BRIDGEWATER — Maine State Police arrested an Easton man early Thursday morning in connection with the death of a 79-year-old man found dead in his Bridgewater home the night before.
Police charged James Peaslee, 37, with murder in the death of Paul Hilenski, according to Maine Department of Public Safety spokesman Stephen McCausland.
As news of the killing spread throughout the day on Thursday, residents of this tiny community of about 600 said they were shocked by the death of their neighbor.
“Paul was my friend for 15 years ever since my wife and I moved here from Rhode Island,” said Christian Rotter, who lives just down the road from the victim’s home on Boundary Line Road.
“I was sad when I found out. This never should’ve happened,” he said as he stood by the side of the road near the victim’s home, after walking up as close as police would allow.
The incident unfolded Wednesday when the Aroostook County Sheriff’s Office received a 911 call about 6 p.m. from Hilenski’s Boundary Line Road home, McCausland said.
When Aroostook deputies and state police arrived at his home, they found Hilenski dead inside, according to McCausland. No information was provided concerning the cause of death.
McCausland reported Thursday morning that Peaslee was arrested about 1 a.m. Thursday as he was driving on the West Ridge Road in Easton.
Peaslee was taken to the Aroostook County Jail in Houlton and his vehicle was secured at the state police barracks in Houlton.
McCausland said investigators were to conduct a search at Hilenski’s and Peaslee’s residences Thursday.
He said the state medical examiner’s office in Augusta would perform an autopsy.
Peaslee has a lengthy criminal record in Maine dating back to an assault in 1998 for which he was convicted and sentenced to serve his first 5 days in jail, according to the state’s Bureau of Identification. Since then over the last two decades, he has served several months in jail for a variety of offenses.
Specifics about the incidents are not included in the 35-page criminal record provided by the bureau, but it shows that Peaslee has been convicted of multiple crimes in the last two decades, including criminal threatening with a dangerous weapon, assault, terrorizing, unlawful trafficking in scheduled drugs, refusing to submit to arrest, violating bail conditions, and violating conditions of probation.
Most of the crimes appear to have occured in Aroostook County.
He last was incarcerated at the Maine State Prison in Warren in July 2014, according to the documents, but it is unclear when he was released.
The Aroostook County Sheriff’s Office last charged Peaslee with assault for an incident on Oct. 27, 2017, the documents said. No further information is provided about that case.
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