Dispatches

WARRENDeath of inmate, 53, at state prison not suspicious, state police say

The Maine Department of Corrections is investigating the death of an inmate at the state prison in Warren.

Stephen Ray Gravel, 53, died at about 5:45 a.m. Tuesday, the department said.

The Maine State Police and the state Medical Examiner’s Office are reviewing the death, as they do in all deaths of people in state custody.

“There’s no indication at this time of anything suspicious in connection with death,” said state police spokesman Steve McCausland. Gravel was found Tuesday morning in his cell.

Gravel had served about five years of a 16-year sentence for gross sexual assault.

YARMOUTHWoodbury won’t seek re-election; Woods to vie for his Senate seat

Independent state Sen. Richard Woodbury of Yarmouth said Tuesday night that he has decided not to run for re-election.

Woodbury is in his second term in the Senate, and served previously for three terms in the House.

Earlier Tuesday, Yarmouth Town Council Chairman Steve Woods, a Democrat, announced his candidacy for Woodbury’s Senate seat.

Woods dropped out of the 2014 race for governor in August, and endorsed fellow Democrat Mike Michaud. In 2012, he ran for the U.S. Senate as an independent.

Woods has served on the Town Council for four years. He is also chief executive officer of TideSmart Global in Falmouth.

AUGUSTAPrivate money in 2014 elections will double 2010 total, group says

A Maine organization that advocates for increased public funding for elections is predicting that $26.6 million in private money will be pumped into state gubernatorial and legislative campaigns this year.

Maine Citizens for Clean Elections says it anticipates that the amount of private money in this year’s elections will be more than double that of 2010. The amount includes both private funds raised by candidates and money raised by outside groups such as political action committees.

The group made its announcement Tuesday, the fourth anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling that opened the way for unlimited independent financing of political advertising campaigns.

Andrew Bossie, the group’s executive director, says Maine must strengthen the state’s Clean Election Act and increase transparency in campaign spending.

YARMOUTHRobbery of Route 1 store similar to robberies in Portland, police say

Police in Yarmouth are investigating a robbery at Cumberland Farms on Route 1 at 1:20 a.m. Tuesday that shares similarities with recent robberies in Portland.

Police say a man approached the counter and asked for two packs of cigarettes, then passed a note demanding money from the register. The clerk refused and the man left without any money.

Police used a dog to try to track the suspect but eventually the track was lost, police said.

Nobody was injured in the holdup.

The suspect is described as a light-skinned black male, slim build, 5-feet 8-inches to 5-feet 10-inches tall, 20 to 22 years old. He was wearing a dark blue hoodie with a white logo on the back and left sleeve, dark colored pants and a baseball cap.

Police are trying to determine whether the robbery is related to two CVS robberies that have occurred in Portland this month.

One occurred at 7 p.m. Friday night at the CVS in the Forest Avenue Plaza at 449 Forest Ave., police said. The earlier robbery took place at 6:50 p.m. Jan. 12 at the CVS in the Westgate Shopping Center on Congress Street.

The robber of the CVS on Forest Avenue was described as a black man in his 30s or 40s, about 6 feet tall. He was wearing a black and white flannel shirt over a dark hooded sweatshirt, blue jeans and tan boots.

A surveillance photo of the robber at the Congress Street CVS shows a thin, light-skinned black man with a green baseball cap.

In both the Portland robberies the man presented a note to the clerk and demanded money. He fled on foot after receiving an undisclosed amount of cash.

ALNAFirewood demand high, supply low as severe cold weather returns

The return of frigid weather to Maine this week could put additional strain on people who heat their homes with firewood.

Firewood dealers say many woodpiles may be running low because the cold weather in December and early January caused people to burn more than usual. Some dealers are scrambling to get customers re-supplied.

At Black Fly Firewood in Alna, owners told WLBZ-TV that demand is so heavy they have a six- to eight-week order backlog.

Co-owner Louis Brown says he heard of one person cutting down dead trees in the woods to keep a home warm.

The price for kiln-dried wood runs $325 per cord, compared to $280 for seasoned. The staff at Black Fly say even with the higher price, kiln-dried wood is still cheaper than heating oil.

— From staff and news services