AUGUSTA, Maine — Arnold Nash was in a unfenced facility with just 14 months left on his murder sentence when he escaped by literally walking off prison grounds.
That’s what Maine Department of Corrections Commissioner Joseph Fitzpatrick said Monday during a public appeal for help finding the now three-time prison escapee, who also walked away from a minimum-security facility in 1981.
The 65-year-old Nash was finishing a sentence reduced from 45 to 27 years for beating to death and robbing a disabled neighbor in Sullivan in 1991. He is considered dangerous. If seen, he should not be approached, Fitzpatrick said.
Fitzpatrick offered assurances that law enforcement was doing everything it could to apprehend Nash, who was last seen Thursday at Mountain View Correctional Facility in Charleston.
As of Monday afternoon, they expanded the search and continue to follow up leads and tips. Investigators believe he is in the Charleston area but are investigating tips from beyond it.
Fitzpatrick defended corrections officials’ decision to place Nash at Mountain View and Downeast Correctional Facility of Machiasport, both minimum-security facilities. Research shows that having offenders serve their last years at stepped-down facilities is safer than keeping them in stricter confinement, Fitzpatrick said.
“Mr. Nash was being treated as any other individual would have been treated. If you look at the crime, I think it was horrific,” Fitzpatrick said Monday. “At the same time, part of the mission of the department of corrections is to — to the best of our ability — mitigate the risks before we return people to the community.”
Originally sentenced to 45 years in 1992 for the murder in Sullivan, Nash had developed a prison record good enough to reduce his sentence and get himself into Downeast a year ago.
He spent six months at Downeast and was moved to Mountain View in February, Fitzpatrick said.
“He had really established himself at both places and not shown any signs, certainly of escape,” Fitzpatrick said. “When you look at Mr. Nash over the significant period of time — many, many years that he did with the department of corrections — he only had two disciplinary infractions, and they were quite minor.”
“He had shown no signs of violence, no signs of aggression,” Fitzpatrick added.
In Nash’s 1981 walk-off, he escaped from the Maine State Prison, where he was serving time for burglary. He and another inmate — a convicted murderer — left a farm work detail in mid-July of that year. They were captured weeks later, after one of Maine’s longest manhunts.
Exactly why Nash escaped with only 14 months to go before his release is a mystery. Nash has spent more than half his life behind bars, Fitzpatrick said, so his escape might have been counterintuitive ― an effort to add time to his sentence because he fears being released.
“That’s some of what we are looking at, whether there was an indication there that on some level, Mr. Nash was not, in fact, looking to get out,” Fitzpatrick said, “that he had some trepidation.”
If that is true, and Nash is caught, then he will get his wish, Fitzpatrick said — several years of further confinement.
Anyone who sees Nash or has knowledge of his location is asked to call Maine State Police (207-973-3700) or Maine Department of Corrections (207-285-0880) with any information that may assist in the effort to capture him.
BDN writer Judy Harrison contributed to this report.
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