A Saco couple was arrested Tuesday at a campground in Dixfield and charged with fabricating a story about a mentally ill man snatching their child — an accusation that sent the man to jail for three weeks.

Warrants had been issued for Clyde Huff, 36, and Shelly Prescott, 31, after police concluded the couple lied about the man grabbing their 3-year-old son and walking away with him June 22.

The couple had claimed that Eric Auger, 37, of Saco — a man who has bipolar disorder and often talks to himself — picked up their son from the lawn in front of an Old Orchard Beach cabin where the couple were staying.

Based on that report, police charged Auger with criminal restraint, and he was taken to York County Jail for three weeks in lieu of $500 bail.

But a week after the alleged incident, a witness who had seen press reports about it told police it didn’t happen. The witness, who police did not identify, told investigators that the boy had shaken Auger’s hand, but the man did not grab the child.

“We just appreciate there are people out there willing to step forward and make sure that the right people get charged in cases like this,” said Old Orchard Beach Deputy Police Chief Keith Babin.

Detective Brady Coulombe said the new information led investigators to interview Huff again earlier this month.

“He admitted to me (that) Auger never picked up the boy. He said he saw the boy next to Auger,” Coulombe said. “One of the witnesses said they saw the boy walk up to (Auger) and shake his hand.

“He later said he was being overprotective and overreacted,” Coulombe said of Huff.

After Auger was freed, Prescott told The Portland Press Herald that Auger had grabbed the child, but it had been a couple of days earlier. However, that contradicted her husband’s statements, police said.

Huff is from Texas, and the couple had been living there, police said, although they most recently were living with relatives in Saco. Police learned recently that the couple was at the campground in Dixfield.

They are charged with filing a false report and unsworn falsification, both of which are related to making a false police report. The misdemeanors are punishable by up to one year in jail.

Huff and Prescott also are charged with violating bail conditions from a previous arrest.

Huff had pleaded guilty to a domestic assault in September and received a deferred disposition, which requires that he not engage in any new criminal conduct. Prescott was charged with assault in February, and was charged in April with failure to appear in court, police said.

The warrants issued for the couple set their bail at $200 each, and they were able to make bail after their arrest in Dixfield, said Oxford County authorities. Dixfield is about 80 miles north of Old Orchard Beach.

Auger could not be reached for comment. He had said earlier that he thought the people whose false reports put him in jail should spend longer in jail than he did.

The most pervasive and lasting stigma for people with mental illness is that they are violent or dangerous, said Carol Carothers, executive director of NAMI Maine, which advocates for people with mental illness and their families.

 

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