WINTHROP — Two men were charged after their getaway from an alleged burglary was foiled by an off-duty detective and because they left their car keys inside the home they were allegedly burglarizing.

Michael E. Brown II, 35, of Augusta, and Robert L. Sherwood II, 49, of Whitefield, were both charged with theft and burglary after reportedly breaking into a home on Old Lewiston Road.

The pair was arrested shortly before 9 a.m. Wednesday.

After they were arrested, police found the keys to their Ford Explorer inside a nearby vacant home.

Off-duty Winthrop Police Detective Peter Struck first saw the men walking down Old Lewiston Road. He took note because he didn’t recognize them as being from the area.

A little farther down the road, Struck saw a green Ford Explorer parked in the Grange Hall parking lot. The sport utility vehicle was parked near the treeline with its four-way flashers blazing, Struck said. He pulled in the driveway to check the vehicle and called dispatch to check the license plate.

“You could see the steering column had been punched,” Struck said. He assumed the vehicle was stolen so he called for on-duty officers. Capt. Ryan Frost and Officer Paul Ferland arrived a few minutes later.

In the meantime, Struck left the SUV to keep an eye on the men, who made it back to the Ford and got inside before Frost and Ferland arrived.

Police confronted the men as they sat inside the vehicle. Sherwood correctly identified the Ford’s owner, whom he said had lent the SUV to the men, Struck said. Sherwood told police they had broken the steering column to start the SUV after losing the keys in the parking lot. Police confirmed with the owner that he had lent the Ford to Brown and Sherwood.

The men, however, told police different stories about what they were doing at the Grange, Struck said. He checked a vacant house in an adjacent lot and noticed the door was unlocked. Police called the homeowner, who arrived home a short time later and confirmed there were items missing from inside the home.

A subsequent search of the Explorer uncovered items taken from the home, Struck said.

Craig Crosby — 621-5642

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Twitter: @CraigCrosby4