Manhunts in Maine — and elsewhere — have been all over the news lately. The inmates who escaped from prison in Dannemora, New York met their fates separately: Richard Matt was killed by police on June 26, and David Sweat was captured two days later.
Here in Maine, Robert Burton, suspected of killing his former girlfriend Stephanie Ginn Gebo in Parkman around June 5, has been on the lam for over a month. He was spotted several days ago but remains at large.
So we took a look back through public records and old news clippings to see what other manhunts have captured the public’s imagination over the years. The data come from interviews with current and former law enforcement, John Ford’s book, “Suddenly, the Cider Didn’t Taste So Good,” and news clippings from the Maine State Library.
Augustus “Gus” Heald, Sandra Brassbridge and Joseph Callahan escaped from Penobscot County Jail using a rope of bedsheets in late October 1970. All were awaiting trial. Heald was first convicted of manslaughter in 1965, then a number of robberies. He was known as a notorious escape artist.
The 1970 breakout resulted in one of the largest manhunts in state history. It took law enforcement four days to track them down.
Heald was finally released from state custody in 1985.
Moody Mountain Manhunt:
Milton Wallace of Freeport and Arnold Nash of Ellsworth, inmates of Maine State Prison, charged with murder and burglary, respectively, walked away from a farm work detail on July 15, 1981.
They were next spotted raiding a garden in Searsport on Aug. 1.
The search for them began with approximately 50 law enforcement officers who cornered the two that same day. A standoff resulted in the shooting and wounding of Ben, a prized and much-loved tracker dog.
Wallace and Nash were finally captured in Morrill four days later, following a burglary. Last count of resources: over 100 officers, 18 dogs, a plane and helicopter.
There are different types of manhunts. The object of the search doesn’t have to be a criminal. They could be lost or in danger.
Here’s a good example: George H. Westcott of Swansea, Massachusetts, became separated from his hunting party in the Greenville area on November 15, 1982.
Disoriented by heavy snowfall, he was lost for three weeks, and survived by breaking into camps and foraging for canned goods. Westcott developed frostbite in both feet, but otherwise he was in good condition when he flagged down a telephone worker on a logging road on Dec. 6.
Hundreds had looked for him for a week.
Emily A. Schroeder is staff genealogist at the Maine State Library.