LEWISTON

Wales man charged with sexually assaulting child

A Wales man charged with manslaughter in the shooting death of a hunter is now facing charges of sexually assaulting a child.

Christopher Austin, 43, has been charged with eight counts of gross sexual assault of a child between the ages of 8 and 15.

He is being held on $50,000 bail. It was not immediately known if he has an attorney.

The Androscoggin County Sheriff’s Department said it believes there are other victims.

Austin had been out on $5,000 cash bail since 2013 when he was charged with shooting and killing a man while hunting. He pleaded not guilty to manslaughter and discharging a firearm near a residential dwelling in connection with Gerard Parent’s death.

Children appeal to thief who stole Christmas bicycles

Two heartbroken Lewiston children are appealing to the callous thief who stole the bicycles they received for Christmas.

Austin Westleigh, 13, and his 10-year-old sister, Kelsey, have posted a handwritten sign outside their home that reads: “Would you please bring back our new bikes that we got for Christmas – thank you.”

The bikes were stolen from behind a fence in front of their house the day after Christmas.

Their mother, Vicky, is a widowed nurse who can’t work because of a medical condition, so the bikes were an extravagance.

She told the Sun Journal she just wants the bikes returned, no questions asked.

Kelsey wanted to ride her bike in the Dempsey Challenge, the charity ride organized by Maine-born actor Patrick Dempsey that raises money for cancer care and support.

CRANBERRY ISLAND

Volunteers seek clues to humpback whale carcass

The carcass of a 36-foot whale has washed up on Little Cranberry Island.

The whale has been identified as Triomphe, a 6-year-old male humpback whale, Sean Todd, director of Allied Whale, the College of the Atlantic’s marine mammal research group, told WNSX-FM.

Todd said it’s too early to say how the whale died.

Allied Whale volunteers gathered samples Monday to find out more information about the whale’s death. Todd said the carcass will be left where it is unless it becomes a public nuisance.

AUGUSTA

New courthouse opening soon, to public in March

The state court system will ring in the year with a new courthouse. The Capital Judicial Center has been given the green light by both the city of Augusta and the State Fire Marshal’s Office.

The parking lots are paved and striped, all the glass is installed, and trucks carrying interior furnishings are parking on the circle that leads to the main entrance of the four-story structure, which is highly visible from the east side of the Kennebec River and just about everywhere downtown.

Court clerks and other personnel are scheduled to relocate there in late February, and the doors open to the public March 2, according to Mary Ann Lynch of the Administrative Office of the Courts.

The new judicial center will house Kennebec County Superior Court and Augusta District Court as well as the Family Division and the Administrative Office of the Courts now located on Stone St. in Augusta.

The new building has four elevators – one for employees, one for inmates and two for the public; and six courtrooms – four small ones and two large enough to seat up to 150 people in the public area – and all have some natural light, a feature lacking currently in the two courtrooms in Augusta District Court.

Consigli Construction Co. workers will remain until the end of next summer because the completion of the 120,000-square-foot judicial center triggers the beginning of a renovation project in the adjacent Kennebec County Courthouse. Some $2 million of the $57 million court project has been set aside to renovate the historic courthouse.

Average heating oil price drops 4 cents in last week

A Maine government survey says the average statewide cash price for heating oil dropped 4 cents in the past week.

The Governor’s Energy Office said the average price was $2.75 a gallon, according to the Dec. 29 survey. The average kerosene price of $3.35 was also 2 cents lower than last week. Propane prices increased 2 cents to $2.75.

Heating oil averaged $3.76 per gallon a year ago at this time, while kerosene was $4.16 and propane was $3.06.

– From staff and news services