OLD ORCHARD BEACH – The couple who told police that a Saco man tried to grab their 3-year-old son maintain that the incident happened, but not on the day they reported it.

Meanwhile, Eric Auger says he spent three weeks in jail based on a false report that prompted death threats against him and terrified his mother, with whom he lives.

“One day would have been too long,” he said Tuesday of his stay in the York County Jail. “They were calling me a child rapist, every name in the book, telling me to kill myself.

“I think those people should be thrown in jail for three weeks at least, maybe more,” he said of his accusers.

Police announced Monday that the charge against Auger has been dismissed, and that they are considering charging the couple with filing a false report.

Shelly Prescott said that police statement and the dismissal of the charge make her look like a liar. “He did grab the child. We’re not liars. There’s plenty of witnesses,” she said Tuesday.

She said that when she and her husband gave their statement to officers on June 22, they consolidated their encounters with Auger over a few days into a single incident report. The officers encouraged them to do that to make the charge stick, she said.

Auger did grab her son in front of the Pine Grove Cabins and start walking away before her husband chased him off, she said — “a day or two” before they made their report.

In a second incident, she said, Auger took her son’s hand and started walking away.

Prescott said she and her husband, Clyde, agreed to drop the charge because they were told that Auger could get treatment.

They were staying in the Pine Grove Cabins while they renovated their home in Saco, said Prescott, who grew up in Maine but lived recently in Texas.

York County District Attorney Mark Lawrence said he decided, in consultation with investigators in Old Orchard Beach, to clear Auger of the charge of criminal restraint, a felony that could lead to prison time.

It was dismissed without prejudice, meaning it could be brought again if there is new information. Lawrence would not elaborate on the dismissal, citing the ongoing investigation.

Deputy Police Chief Keith Babin said his officers were right in arresting Auger, and followed up with thorough police work that led to the dismissal.

“I don’t think we jumped the gun at all” in arresting Auger, he said. “With the information we had, we had the probable cause (to make an arrest) and the officers acted appropriately.”

Babin said a witness who had not been interviewed came forward after Auger’s arrest, and the follow-up interviews led to the new conclusion.

Babin could not be reached late Tuesday to say whether investigators encouraged Prescott to consolidate the incidents into a single report. Prescott said she has retained a lawyer.

Auger’s lawyer said he is exploring a civil case but has not determined who would be the target of a lawsuit.

“He has maintained his innocence from the beginning,” said Bernard Broder. “If the police had not continued to investigate and uncover additional and differing witness accounts, then we wouldn’t be where we are today.”

The incident has had a profound impact on Auger, he said.

“Once you’ve had media divulge your street address or show footage of it, it’s very hard to get your life back,” he said, “not only for the defendant but their family.”

After Auger’s arraignment on June 23, police said he had tried to snatch a 3-year-old boy and was carrying him away when the father intervened. Police arrested Auger later because he matched the description given by the parents. Auger denied trying to take the child and said he didn’t know why the man had confronted him.

Auger has a history of making people uncomfortable. He is 6 feet tall and almost 200 pounds, and suffers from a bipolar disorder that leads him to shout obscenities and argue with himself, sometimes loudly.

The operator of a day care center near Auger’s home, on Norman Street in Saco, got a protection-from-harassment order against him last fall after he repeatedly rode his bicycle past the front yard where the children play, spitting and swearing. He also stood for extended periods on the sidewalk, watching the children.

Auger’s mother told police that her son does not take his medicine, according to a police statement that accompanies the protection order.

However disquieting, the behavior is seldom illegal, said Saco Police Chief Brad Paul.

“From a police perspective, it’s difficult to address because there’s no clear violation of law,” he said of many of the complaints about Auger.

Police have told Auger to stay away from a half-dozen places in town, the police chief said.

Authorities can involuntarily commit someone only if they pose an imminent threat of harm to themselves or others. “That’s clearly not the case with Eric Auger,” Paul said.

Dawn Major, who is staying at the Pine Grove Cabins, said she has lived in the area for years and has had many run-ins with Auger. “The guy is scary, but I’ve never known him to grab anyone,” she said. “He is getting scarier and scarier.”

Major warned Prescott and her husband about Auger, saying they should keep an eye on their son. She said Auger would stand on the sidewalk near where the boy played in front of Prescott’s cabin, and watch him.

Prescott said she has heard many stories about Auger and is convinced that he should not have been released.

“This had been going on for two weeks; he had been watching our son,” she said. “It’s not against the law to protect your children.”

 

Staff Writer David Hench can be contacted at 791-6327 or at: [email protected]