State Police will hold news conference on missing toddler

The Maine State Police have called a news conference to provide an update on the five-month investigation into the disappearance of toddler Ayla Reynolds from her father’s home in Waterville.

Steve McCausland, spokesman for the Maine Department of Public Safety, announced that the briefing will be held today in Waterville. He declined to discuss details.

Ayla was 20 months old when she was reported missing on Dec. 17 from the home of her father, Justin DiPietro, in Waterville. The disappearance prompted a massive search by law enforcement officials.

State police confirmed that Ayla’s blood was found in the home, and said that the three adults in the house on the night Ayla disappeared know more than they are telling police. There have been no arrests.


Scarborough man sentenced in theft from American Legion

A Scarborough man was sentenced Tuesday to six months in jail and ordered to pay back $50,000 he stole from the American Legion in York, money he used to fund two failed Old Port bars.

Ryan J. Byther, 36, convinced the American Legion Post 56 leadership in 2008 that he was an experienced fundraiser and could lead their $2 million fundraising campaign, according to a statement from Attorney General William Schneider.

But Byther, who had been working as a contractor on a new building project for the veterans service organization, had no fundraising experience in Maine. He spent the $50,000 retainer given to him by the American Legion on other businesses, the Prost Tap House and Club Onyx, which he had opened in Portland’s Old Port in June of 2008, and which closed several months later.

A jury convicted Byther after a two-day trial in February.

A York County Superior Court justice sentenced Byther to five years in prison, with all but six months suspended and three years probation.

“Stealing from this kind of community based organization really takes away from Maine families and neighborhoods,” Schneider said.


Lawmakers to take up four vetoed bills before closing

Maine lawmakers will take up four vetoed bills when they return to the State House today to formally close the 2011-12 legislative session.

The House and Senate will decide whether to override or let stand Gov. Paul LePage’s veto of a $20 million bond for research and development projects. While the governor turned that borrowing proposal down, he allowed four others totaling about $80 million to go to voters.

LePage also vetoed a bill to limit the borrowing power of the Maine Governmental Facilities Authority, an agency that has long been the target of GOP criticism because of its ability to borrow without voters’ approval. The bill initially would have eliminated that power, but it was amended so court bonds would not have to go to voters, which the governor objected to.

The other vetoed bills would provide additional training for the state’s teachers, and allow fraternal and veterans’ organizations to operate as many as five slot machines each.

LePage vetoed the bill to provide additional training to teachers, not because he doesn’t agree with the concept, but because he said the bill doesn’t go far enough.

The bill would increase stipends for teachers who achieve National Board Certification and provide scholarships for teachers undertaking the costly and time-consuming process.

LePage called the bill a “Band-Aid” approach and said Maine needs “a larger more coordinated statewide solution.”

LePage to host summer series of job-creation workshops

Gov. Paul LePage will host a series of job creation workshops this summer to let business leaders share their ideas on how to create jobs and improve Maine’s economy.

The free workshops will focus on specific industries. They will start with a session June 13 in Brunswick that will focus on the fishing, marine resources and coastal tourism industries.

Future workshops will cover tourism, forestry, farming, information technology and manufacturing. Their dates and locations have not yet been determined.

The governor says he will be joined by department commissioners and senior leadership from his office to hear suggestions on how to improve the business climate in Maine.

LePage held a similar series of three workshops last fall.

Man charged in baseball bat assault during confrontation

An Augusta man is facing felony charges after allegedly hitting a man with a baseball bat during a confrontation. Joseph McInnis, 25, is charged with aggravated assault and criminal threatening, police said. He has been released from the Kennebec County jail on $2,000 cash bail.

Police Sgt. Christopher Shaw said Matthew Swift of Augusta suffered multiple injuries to his head and torso. Swift was taken to MaineGeneral Medical Center in Augusta with injuries that were not believed to be life-threatening.

Shaw said McInnis recently broke up with his girlfriend, though the two continued to keep contact by telephone until Saturday around 4 p.m., when McInnis saw the woman at Swift’s home on Glenridge Drive.

Swift and the woman left Swift’s home in a car and McInnis followed, Shaw said. McInnis continued to follow the car onto Stone Street, where both cars stopped at a traffic light. McInnis got out of his car with an aluminum baseball bat, went to the passenger’s side of Swift’s car and began threatening his ex-girlfriend with the bat, Shaw said.

Swift got out of the driver’s seat in an attempt to calm the situation, Shaw said, and McInnis then turned on Swift.

“He hit him with the bat multiple times,” Shaw said. Swift was conscious and walking when police and rescue arrived.


Prisoner pleads not guilty in death of another inmate

A man serving a 45-year prison sentence for killing a woman in 1999 has pleaded not guilty to charges connected to the death of another inmate.

Franklin Higgins entered not guilty pleas on Tuesday in Knox County Superior Court to two counts of aggravated attempted murder.

Lloyd Millett, 51, another inmate at the Maine State Prison, died in June 2011, two weeks after he was beaten.

According to court papers, Higgins, 45, hit Millett on the head with a pipe clamp. Higgins was originally charged with murder, but prosecutors changed the charges because an autopsy showed there may have been other factors contributing to Millett’s death. Millett was in prison for killing two women in 1995.


Man sentenced for having three sawed-off shotguns

A Franklin County man has been sentenced to nearly three and a half years in federal prison for having three sawed-off shotguns that authorities said were not registered to him.

Federal prosecutors say Joseph Smith, 66, of Township 6 was also sentenced on Tuesday in federal court in Bangor to three years of probation. He had pleaded guilty in December.

According to court records, three shotguns with barrel lengths of less than 18 inches were discovered at Smith’s camp in September 2010 during a search. The weapons were not registered to Smith in the National Firearms Registration and Transfer Record.

The investigation was conducted jointly by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and the Maine Drug Enforcement Agency.


Island Trail group adds three islands to waterway trail

The Maine Island Trail Association has reached a milestone.

The association says it has added three islands to its coastal waterway trail, giving it 200 places that are now included in its “water trail” linking uninhabited islands and mainland sites on a 375-mile ocean trail from the New Hampshire border to Canada.

Formed in 1988, the Maine Island Trail Association oversees the trail of ocean properties, entering into agreements with island owners to allow recreational access to their islands in exchange for volunteer stewardship services.

Executive Director Doug Welch says hitting the 200-site mark is testament to the effectiveness of the trail’s volunteers and the generosity of coastal property owners.

Construction delays seen for Forest Avenue at Saunders

A stretch of one of Forest Avenue’s inbound lanes will be closed Friday while a new pedestrian ramp is installed at the intersection of Forest and Saunders Street.

One of the inbound lanes between Pleasant Avenue and Saunders Street will be closed from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Commuters should to seek alternate routes to avoid delays.