Buxton Police have asked the Maine State Police for help finding those responsible for the vicious assault and robbery of a 61-year-old woman, after charges against the three people initially arrested for the crimes were dropped this week.

Buxton Chief Michael Grovo said it appears that officers arrested the wrong people in the April 11 assault, but police had moved quickly to make arrests because an informant who identified the three suspects said they might return to the victim’s home and harm her.

Charges of robbery, aggravated assault and burglary have since been dropped against Michael Crockett Jr., 30, of Buxton, Stacey Day, 35, of Buxton, and Gregory Hoar, 29, of Gorham, after police determined that the informant had provided incorrect information. The informant offered his account to police after he was arrested on unrelated charges in May.

Grovo said police now believe there is no imminent threat to the victim and they are trying to identify the correct suspects.

“It just eats me up because we arrested three people that now we’re getting evidence that leads away from them,” Grovo said. “As a police officer, with my training … I felt I did the right thing. As a human being, it bothers me this happened to those three people.”

Grovo said he met with Assistant District Attorney John Connelly and they decided to dismiss the charges based on new information in the investigation.

The victim, Deborah Nielsen of Callahan Road in Buxton, said she is still fearful, but she has faith in the police department.

“They can’t take the fear away and all of that. I’m still pretty uncomfortable, still flinch at every noise,” she said. “We’re working hard to get past it. I’m still going to live my life.”

An attorney for one of the three initial suspects said the department failed to check any of the suspects’ alibis.

“I’m very jaded. … (Calling it a) ‘reckless investigation’ is being very kind,” said Amy Fairfield, who represents Crockett. She said Crockett lost his job and was not permitted to see his child after his arrest. Death threats were made against him and his family and one man pulled a gun on him, she said.

Fairfield said she is exploring whether to file a civil lawsuit against the department on behalf of Crockett.

Nielsen said she was attacked by two men and a woman, but that she didn’t get a good look at them because of the suddenness of the attack and her poor eyesight, and she couldn’t describe them.

Nielsen interrupted the burglary at her home and was hit in the head with a belt-sander, a kind of power tool, dazing her, according to court documents provided by Fairfield. Nielsen’s hands and ankles were tied with plastic ties and duct tape, and the attackers threatened her and her family if she didn’t hand over money. She gave the robbers $5,000.

Police arrested Hoar and Day on May 15. Crockett’s arrest on May 18 received substantial media attention. He was hiding out in woods, covered with ticks, and refused to surrender until he was given a Mountain Dew, chocolate milk and pizza.

The arrests were based on information provided by Shaun Webster, according to an affidavit prepared by Officer Andrew Ward to persuade a judge to sign the arrest warrants.

Police believed Webster’s account because he knew details that hadn’t been released publicly. He knew that $5,000 had been taken and that Nielsen was assaulted with a belt sander, the affidavit said. Webster told police that Crockett and Hoar carried a box of stolen fireworks and money to 60 Old Thompson Road, which is initial suspect Stacey Day’s address.

That was backed up by other evidence. A police dog had followed a track from the crime scene to 60 Old Thompson Road, Ward wrote.

Webster told police that the three suspects were planning to attack Nielsen again because they were worried she might identify them, and that they might use a rifle owned by Hoard. Webster said that at one point he joined the suspects to stake out the house from the woods, but they did not attack Nielsen because her husband was home.

Nielsen had offered a $500 reward for information leading to the capture of the suspects, but Webster did not claim it. His arrest was on a criminal threatening charge. He allegedly threatened people at 60 Old Thompson Road – Day’s address – with a knife, although she was not listed as a victim.

It’s not clear if Webster’s allegations about the three suspects were related to his arrest. He told police he is friends with Hoar, Crockett and Day and that Day told him the details of the crime. He said he was concerned for the victim’s safety. However, another police report indicates that Webster and Day had a long-running feud.

The State Bureau of Identification shows minor criminal records for Hoar – a 2010 conviction for theft; and Day – a 1997 conviction for criminal trespass. The only charge listed for Crockett is violating conditions of release.

Webster’s record includes a 2012 conviction for burglary to a motor vehicle, a 2008 conviction for burglary, and charges of criminal threatening and assault in March, which have not been resolved.

Fairfield said she believed right away that Crockett was innocent. He had made strides getting his life cleaned up and had been given a job two weeks earlier that was going well.

“There’s nothing more difficult than having an innocent client,” she said. “It keeps you up at night – somebody charged with a Class A offense and it doesn’t get any more serious than that. We’re talking people’s lives, and you just can’t unring that bell,” she said of the negative publicity.

There is also a crime victim, and her attackers remain at large, she said.

Fairfield hired private investigator Kevin Cady to check out Crockett’s alibi.

Cady found several people who confirmed Crockett was in Portland the night the crime was committed, initially at a Narcotics Anonymous meeting and later socializing at a pool hall, Cady said in an affidavit.

Cady also found several people who vouched for where Day was at the time of the attack, and at 9:24 p.m. that night she placed an order from her computer for barbecue wings and a bottle of cola that were delivered to her house. Hoar’s mother said he was home the night of the attack, Cady’s report said.

It didn’t appear police had thoroughly checked any of the alibis, Cady said.

“For me it was extremely easy to just follow up on basics and I hit home runs everywhere I went,” he said.

Grovo said the three suspects all exercised their Miranda rights and refused to answer questions, so there was no way for police to check their alibis.

That’s not what Cady, a former Portland police detective, said in his report. Day said she explained where she was that night to the officers who arrested her, but they did not listen. The police dog had tracked the suspects’ scent to the building where she lives on Old Thompson Road, but there are multiple buildings on the property and several people living there, Fairfield said.

Cady said he also interviewed Nielsen, who he said described the attackers as younger than the three suspects. Nielsen says she told police she didn’t see the suspects but had a “feeling” they were younger.

The case started to weaken even before Cady checked out the alibis. Fairfield said police executed three search warrants based on the information they received about her client and the other defendants, but found nothing.

The state police have been asked to assist in the investigation. Lt. Brian McDonough, head of the major crimes division for southern Maine, said he and investigators will meet with Buxton police and the York County District Attorney’s Office to review the case.

Nielsen, too, is optimistic that the people responsible will be caught, and said she’s not bitter about the attack.

“I would obviously like to see it resolved. … I realize these things aren’t solved in 30 minutes like on TV,” Nielsen said. She said Buxton police have been very supportive, and she praised Grovo for parking at the end of her driveway each night until she felt safe.

“I don’t think they bumbled. I think they’re doing the best they can,” she said.

“I hope the people who did this are able to get some sort of help. If it’s drugs, maybe some drug rehabilitation program, something to help them live life in a better way,” she said. “I’m sure everybody has something salvageable in them.”

David Hench can be contacted at 791-6327 or at:

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Twitter: @Mainehenchman