AUGUSTA _ A Wisconsin man arrested Tuesday on a bus heading south on Interstate 295 was responsible for a pair of burglaries at city churches and acknowledged carrying out similar break-ins across the country, police say.

James S. Wilbur, 32, made his initial court appearance Wednesday and was charged with seven counts, including forgery and two counts each of burglary, theft by unauthorized taking and criminal mischief.

Wilbur was being held at the Kennebec County jail in Augusta in lieu of $25,000 cash bail.

Wilbur, who was most recently staying at a group home in Litchfield, according to a court document, is accused of committing a pair of break-ins early Tuesday at the Unitarian Universalist Church on Winthrop Street and the South Parish Congregational Church on Church Street. The burglaries netted cash, checks and keys, according to an affidavit filed at the Capital Judicial Center by Augusta Police Detective Tori Tracy. Wilbur admitted to the burglaries and said he has carried out similar crimes elsewhere in Maine and across the country, police said. All involved churches or medical offices, Tracy wrote. There are warrants out for Wilbur from Portland, Florida and Wisconsin.

“He confessed that over the last 30 days he has committed several of these crimes throughout Maine, spreading from Portland to Bangor,” Tracy wrote.

Police were called to the congregational church around 6:20 a.m. Tuesday. Tracy said the burglar, whom she later identified as Wilbur, got into the building through a door that was left ajar and then entered an office by breaking glass in a door. Once inside, Wilbur broke open two safes, Tracy wrote.

“The safes were empty except for a plastic baggie with two gold rings in it and a check,” Tracy wrote. “Both safes were completely destroyed.”

The Rev. Jane MacIntyre told police that one of the safes was empty, but that the other had contained $65 in cash as well as keys to the offices and building and payroll paperwork. The keys and paperwork were missing, MacIntyre said.

Tracy said the burglar also pried his way into MacIntyre’s office and took a set of master keys.

About three hours later, police were called to the Unitarian Universalist church for a report of a burglary there. Police allege that Wilbur got in through a second-floor porch by cutting a screen and pushing open a door. The Rev. Carie Johnsen said her bank, Kennebec Savings Bank, had called to report someone had tried to cash a $2,500 check.

“Rev. Johnsen verified that her checkbook had been taken from her desk as well as her stamp signature,” Tracy wrote. Keys to the building also were missing, but were found in an upstairs office.

At Kennebec Savings Bank police learned the $2,500 check had been made out to James. S. Wilbur.

“The bank also took a photocopy of the male’s Maine ID card,” Tracy wrote. “The card showed a photo of a male with the name of James S. Wilbur of Portland.” The card also included his date of birth.

Police learned from bank surveillance images that Wilbur rode away in a taxi. The cab operator told police that Wilbur had gone to the Senator Inn on Western Avenue. Employees at the hotel said Wilbur had checked in Monday, Tracy said. Police went to the hotel only to learn Wilbur had just checked out.

“They were told that he was getting a bus ticket,” Tracy wrote.

Police went to the Concord bus terminal where they learned Wilbur had already gotten on a bus. Police stopped the bus in the southbound lane of Interstate 95 just north of Gardiner. Wilbur was arrested without incident. Police found the checkbook from the Unitarian Universalist church in Wilbur’s backpack, Tracy wrote.

Wilbur later admitted to the burglaries. He explained how he carried them out and described what he took, police said. Wilbur let Tracy search his backpack where she found keys for the South Parish Church, Tracy wrote.

“James told me that everything in his backpack was stolen from different places,” Tracy wrote. “I found items from places in New Hampshire, New Mexico, Rhode Island and other states.”


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