BANGOR, Maine — Three men with criminal records are behind bars in connection to two armed robberies and an attempted armed robbery earlier this month in Glenburn and Orrington, Penobscot County Sheriff Glenn Ross said Friday.
Drug addiction is behind the brazen armed robberies, Ross said.
“Illegal drug use in the state of Maine is driving these crimes,” Ross said with three of his detectives and two Maine State Police troopers standing behind him at a Friday press conference at the sheriff’s office.
The sheriff’s office and state police worked together investigating the crimes after learning that the Sept. 8 Glenburn convenience store robbery and the Sept. 9 armed robbery of an Orrington woman at knifepoint and an attempted robbery of a store nearby had similarities, the sheriff and Trooper Michael Johnston said.
Chester F. Birmingham, 34, of Bangor and formerly of Patten; Benjamin J. Sprague, 30, a Bangor area transient; and Donald Getchell Jr., 39, of Greenbush, who has an alias of Don Colson, are in Penobscot County Jail facing charges of Class A robbery, burglary and conspiracy to commit robbery.
Sprague is not the Bangor City Council member with the same name.
All three went before a judge at 1 p.m. Friday in Bangor. Birmingham’s bail was set at $100,000, a Penobscot County Jail official said.
Birmingham and Getchell both face a second robbery charge for the Glenburn store robbery, and Getchell also was charged with violating conditions of his release. Ross did not have details about why Getchell was out on bail.
Bail for Getchell was set at $100,000, although he will not be released because his bail has been revoked, a jail official said Friday night. Information about Sprague’s bail was not available Friday night.
In the first robbery at the Checkout Market convenience store, located at 1492 Pushaw Road in Glenburn, either Birmingham or Getchell walked into the business armed with a knife and demanded cash, while the other one waited in the getaway vehicle, a light colored SUV with a darker color on the bottom half, Ross said. Which man entered the building is not being released because of the ongoing investigation, the sheriff said.
The Maine State Police handled that armed store robbery. The next day, the trio targeted a couple in Orrington that one of the three had met before, Penobscot County Detective Bob Jordan said.
Two of the three held a 54-year-old woman at knifepoint while the other man took items from her house on Center Drive and the third man waited outside in the getaway vehicle. Which two men entered the building and who drove the getaway vehicle is not being released because of the ongoing investigation, Ross said.
After finishing the home invasion, the trio went to a nearby store, Bob’s Kozy Korner. They were interrupted by a group of brothers who alerted store employees and police who were already in the area for the home invasion.
Law enforcement personnel from Old Town, University of Maine, Hampden and Brewer assisted in the joint operation with Penobscot sheriffs and state police, Ross said. He said a quick police response, help from the public by stopping the attempted robbery and providing information, the evidence collection skills of detectives and investigators and help from the Maine State Police crime lab led to the successful conclusion of the case, the sheriff said.
Birmingham was convicted on federal robbery charges for using a knife to hold up a Vermont pharmacy for OxyContin in May 2008, Ross said. Johnston added at the press conference that Birmingham still “is on federal probation for the prior robbery.”
Birmingham also was sent to jail for nine months in February 2005 for two counts of unlawful possession of scheduled drugs, according to Bangor Daily News archives.
Sprague was charged with illegal possession of cocaine and bath salts in July 2011, BDN archives state. He was convicted in December 2011 of the two drug possessions and ordered to pay a $400 fine for the cocaine and a $350 fine for the bath salts. He has other convictions in December 2007 for forgery and theft by unauthorized taking or transfer and was sentenced to 30 days in jail for both.
Getchell was convicted of disorderly conduct and in May 2010 was sentenced to pay a $500 fine. In November 2001, Getchell was sentenced to 10 months in prison for negotiating a worthless instrument and was given five months in prison for theft by unauthorized taking or transfer, BDN archives state. He was also ordered to pay $4,000 in restitution.
“These individuals are well known to the police community,” Ross said.