Police capture fugitive who was on the run for 10 years

A man who was a fugitive from justice for a decade was captured Monday morning.

Steven W. Johnson, 51, was taken into custody on Mosher Road in Gorham after agents from the Maine Violent Offender Task Force saw him driving, said Noel March, U.S. marshal for Maine.

Johnson had been at large since he failed to report to serve a 10-year sentence for aggravated drug trafficking in Knox County. His conviction in 2001 followed a Maine Drug Enforcement Agency investigation into heroin dealing in the midcoast.

Johnson has an extensive criminal history that includes convictions for theft, assault, terrorizing, obstructing government administration and drug trafficking.

March publicized Johnson’s situation to the state’s law enforcement community this month as part of the “Fugitive of the Month” posting on his website.

“He never showed up for his sentencing and I think some of his family members put up their property for bail,” said Knox County Sheriff Donna Dennison. “I think it’s great they caught him. We’ve been trying to find him for a while.”

Johnson, who has relatives in the Rockland area, worked as a fisherman, Dennison said. Authorities said they do not know how Johnson eluded police for as long as he did.


New corrections chief ousts veteran agency official Lord

Denise Lord, the longtime associate commissioner of Maine’s Department of Corrections, is being replaced.

WGME-TV of Portland reported Monday that Lord was notified Friday by Joseph Ponte, the new corrections commissioner, that he was going to replace her with Jody Brenton, who has worked for the Corrections Department since 1996.

Ponte thanked Lord for her years of service but said he wanted a new team that would offer a fresh start. 

Wildlife agency chief adds three to his leadership team

Maine’s wildlife commissioner has appointed three people to leadership roles in his department.

Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Commissioner Chandler Woodcock has reappointed Col. Joel Wilkinson as head of the Maine Warden Service. Wilkinson was first named to the post in 2008. He was the department’s acting commissioner from January until Woodcock’s appointment this month.

Woodcock named Andrea Erskine as deputy commissioner. Erskine has worked in the department for more than 25 years.

Edie Smith was named director of the division of information and education. Smith owns a political and public relations consulting firm that, among other things, managed the campaign to defeat the anti-bear hunting referendum in 2004.


Diocese plans day of prayer to hasten sex abuse healing

The head of Maine’s Roman Catholic diocese has set aside a day of penance and prayer next week to help heal the wounds caused by incidents of sexual abuse by members of the clergy.

Bishop Richard Malone said a “day of atonement” will be held April 5, a week later than originally planned, because of the death of a priest.

During next week’s event, Malone will celebrate Mass at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Portland with a focus on penance and prayer.

The diocese said priests and parishioners are invited to participate, and that pastors and administrators throughout the diocese are being urged to open their churches for at least a few hours during the day for people to join in prayer and acts of penance. 

Eco-friendly couple named finalists in wedding contest

Known for their dedication to an eco-friendly lifestyle, Catherine “Cassi” Madison and Luke Fuller of Portland are one of three couples to be selected as finalists in the Clay Hill Farm Green Wedding Giveaway.

The winning couple will be determined by online voting. People can visit the contest’s website, view videos and essays from the finalists and then vote for their favorite. Voting ends Sunday.

Madison and Fuller have spent more than a year eating food grown or harvested in Maine. Neither owns a car. Fuller commutes to work in Scarborough on his bike, no matter the weather.

The other finalists are Jeff Court and Samantha Smith of Worcester, Mass., and Douglas Figueiredo and Amy Watson of White Plains, N.Y. The finalists were chosen by a panel of judges from a pool of more than 100 entries.

This is the third year that Clay Hill Farm in York has run the contest. The winners will receive a wedding for as many as 75 guests on July 10 at Clay Hill Farm, plus prizes including wedding photography, floral arrangements, jewelry and a honeymoon.


Councilor pulls out of race to replace Bliss in Senate

City Councilor Tom Blake is withdrawing his candidacy to fill the state Senate seat being vacated by Larry Bliss.

Blake announced last week that he would seek the Democratic nomination in Senate District 7, which covers parts of South Portland, Scarborough and Cape Elizabeth. Bliss, a Democrat in his second term, is resigning to take a job as an administrator in the California State University System. Bliss was laid off from the University of Southern Maine more than a year ago.

Blake urged his supporters to back the Democratic candidate who will be selected by the Cumberland County Democratic Committee at a caucus April 5.

Rob Schreiber, a Democrat and a former chairman of South Portland’s planning board, announced Monday that he is a candidate for the seat.

The special election will be held May 10.


Two accused of selling drugs after separate traffic stops

Traffic stops by Westbrook police led to the arrests of two people on drug trafficking charges.

Capt. Tom Roth said Ryan Gagne of Gorham was arrested around 6:30 p.m. Sunday after being pulled over on Main Street. Police say they found more than a pound of marijuana and $3,800 cash in the vehicle.

A short time later, police arrested Brady Plowman of Westbrook after he was questioned by police in the parking lot of the Westbrook Crossing shopping plaza.

Both men were charged with trafficking in scheduled drugs.


Shoeless intruder chased by homeowner, caught by police

A Saco man was charged with robbery after a resident came home and found a burglary in progress.

The homeowner in the area of Hill and Maple streets found a running truck in his driveway Friday afternoon, police said. They said the homeowner then discovered Chad Thebarge, 28, inside before chasing him unsuccessfully.

Police found Thebarge on a nearby street. His appearance matched the suspect’s description, which included being shoeless. Police said the homeowner had chased him out of his shoes.

Thebarge was charged with one count of robbery. He is scheduled to appear in York County Superior Court on May 5.


Harp seal stranded in marsh removed for rehabilitation

Marine wildlife experts hope that an underweight, possibly sick harp seal that was found in a marsh can be cured and released back into the ocean.

The 200-pound, 5-foot-long seal was noticed Friday in a marsh behind the Little Harbor School in Portsmouth.

On Saturday, a New England Aquarium Marine Mammal Rescue crew took the seal to the University of New England in Biddeford, where it will undergo rehabilitation.

Tony LaCasse of the New England Aquarium told the Portsmouth Herald that the seal was 50 to 100 pounds underweight.

Officials said that if anyone sees a seal out of water for an extended time they should call the aquarium’s marine animal center in Boston.


House destroyed, but family unhurt after fire breaks out

A fast-moving fire sent a family of four fleeing from their home Sunday evening.

Richmond Fire Chief Andrew Pierce said Chad Clark, his wife, Laurisa Loon, and their two young children were at home when the fire broke out in a nearby garage and then spread to the family’s two-story house. No injuries were reported, but the house was “a total loss,” Pierce said.

Firefighters were called to the fire at 7 Post Road around 10:30 p.m. “We arrived and the garage was fully involved and a quarter of the (house was in flames),” Pierce said.

Firefighters scrambled to save the Richmond Corner Baptist Church, which is about 25 feet from the house. They worked until about 2:30 a.m. Monday, when the last crew left the scene.

Pierce said the fire started in a garage about 5 feet from the house. An investigator with the state Fire Marshal’s Office was at the home Monday morning, trying to determine how the fire started. “There’s nothing suspicious,” Pierce said.


Smoke detected in elevator at nuclear power plant

Smoke in an elevator prompted the Seabrook nuclear power plant in New Hampshire to declare “an unusual event,” but officials say no one was hurt and the incident did not affect plant safety.

Spokesman David Barr says no one was in the elevator when someone noticed smoke coming from a transformer just before noon Monday. The plant’s firefighters quickly disconnected the power to the elevator.

Because the incident lasted more than 15 minutes, the plant was required to declare the unusual event, the lowest level emergency.

Seabrook Station, owned by NextEra Energy, has been operating since 1990. Its existing license runs out in 2030, but it applied in June to extend its license to 2050.


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