SUMNER, Maine — Just days after a Sun Journal story about the war over Abbott Pond Road, a man on one side was charged Wednesday with threatening someone on the other side with an ax.
Benjamin Stewart, 26, the son of Nicole Lutz, was charged with criminal threatening with a dangerous weapon. Police say he threatened Richard Pothier with what appeared to be a homemade, medieval-style ax late Wednesday morning as Pothier tried to drive down Abbott Pond Road, a narrow dirt road at the center of a heated dispute between the Lutz and Pothier families.
Both Stewart and Pothier called the Oxford County Sheriff’s Office about the incident. Stewart said Pothier was trespassing. Pothier said Stewart threatened him and tried to punch out the window of his truck with his arm.
Pothier said he reached for his gun and Stewart backed off.
Police interviewed Stewart at the home he shares with his mother and stepfather. They said he had the ax and was cooperative.
“He said he went out [to the road] to say he didn’t want anybody in the right of way or the alleged right of way,” Deputy Sullivan Rizzo said.
Pothier said he brought a witness and videotaped Wednesday’s incident. Police said the video showed Stewart carrying an ax, but he wasn’t waving it at Pothier or his truck.
Stewart, who is a member of a local group of Renaissance and Middle Ages re-enactors, was dressed in a gray, belted tunic and dark pants at the time of his arrest.
As of Wednesday afternoon, he was being held at the Oxford County Jail on $1,000 bail.
The Lutz and Pothier families have been fighting over Abbott Pond Road for about two years. The Lutz family, whose home fronts Redding Road and abuts Abbott Pond Road, says the old road is private, theirs and not open to the public. The Pothier family, which lives on Redding Road and owns a small pig and steer farm less than a quarter of a mile down Abbott Pond Road, says the road is public, or at least the public has the right to use it.
The war came to a head last October when Pothier’s uncle, Ted Dawicki, used the road. Nicole Lutz’s husband, Richard, stopped Dawicki and the two got into an argument. At some point, Richard Lutz threw a punch or two at Dawicki through his open truck window and Dawicki waved a handgun at him. The gun was loaded but was in a holster.
During that incident, Stewart appeared in the yard with a 5-foot wooden staff.
Richard Lutz was charged with assault and Dawicki was charged with trespassing. Lutz received a deferred disposition, which means the assault charge goes away if he stays out of trouble for a year. The district attorney’s office dropped Dawicki’s trespassing charge, saying it had no idea who actually owns the road.
On Tuesday, Pothier plowed Abbott Pond Road. Nicole Lutz said he went up and down the road five times and her husband eventually became frustrated and blocked the road with his vehicle. Pothier said he went up and down the road three times and Richard Lutz blocked it twice. Both sides called the police.
No charges were filed and no official warnings were given, according to the sheriff’s office.
The next morning, Pothier returned to plow again. Nicole Lutz wasn’t home, but she said she spoke to her son over the phone and he told her Pothier had tried to run over him. Pothier denies that.
Again, both sides called the police.
Chief Deputy Hart Daley said Pothier wasn’t charged with trespassing because the district attorney’s office has already said it doesn’t know who owns the road. Daley said a judge would have to rule on the road’s ownership.
“It’s just a spider’s web of civil issues when you’re going to discuss property like that,” he said.
Stewart has a criminal history that includes burglary in 2005, when he was 18. He was sentenced to two years in prison with all but 15 days suspended, given two years of probation and ordered to pay $755 in restitution.