarian and a fellow inmate in an office at the Maine State Prison in Warren before stabbing the librarian several times, cutting the prisoner’s face and demanding pornography from prison staff. He held the two people hostage and effectively shut down all prison operations for about seven hours before police burst in through office windows and apprehended him.
The judge who sentenced him last year called Chasse’s acts during the hostage situation “unspeakably cruel.”
Chasse was sentenced to serve 12 years for aggravated assault and robbery in the 1997 case. He also was convicted and sentenced to an additional 14 years in prison on charges related to the escape and related assaults.
Correction: An early version of this story requires correction. Maine State Prison is located in Warren.