Three inmates from the Long Creek Youth Development Center were captured Friday after escaping during a camping trip near Carrabassett Valley in Franklin County, driving a stolen SUV back to South Portland and crashing it after a brief police chase, authorities said.

The young men were taken into custody in South Portland around 10:30 a.m., according to Department of Public Safety spokesman Stephen McCausland.

McCausland said Maine State Police troopers spotted the Nissan Xterra traveling south on the Maine Turnpike in Falmouth and followed it to the Maine Mall exit. Shortly after the sport utility vehicle went through the tolls, troopers tried to stop it, but the driver took off.

McCausland said the pursuing officer used a driving maneuver to spin the SUV out and stop it. The damaged vehicle came to rest on a snowbank near the park-and-ride lot.

Troopers took into custody Jesse James Ramsdell, 19, of Acton, who was behind the wheel of the SUV. Also arrested were the two passengers, Christopher Harmon of Sanford and Jonathan Vasselian of Sumner, both 18.

Carrabassett Valley Police Chief Mark Lopez said the youths took off on foot during the camping retreat at the Stratton Brook Hut, part of the Maine Huts and Trails system, about 7 a.m. Friday.

Further charges from the Carrabassett Valley police are expected.

Left to right: Christopher Harmon, Jesse Ramsdell, Jonathan Vasselian Photos courtesy of the Cumberland County Sheriff's Office

The young men allegedly stole the SUV and were in possession of stolen cash, wine, an electronic tablet, an ax and a box cutter when captured.

The three were part of a group of six inmates and two supervisors. Lopez said they reportedly are serving time for crimes ranging from gross sexual assault to reckless conduct.

Lopez and Franklin County Sheriff Scott Nichols expressed concern that local law enforcement agencies were not notified that the young convicts from the South Portland correctional facility would be camping in their area.

“It’s disappointing for the Carrabassett Police Department to find out after the fact that we had inmates from Long Creek correctional facility in our jurisdiction and no one knew until they had committed several crimes and fled the area,” Lopez said. “It couldn’t actually (have) prevented it, but it would have been nice to know, for any purposes, that we have these people in our jurisdiction.”

Nichols said his department was also not notified of the arrival of the Long Creek inmates.

“I wasn’t even aware that this went on in our area,” he said.

“In the future, it would be professional courtesy to at least notify us where they are located, just in case a corrections staff member needed assistance.”

Long Creek serves as a rehabilitation correctional center for youths convicted of crimes.

A Long Creek spokesman did not respond to requests for comment Friday. A woman who answered the phone in Long Creek Superintendent Jeff Merrill’s office referred questions to the office of Joseph Fitzpatrick, commissioner of the Maine Department of Corrections. A message left at his office was not returned.

Doug Harlow can be contacted at 612-2367 or at:

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Matt Byrne can be contacted at 791-6303 or at:

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