The handcuffed man who escaped from a locked Maine State Police cruiser Tuesday afternoon has a criminal history that includes serving time for helping to burn down Fryeburg Academy’s gymnasium.

Maxx Noble, 27, of Otisfield, had been arrested and was in handcuffs in a locked Maine State Police cruiser when he was able to escape while troopers were inside a home in Otisfield.

Troopers went to the home looking for Noble, who was facing several felony drug charges stemming from an investigation by state police and the Maine Drug Enforcement Agency. The troopers arrested Noble and placed him in a cruiser, but Noble was able to unbuckle his seat belt and unlock the cruiser door before fleeing into the woods.

Police suspect he was still bound by handcuffs and remained at large on Wednesday.

Noble was convicted in 2006 of conspiracy to burn down the Fryeburg Academy gymnasium. Noble, 18 at the time, and Philip P. Thibault broke into a building and stole a can of motor oil, then broke into the Harvey Dow Gibson Recreation Center on the Fryeburg Academy campus. In addition to a basketball court, the building housed a theater, stage, locker rooms and offices.

The men used the oil to start a fire on the stage and left with office supplies and sports equipment, including bows and arrows, prosecutors said. Both were former students at the school. Noble was sentenced to four years and nine months in federal prison.

The fire destroyed a building valued at $1.7 million, but replacing it cost $10 million.

On Tuesday, state police – aided by tracking dogs as well as local and county authorities – searched the area where Noble escaped but without success and called on the public to help them find the man.

Stephen McCausland, spokesman for the Maine Department of Public Safety, urged the public to avoid contact with Noble, whom he described as “desperate.”

McCausland said Noble is most likely still in handcuffs and was last seen wearing a blue jacket, a hooded sweatshirt with gray sweatpants and white socks. His shoes were removed after Troopers Adam Fillebrown and Jason Wing arrested him at a home on Ahonen Road in Otisfield. He has multiple tattoos on his face, neck and arms.

State police, police canines, members of the Oxford County Sheriff’s Office and Oxford police spent four hours searching the woods for Noble.

Anyone with information on his whereabouts is urged to contact state police at 657-3030.