A convicted murderer who walked away from a northern Maine prison late Thursday had escaped from incarceration twice before, including 37 years ago when he and another inmate were the subject of one of the state’s most infamous manhunts.

Arnold Nash

Arnold Nash, 65, formerly of Hancock County, was last seen around 8:20 p.m. Thursday at the minimum-security unit at Mountain View Correctional Facility in Charleston.

Department of Public Safety spokesman Stephen McCausland said there had been no confirmed sighting of Nash as of 5 p.m. Friday.

“He’s dangerous,” McCausland said. “He’s a career criminal and residents in the Greater Charleston area need to be aware, be vigilant and take extra precautions.”

Charleston is a small town of mostly farms located 25 miles northwest of Bangor in Penobscot County.

There were no details about how Nash escaped or why he was being housed in minimum security. Maine Department of Corrections Commissioner Joseph Fitzpatrick did not respond to an email or phone message seeking comment, but a news release the agency sent Friday morning said Nash was scheduled to be released next December, which would be 18 years before the end of his original sentence.

Nash was convicted in 1992 of beating to death a 58-year-old man inside a cabin in North Sullivan in Hancock County in 1991. According to stories in the Portland Press Herald, Nash had intended to rob his victim, Wilfred Gibeault, of his veteran’s benefits. Gibeault, who lived next door to Nash at the time, was found dead by his son and daughter-in-law. Nash wasn’t arrested until two weeks later while he was hitch-hiking on Route 1 in Bucksport.

Nash already had a lengthy criminal history before the murder conviction, mostly for burglaries and thefts. His earliest convictions date to 1973, when he was 19. While serving time for larceny, he escaped from the Maine Correctional Center in Windham. It wasn’t clear how he escaped or how long it took for him to be found that time.

SECOND ESCAPE, LONG MANHUNT

Eight years later, after he had returned to prison for felony burglary, Nash escaped again, prompting one of the longest manhunts in state history, the Moody Mountain Manhunt in Searsmont in 1981.

Nash and another man, Milton Wallace of Freeport – who was in prison for raping and murdering an 8-year-old – were working on the farm at the Maine State Prison in Thomaston when they fled. They were sought for 22 days before they were captured in Morrill, a Waldo County town about 30 miles north of the prison. They had been trying to get to Canada.

After Nash and Wallace escaped, they burglarized several homes. Officials found them camped out in the woods. Former game warden and Waldo County Sheriff John Ford was among more than 100 public safety officials who searched for Nash and Wallace and he wrote about it in a book released in 2012. At one point, Ford wrote that the two men held him at gunpoint. He was not hurt but a police dog named Ben was wounded by gunshot.

From left, Milton Wallace, Arnold Nash and Maine State Trooper Dick Reitchel, after Wallace and Nash were recaptured in 1981. Nash escaped from prison again Thursday. Photo by Barry Hathaway/Maine State Police

Their escape led to a broader discussion about the safety of outdoor prison details. The two men were part of a five-person crew that was weeding potato fields. They were supervised by one prison guard, who was unarmed.

Nash returned to prison after his capture, but received just a two-year sentence. He had another burglary conviction in 1984 and was released some time in the late 1980s or early 1990s, before he killed Gibeault.

Nash pleaded guilty to charges of murder and robbery in 1992, avoiding a trial. At his sentencing, a judge admonished Nash for committing such a heinous act out of “pure greed.” As part of his plea agreement, he was sentenced to no more than 45 years in prison.

He was represented by two attorneys in that case – Patrick Larson, who is now a district court judge, and Julio DeSanctis, who died in 2011.

Arnold Nash was last seen around 8:20 p.m. Thursday at the Mountain View Correctional Facility in Charleston. Photo courtesy of Maine Department of Corrections

SEEKING PUBLIC’S HELP

As of this year, Nash had served 26 years of his sentence and was due to be released in December, the Department of Corrections said. It’s not clear why he was to be released so early, but inmates can get credit for good behavior. It also wasn’t clear Friday how long Nash had been at Mountain View, but it couldn’t have been more than three years. Before 2015, the prison was a youth correctional facility.

Nash was last seen wearing blue jeans, a white T-shirt and a light blue shirt. He is 5-foot-6, weighs about 160 pounds and wears glasses.

Over the years, Nash has used several aliases. He has tattoos on both arms. On the right is the fish symbol that’s often associated with Christians and the word “Christ.” On the left is the word “Mom.”

McCausland said game wardens, state troopers and corrections officials searched for Nash in the area around Charleston for most of Friday. He said a helicopter was dispatched as well.

“We’re hoping the public will be our eyes and ears and call if they see anything that seems suspicious,” he said.

Anyone with information about Nash’s whereabouts is urged to contact Maine State Police at 973-3700.

Eric Russell can be contacted at 791-6344 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: PPHEricRussell