A Waldoboro man pleaded guilty Tuesday, Aug. 22 to 38 charges in connection with a fall 2016 crime spree that included three narrow escapes from police, several burglaries, a car theft, and a police standoff.
Brian J. Bennett, 37, pleaded guilty to seven counts of class B burglary; three counts of class C receiving stolen property; one count each of class C aggravated criminal mischief, burglary, eluding an officer, theft by unauthorized taking, and violation of condition of release; four counts of class D receiving stolen property; three counts each of class D criminal mischief and class D criminal trespass; one count of class D burglary of a motor vehicle; seven counts of class E theft by unauthorized taking; two counts each of class E refusing to submit to arrest and violation of condition of release; and one count of class E receiving stolen property.
Class B and C crimes are felonies. Class D and E crimes are misdemeanors. Bennett also admitted to a civil violation, creating a police standoff.
The state dismissed several other charges.
The prosecution and the defense negotiated a complex sentence involving “stacked probations.” The effect of the sentence is nine months at Two Bridges Regional Jail up front with a total of eight years of probation to follow and up to another 15 years and three months in custody if Bennett violates probation.
As Bennett completes each period of probation – two three-year terms and one two-year term – the maximum amount of time for which he could return to custody will go down.
He must also pay $30,604.78 in restitution to the victims of the break-ins and thefts.
Bennett’s 44-day crime spree started with a warrant for an unpaid fine and quickly escalated, culminating in a standoff between Bennett and the Maine State Police Tactical Team near downtown Waldoboro.
On Sept. 20, Waldoboro Police Chief Bill Labombarde and Officer Larry Hesseltine went to 308 Flanders Corner Road to serve a protection-from-abuse order on another person.
When they pulled in, Bennett was outside the building, but quickly ducked inside. Labombarde and Hesseltine found the warrant out of Belfast and attempted to arrest him, but Bennett exited the apartment through a hole in the floor and fled.
Two days later, five officers returned to the apartment after hearing Bennett was back, but Bennett jumped out the back window and fled into the woods.
For the next several weeks, Bennett hid out in burglarized camps on Damariscotta Lake, vacant buildings on Elm Street and Jefferson Street in Waldoboro, and a campsite near Highland Cemetery in Jefferson.
Of his many burglaries during those weeks, one of his biggest targets was the University of Maine’s Darling Marine Center, on the banks of the Damariscotta River in Walpole. On Oct. 13, he stole a generator, heaters, survival gear, water pumps, and other items from the center – much of which would turn up at the campsite in Jefferson.
Bennett had his next close call with police Oct. 17.
Then-Sgt. Jason Warlick, of the Damariscotta Police Department, attempted to stop a green truck that was dragging a rear shock on Main Street in Damariscotta, but the truck sped away.
Warlick pursued the truck onto Hammond Road, Back Meadow Road, and Standpipe Road at speeds of more than 70 mph, but the truck continued to pull away. Warlick ended the pursuit on Standpipe Road for safety reasons.
Warlick had seen the truck at the McDonald’s drive-thru before the pursuit, and the night manager at McDonald’s identified the driver as Bennett when Warlick showed him a photo.
Investigators later discovered that the truck had been stolen from a Warren man Oct. 11 and repainted by Bennett.
On Oct. 29, a hunter stumbled onto an unusual campsite in the woods off South Clary Road. Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office Detective Sgt. Ronald Rollins described the site in an affidavit.
The truck was there, and Rollins matched other items to the burglaries of the Darling Marine Center and of homes in Nobleboro and South Bristol. Bennett had used the crimes to stock his tent with the comforts of home.
“Inside of the tent was a television, DVD player, a VHS player, electric heater, Bose speaker system, a pumpkin Halloween mask, a microwave, a coffee pot, lanterns, an electric cooking pot, a toaster oven, and an air mattress,” Rollins said in the affidavit.
Investigators also found Bennett’s shellfish license and CDs with Bennett’s name on them.
In the ensuing days, law enforcement closed in.
On Nov. 3, the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office, Maine State Police, Maine Warden Service, and Waldoboro Police Department responded to the area of downtown Waldoboro.
After attempts to coax Bennett out of a building on Medomak Terrace, a K-9 unit located Bennett “barricaded in a basement crawl space” at 6 a.m. Nov. 4, Waldoboro Officer Chris Spear said in a report, and he was arrested.
A handful of Bennett’s victims were in court for his sentencing. One, too overcome with emotion to speak herself, had a friend read a statement to the court.
Bennett burglarized the woman’s house while she was on vacation and stole numerous items, including antique furniture.
“I felt totally violated, frightened, and sick,” the woman said in the statement, and she remains fearful every time she returns home.
Police recovered some of the stolen items, and others can be replaced. But some family heirlooms were never found.
“I can no longer pray on my mother and grandmother’s rosary beads, which gave me great comfort,” the woman said.
Bennett addressed the court, giving a tearful apology.
“I would like to say that I’m very sorry for what I did,” he said. “I’m trying to own up to what I did and accept responsibility for it. I am very sorry for the pain this caused you – all of you.”
“Because of this, I have lost my two youngest children and my freedom,” Bennett said, referring to the termination of his parental rights. “I apologize and I will pay you back as quickly as possible for the damage I caused.”
Superior Court Justice Daniel Billings said he considered Bennett’s cooperation with police, as well as his efforts to start paying restitution, in his decision to accept the sentence.
Bennett’s confession included several undiscovered or unsolved crimes “that may never have been tied to him” otherwise, Billings said.
Bennett agreed to pay $1,000 toward restitution Tuesday and another $1,500 before Nov. 1, when he will report to jail to begin his sentence.
Bennett requested the delay in order to dig clams for the rest of the season and winterize the camper he lives in, according to his attorney, David Paris.
He will remain free on bail in the meantime, but must wear a GPS ankle monitor and abide by other conditions.
His probation conditions prohibit contact with his victims; prohibit the possession or use of alcohol, illegal drugs, or dangerous weapons, with random searches and tests to ensure compliance; require evaluation for mental health and substance abuse; require payment of restitution; and require him to either get a job, go to school, or volunteer upon his release.