AUGUSTA — Two days after an alert receptionist at the Maine State Museum prevented an apparent stranger from abducting a 2-year-old from the Maine State Museum, according to police, the museum’s director offered praise for that part-time employee.

The incident occurred Tuesday morning when James John Cavallaro, 58, of Bath, grabbed the girl and tried to leave the building with her, according to a news release from Steve McCausland, spokesman for the Maine Department of Public Safety.

“A museum receptionist saw the incident, intervened, and the girl was released. The child was with her grandmother at the time,” McCausland said. “The woman had turned her back to hang up coats in the museum’s coat room when the incident took place.”

Capitol Police found Cavallaro in a parking lot outside the Maine State Cultural Building and arrested him without incident.

“This was a very observant and well-trained and attentive part-time employee,” Museum Director Bernard Fishman said on Thursday. He identified her as Sharon Wise, and said she had worked there on and off for years.

Fishman, who was not there at the time, said Wise was waiting in the lobby near the museum reception desk when she noticed a person coming into the museum looking at a young girl. Fishman said Wise stepped in when the man approached the girl and grabbed her hand while her grandmother was hanging her coat nearby.

“She intervened right there, and she told the man to let her go,” Fishman said.

The man left the girl behind, and Wise brought the grandmother over and continued to watch the man, who lingered in the lobby briefly, Fishman said. When he left, Wise called Capitol Police.

“The fact she noticed and intervened prevented this from becoming a more serious incident,” he said.

An affidavit filed with the court by Capitol Police Officer Steven M. Trahan said officers were sent to the building in response to a reported assault and were told that a man later identified as Cavallaro “had grabbed a young female and attempted to pull her away from her grandmother.”

Cavallaro was charged with assault and violating conditions of release and made an initial appearance Wednesday in Augusta District Court via video from Kennebec County jail.

A judge set bail at $1,000 cash, with conditions that prohibit Cavallaro from having contact with the girl as well as all other children under 6 years old. Cavallaro’s next hearing is set for Jan. 13, 2015, in Augusta District Court.

Cavallaro had been out on bail on unrelated charges from Sagadahoc County, McCausland said. Records in that court indicate Cavallaro is facing charges of aggravated assault, domestic violence assault with prior convictions, and terrorizing.

Staff Writer Craig Crosby contributed to this report.

Betty Adams — 621-5631

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Twitter: @betadams