Eliot Cutler calls for changes in how governor is elected

Independent gubernatorial candidate Eliot Cutler is calling on his likely opponents to support a run-off election or ranked-choice voting in the 2014 election to ensure that Maine’s next governor earns at least 50 percent of the vote.

In a letter Wednesday, Cutler asked Republican Gov. Paul LePage and Democratic U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud to support election law changes so the next governor must get a majority vote. LePage narrowly defeated Cutler in 2010 with about 38 percent of the vote.

David Farmer, a volunteer spokesman for Michaud, said the congressman is confident he will get more than 50 percent if he runs. He said Michaud, who has formed an exploratory committee, won’t take a position on Cutler’s proposal without more details.

LePage spokeswoman Adrienne Bennett didn’t immediately return a call for comment.

The Legislature rejected two bills in this session to change statewide elections to a ranked-choice voting.


Authorities in two states track down scam suspect

Authorities in Maine and Mississippi say they teamed up to apprehend a Jamaican man who bilked a Bath woman out of a large sum of money.

Members of the Mississippi attorney general’s consumer protection division arrested Damion Aljunior Hill, 33, outside his home in Gulfport, Miss., on June 12. He is charged with stealing money from the woman in Bath and a person in Nebraska.

The so-called Jamaican lottery scam typically entails telling a person they have won a lottery and all they need do to collect their prize is pay taxes, or some similar arrangement. There actually is no lottery and, regardless of how many times a person pays, the perpetrators keep calling, demanding more money.

The scam often targets senior citizens.

In the cases that led to wire fraud charges against Hill, the victims received many calls and were promised large cash prizes, jewelry and cars. Mississippi authorities would not say how much was stolen. The money was sent to Jamaica. Hill is in the United States on a work visa.

Detective Peter Lizanecz, an investigator with the Maine Attorney General’s Office, learned the identity of a person in Mississippi who was removing money from the Bath resident’s bank account and wiring portions of it to Jamaica. The case originated with the Bath Police Department.

Mainers who want to check on the legitimacy of a telephone solicitation can contact the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division at (800) 436-2131 or email: consumer.[email protected]


Council committee supports traffic changes in Libbytown

A City Council committee has endorsed a plan to dramatically change the way traffic flows through Portland’s Libbytown neighborhood.

The Transportation, Sustainability and Energy Committee voted 3-0 Wednesday night to convert a section of Congress Street and Park Avenue, at their intersections with St. John Street, from one-way to two-way streets.

The councilors also supported closing northbound and southbound ramps that connect Congress Street with Interstate 295 in Libbytown and keeping open an existing ramp that allows Park Avenue traffic to turn north onto I-295.

The recommendation is preliminary, with any ramp closures needing approval from the Maine Department of Transportation. The final traffic plan needs approval from the City Council.


Burglar interrupted, flees from house in Ocean Park

Police are investigating a burglary in the Ocean Park neighborhood Monday afternoon.

A resident returned home on Maine Avenue at 2 p.m. and found the house had recently been broken into, police said.

The suspect ran in the direction of Temple Avenue, although there was no detailed description of the burglar. However, a man wearing an orange shirt was seen near the house just before the burglary, police said.

Police asked anyone with information to call 937-5806.


Police request help finding man missing since June 12

Police are seeking a 24-year-old Saco man who has been missing since June 12.

Kevin L. O’Donnell of 185 Heath Road was last seen leaving his home on foot wearing a navy-blue T-shirt, a gray hooded sweatshirt, navy-blue or black shorts and black-and-white running shoes.

Saco police asked anyone who has had contact with O’Donnell or who might know his whereabouts to contact them at 284-4535.


House backs MaineCare bill on drug addiction treatment

The House gave its final approval Wednesday to a bill to extend MaineCare coverage for certain drug addiction treatments to more than two years.

The bill would allow for the continuation of MaineCare coverage for methadone and Suboxone if a person is pregnant, has serious and persistent mental illness or lives with a young child.

Suboxone and methadone treat addictions to heroin and similar drugs. Maine now has a two-year cap on coverage for such treatment.

Supporters said that having a limit on the treatment puts patients at risk for relapse. The measure faces a final vote in the Senate.


Ban on drone surveillance without a warrant advances

Lawmakers have advanced a proposal to ban law enforcement from using unmanned aerial drones for surveillance unless they have a search warrant.

The Democratic-led House approved the bill on a 108-39 vote on Wednesday. The Senate endorsed the bill on Tuesday. It now faces final votes in the House and Senate before heading to Republican Gov. Paul LePage.

The bill also would put a moratorium on drone use until July 2015. Law enforcement could only use drones without a search warrant when national security is at risk. Drones would not be able to use facial recognition technology or weapons.

Education institutions and other groups that use drones for training and research would be exempt from the bill. The use of drones to survey things like natural disasters would be allowed.


Suspect admits sex offenses involving two girls in 1980s

A Corinna man has pleaded guilty to sex offenses against two young girls that occurred more than a quarter of a century ago.

Glenn Graves pleaded guilty Tuesday in Kennebec County Superior Court just before he was scheduled to go to trial on three charges of gross sexual misconduct.

Prosecutors said the offenses occurred from October 1985 to April 1987 and the victims were younger than 14 at the time.

District Attorney Maeghan Maloney said the case came to light during an investigation into an unrelated case in 2012.

Graves, 57, was sentenced to eight years in prison with two to serve, and four years of probation.

Graves’ attorney said his client “decided it was time to end this case.”


Man dies from burn injuries suffered when vapors ignite

Fire officials say a northern Maine man has died after being critically burned Tuesday afternoon while cutting up an old heating oil tank with a welding torch.

The state Fire Marshal’s Office said Reginal Otis, 72, of Blaine died overnight after being flown to Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston with burns to 80 percent of his body.

Investigators said it appears the torch ignited vapors as Otis was cutting apart the tank at his home. It’s unclear what type of flammable liquid remained in the tank.


Man denies murder charge in domestic violence death

A Bangor man accused of killing his girlfriend has pleaded not guilty.

David Coon entered the plea Wednesday in Superior Court. He’s charged with murdering Sherry Clifford, 49, who died from asphyxiation and a neck injury.

A police affidavit indicates Coon told investigators that the two were on the floor in a tussle when he covered her mouth to keep her from screaming. He said she was having breathing difficulties when he got up, so he dialed 911.

Police described it as a domestic violence homicide.


Man who falsely obtained VA benefits sent to prison

A man from Down East Maine has been sentenced to three years in prison for fraudulently obtaining veterans’ disability benefits from the federal government.

Richard Ramsdell Jr. of Cutler also was ordered Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Bangor to pay almost $143,000 in restitution to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Ramsdell had pleaded guilty in January.

Prosecutors said Ramsdell, 38, obtained benefits by falsely claiming to be unemployed and unable to work because of an injured back and his mental condition.

Authorities said he was working for a wreath manufacturer and as a fisherman and painter during that time.


Grand jury declines charges in shooting of unarmed man

A grand jury has declined to bring charges in the case of a Starks man who was shot on his own property after a confrontation with a group of hunters.

Kerry Hebert was shot in the stomach on Oct. 31 by a man who was among a group of hunters at the end of a dirt road leading to Hebert’s home. The shooting followed a confrontation between the hunters and Hebert, who said they were too close to the home he shares with his wife and two children. Hebert was unarmed.

Hebert’s attorney said he was “very surprised” by the grand jury’s decision.

District Attorney Maeghan Maloney said there was not enough evidence to proceed with criminal charges in the case.


Driver dies when vehicle hits pole, lands on its roof in ditch

State police say a driver died after he lost control of his car and it struck a pole.

Daniel Snowdeal, 48, of Jonesboro was dead at the scene, police said. He was the only person in the car.

The accident happened about 3 a.m. Wednesday on Route 1A in Jonesboro, near the Whitneyville town line. Police said the vehicle came to rest on its roof in a ditch.

They said speed and alcohol appeared to be factors in the crash.


Children’s museum receives Creative Economy Award

The Children’s Museum of New Hampshire has won a Creative Economy Award from the New England Foundation for the Arts.

The award, which has a $2,500 prize, recognizes successful strategies, scope of impact on the creative economy and the possibility for replication in other communities.

The museum relocated from Portsmouth to Dover five years ago, renovating a historic armory in a waterfront park. Museum representatives are included in city discussions about public art, parking, festivals, other nonprofits locating in the city, and economic development. Museum personnel also are involved with the city’s Tourism Committee, Dover Main Street, the Chamber of Commerce and the Arts Commission.

“We have worked hard to forge meaningful relationships with city leaders and organizations, and lend our expertise where it could be helpful,” said Justine Roberts, the museum’s executive director.

The New England Foundation for the Arts is a nonprofit that operates with funding from the National Endowment for the Arts and the New England state arts agencies, and from corporations, foundations and individuals.