SPRINGVALE — A 50-year-old Ogunquit man has been ordered held at the York County Jail in lieu of $500 bail after he allegedly choked his sister during a visit Saturday to the grave of a relative.

Francis G. Howell Jr., who is homeless, allegedly choked his sister, Sue Pollard, during a visit to the grave of a sibling at the First Parish Cemetery in York. In an interview with the Press Herald, Pollard said Howell, a longtime alcoholic, had been drinking prior to the incident, and that she hopes his arrest will offer him a chance to receive counseling.

Pollard said she was kneeling on the ground near her sister’s grave about 8 p.m., weeding and planting flowers, when her brother began taking pictures of her to put on Facebook.

“I got angry at him. He wouldn’t stop,” Pollard said. “I said: ‘Just go home. I’ll do this by myself.’ ”

Pollard said Howell became angry, kicking and smashing the plants she brought to decorate the grave site.

“I said, ‘Go home,’ ” Pollard said. “He looked at me so angry, and I just turned around and he grabbed me. I’ve never been afraid of my brother, ever, but I was afraid at that cemetery in the dark with nobody around.”

She called police at 8:11 p.m.

Pollard and her sister, Darlene Brook, said the incident comes at a difficult time for the family. Five years ago, their mother was diagnosed with stage 4 ovarian cancer and is now entering hospice care.

The illness has taken an emotional toll on the family, Brook said, as she and others take turns caring for their mother 24 hours a day.

Brook and Pollard said their brother has struggled to maintain a job and a stable life for years, and had recently been hiking the Appalachian Trail when their mother’s condition worsened.

Howell has been arrested several times in York County.

The most serious charge was in 2008, when he was arrested by the Maine State Police and charged with misdemeanor domestic violence assault and obstructing the reporting of a crime. He pleaded to a lesser charge, received a suspended jail sentence of less than one year, and was given two years probation, according to state records.

In 2009, Howell was arrested and charged with violating a condition of his probation. And in March of this year, he pleaded guilty to criminal trespass and refusing to submit to arrest, for which he spent two days in jail.

Despite her brother’s struggles, Pollard said she and other relatives have done what they can to support him.

Last week, Pollard took Howell into her home for three days and in that time he cleaned up and did not drink. The two had planned Saturday to visit their mother and then go to the grave site afterward, she said.

But Pollard said Howell could not handle seeing his sick mother, and the two parted ways for several hours before they met up again at the cemetery.

When they reconvened at the cemetery about three hours later, Pollard said she noticed her brother had been drinking.

“He doesn’t cope with things well,” Pollard said. “My father died when he was 17, and his sister died, and he’s had a few friends die, and now my mother’s dying, and he just doesn’t want to cope with things.”

When the two began to struggle, Pollard said, she screamed, her brother let her go and she called 911. He ran into the woods near the cemetery, and within minutes police arrived with a dog to search for him, Pollard said.

The altercation left bruising on Pollard’s neck and chin, but she declined medical assistance, police said.

Now that he’s incarcerated, Pollard hopes Howell can receive a psychological evaluation and counseling to address his drinking. She even asked Howell’s friends not to bail him out, so he can have time to get the services he needs. He is due back in court on Sept. 10.

“I love my brother, and I wish he’d get help,” Pollard said.