December 13, 2018
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Police: Fishing boat sunk over lobstering dispute

ST. GEORGE, Maine — Two people are in jail and a third man is expected to be charged for the intentional sinking of a lobster boat last week.

This is the second sinking of a lobster boat in the town in the past few weeks.

Vincent Hilt, 22, of Vinalhaven, and Devlin Meklin, 20, of Warren were arrested and charged with felony criminal mischief and felony theft. Hilt was arrested Friday afternoon and Meklin on Monday morning. Both remain at the Knox County Jail in Rockland.

According to an affidavit filed in Knox County Unified Court by the Knox County Sheriff’s Office, the 36-foot lobster boat owned by Joshua Hupper sank during the early morning of Sept. 1 where it was moored off Tenants Harbor. Damage to the lobster boat was estimated at $50,000 because of water in the engine and the electronic equipment.

Two witnesses told police that they had run into two young men on Mouse Island early on the morning of Sept. 1. Mouse Island is located about 200 yards from where Hupper’s boat had been moored.

Police gave a photo lineup to the witnesses who identified Hilt and Meklin as the two men on the island, according to the affidavit.

Police then picked up Hilt at his father’s home in St. George. Hilt admitted he had been offered $500 by another lobsterman to sink Hupper’s boat, according to the affidavit. He said the other lobsterman had a trap dispute with Hupper.

Hilt told investigators that he contacted Meklin and the two stole a skiff from a float at Wildcat Lobster in Tenants Harbor and then motored out to Hupper’s lobster boat. The two went on board the lobster boat and cut hoses that allowed water to pour into the boat, according to the affidavit. The bilge pump had been turned off, according to police.

Hilt and Meklin then beached the stolen skiff on nearby Mouse Island and walked back over a causeway to where Meklin had parked his vehicle and left. The two, however, returned to Mouse Island the next morning to get the skiff they had stolen, according to the affidavit. On that trip, they ran into the witnesses who later identified them.

Hilt and Meklin towed the skiff out to the harbor, dumped the outboard motor overboard and cut it loose, according to the affidavit. The outboard motor on the skiff they were in died, however, and they had to be towed back to shore by a passing fisherman.

Hilt told police he was never paid for doing the job, according to the affidavit.

Sgt. Matthew Talbot of the Maine Marine Patrol said Wednesday this was the second sinking of a lobster boat in the past few weeks. He said a boat in Port Clyde was sunk on Aug. 17 and the evidence in that case shows it was intentionally done by someone. The investigation in that case is ongoing, and no one has been charged, Talbot said.

Also last week, a Rockland lobsterman was charged with aggravated assault against a fellow lobsterman over a trap dispute. That incident occurred at a dock in Owls Head in August.

Talbot said this is the first time that boats have been intentionally sunk locally since the summer of 2009, when two boats were sent to the bottom of Owls Head Harbor and an attempt was made on a third one.

That lobster war occurred during a downturn in the lobster industry, but this summer has seen prices reach a 10-year high, according to SeafoodNews.com.

 


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