Pharmacy robbery suspect faces charges in earlier thefts

A Saco man arrested Sunday minutes after a robbery at Community Pharmacy at 365 Main St. faces charges connected to two earlier robberies at the same pharmacy.

John Vernon Jr., 28, was seen on Route 202 driving a maroon Chevrolet Malibu, a car that matched what a witness described as the getaway vehicle after the 8:30 a.m. pharmacy robbery, police said.

Police tried to pull over the car but it sped off, eventually going off the road and down an embankment, police said. Vernon ran and was found hiding in a truck in the nearby LKQ Auto Parts salvage yard.

Vernon was charged with robbery, eluding an officer, driving with a suspended license, theft and criminal speed, police said.

He also was charged with two other counts of robbery stemming from robberies on April 16 and May 10 at the same pharmacy.

The additional charges were brought based on interviewing the suspect and a search of his car, said Detective Sgt. David Thompson.

Police believe Vernon acted alone and the robberies he is charged in are unrelated to the Rite-Aid pharmacy robbery last week.


Hearing today on MERC is moved to City Theater

A City Council public hearing on a plan for Biddeford to buy the Maine Energy Recovery Co. plant has been moved to a larger location.

The hearing will begin at 7 p.m. today in the City Theater, adjacent to City Hall on Main Street. It was moved from council chambers in anticipation of a large turnout.

City officials scheduled the hearing to receive feedback on a plan announced last week to buy the trash-to-energy plant, which has been controversial since it opened 25 years ago.

Under an agreement between Biddeford and Casella Waste Systems, the owner of the MERC plant, the city would buy the plant for $6.65 million by Nov. 15. It will stop operating within six months of the purchase and will be demolished six months after that.

After the plant is dismantled, all that will remain is the smokestack, which holds cell phone towers that generate nearly $150,000 a year in fees. That money will help cover the purchase price.

City councilors are expected to vote on the proposal July 31.

The $6.65 million, to be paid over 20 years, shouldn’t affect the city’s property-tax rate, according to City Manager John Bubier.

The city plans to pay for the MERC deal with money from the cell phone towers and taxes generated in a special district established at Biddeford Crossing — the retail complex near the Maine Turnpike — and the downtown mill area.

The annual payments will start at $150,000 a year and climb to $350,000 a year. Biddeford will also pay higher fees to dispose of its trash, first at MERC and then at a Casella Waste Systems’ recycling and trash-processing plant to be built in Westbrook.

Biddeford’s trash fee will increase from the current $47 a ton to $55.

That higher rate should be offset by a curbside recycling program that will begin in the summer of 2013 and reduce the amount of trash the city generates, according to city officials.

The proposed purchase and sale agreement is posted on the city’s website, www.biddefordmaine.org.


Doctors reattach boy’s hand after rope accident in car

The family of a 5-year-old boy who lost a hand in a freak accident says it will be months before it’s known whether surgery to reattach the hand was a success.

A website created to raise money to assist in the boy’s recovery says the hand was reattached during a 14-hour surgery last week at Massachusetts General Hospital.

TD Bank also set up a Noah Keene Support Fund.

The Rockland boy had one end of a jump rope wrapped around his wrist while the other end dangled out of a vehicle June 26. The rope snagged and took the boy’s hand off.

The latest update says the boy remains in critical but stable condition, and that it will be “months” before any movement of the hand can be expected.


Facing OUI charge, state police officer put on leave

Maine state police say a 24-year veteran has been cited for operating under the influence and has been placed on administrative leave during an investigation.

Police say Sgt. Julie Bergan was issued a summons after she failed field sobriety and blood-alcohol content tests after reporting to work Thursday at the Houlton barracks.

Lt. Col. Raymond Bessette declined Monday to release Bergan’s blood-alcohol level to the Bangor Daily News. The legal limit for driving in Maine is 0.08 percent.

Bergan, 54, is on administrative leave pending the outcome of an internal investigation. She couldn’t be reached immediately for comment.


Maine girl, 16, recovering after being shot on I-495

A 16-year-old Maine girl who was shot in the arm during an apparent road rage incident in Massachusetts has been released from the hospital.

State police say the girl and her family were in their car on Interstate 495 north in Merrimac just after noon on Sunday when she was shot. They were returning to their home in Limington, Maine.

The girl was taken to a hospital in Newburyport with injuries to her upper arm. Her name was not made public.

A state police spokesman said Monday that the girl was released from the hospital and was recovering at home Monday.

Police said the shot was fired from a car described as a white Honda Accord with tinted windows, possibly with Massachusetts registration plates.


Man in police standoff shot himself to death

Authorities say a man who exchanged gunfire with police was shot in the leg, but died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head.

Police said the episode unfolded Sunday night at the home of Michael McKay, 24, in Hermon, where he returned after allegedly threatening some people in Kenduskeag.

Brenda Kielty of the Maine Attorney General’s Office said an autopsy indicates McKay died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head. He also was shot in the leg by a member of the state police tactical team who has been placed on leave during the investigation.

The incident began with a Kenduskeag man claiming McKay threatened a group and fired shots into a car. Police pursued him to his home, where gunfire was exchanged.


Examination to seek cause of humpback whale’s death

Marine biologists intend to examine the carcass of a humpback whale calf found floating off Mount Desert Island.

Rosemary Seton, a researcher with Allied Whale, says the 18-foot calf is being kept at College of the Atlantic in Bar Harbor pending an examination. Seton told the Bangor Daily News that the whale was likely born this past winter in the Caribbean Sea.

The whale carcass was spotted last week and washed up on the south shore of Little Cranberry Island over the weekend.

A necropsy will help determine the cause of death.

Seton said the latest estimate of the humpback whale population, which was done a few years ago, indicates there are about 12,000 of them in the North Atlantic.


Madawaska man injured in possible fall from truck

State police say a Madawaska man has been taken to a Bangor hospital with severe head injuries after being found lying in the middle of an Eagle Lake road.

Police responding to a 911 call found Randy Willard, 24, in the road in northern Maine Saturday.

Due to the nature of the 911 call, it is believed that he fell from the bed of a pickup truck.

Willard was listed in critical condition at Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor on Sunday.

State police are asking the public for any information about the injuries.


Republicans to replace candidates who withdrew

A state House district in Augusta that was without a candidate from either party in the days after the June 12 primaries will soon have replacement candidates.

District 57 was left without candidates when both primary winners — Republican Andrew Worcester and Democratic incumbent Maeghan Maloney — withdrew.

The Augusta Republicans will hold a caucus July 9 to choose a replacement for Worcester. Their caucus was delayed a week because of an election paperwork delay.

Meanwhile, two Republicans — state Rep. Patrick Flood of Winthrop and Lew Wheaton of West Gardiner — have announced interest in replacing Sen. Earle McCormick in the race for McCormick’s Senate seat

McCormick, a Republican, also withdrew his candidacy.

The winner will face Democrat David Bustin of Hallowell.

LePage seeks federal funds to repair roads after flooding

Gov. Paul LePage is seeking emergency relief from the federal government to cover road damage caused by flooding.

Heavy rains in June caused significant damage in Androscoggin, Cumberland, Oxford, Penobscot, Piscataquis and Sagadahoc counties.

LePage’s proclamation signed Monday aims to obtain funding for repairs to federal highways, which suffered more than $1 million in damage.

The Route 136 corridor in Durham and roads in Brownville and Patten suffered the heaviest damage.

In addition to the governor’s proclamation, the Maine Department of Transportation will be submitting a request to the Federal Highway Administration for help repairing additional roadways that are maintained using federal dollars.


Owner plans to get wallaby vaccinated, hopes to keep it

A woman who ran afoul of state law when she received a pet wallaby as a present says she is making arrangements to get the animal vaccinated against rabies and hopes state wildlife officials allow her to keep what has become a beloved member of her family.

Michelle Charette told the Bangor Daily News that the vaccine cannot be administered until mid-September because of age restrictions.

The state Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife at first denied Charette and her boyfriend, Jay Batchelder, permission to keep the animal indigenous to Australia that looks like a small kangaroo because it has not been approved for importation to Maine.

But the couple appealed and say they informed department officials they plan to get the wallaby they named Kingston vaccinated.


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