FARMINGTON – The grand jury rose Wednesday afternoon, handing down 315 criminal charges against 44 residents. Many of these charges were against just four individuals; all people who the state says took part in dozens of camp break-ins in the Strong/New Vineyard area over the summer.
Shane C. Sturgeon, 21, of Livermore, Timothy D. Lagasse, 19, of Farmington, Zachery Heath, 19, of West Farmington and Dylan Couturier, 18, of Livermore Falls, all face multiple charges of felony burglary and lesser charges associated with the incident, which police say damaged more than 24 seasonal homes and camps in the Porter Lake region.
Police allege that the individuals inflicted the damage, which will likely exceed $100,000, over the course of two evenings in June 2008. Two dozen camps and homes on both the New Vineyard and Strong sides of Porter Lake suffered extensive damage that included windows and doors smashed out with furniture apparently thrown through the windows to cause the damage. Pieces of furniture left inside the homes and camps were overturned and smashed. Also, items used in the vandalism, such as flashlights, pry bars and axes, were found belonging to the other neighboring camps.
The state believes that the four men, assisted by three juveniles, broke into the camps to find alcohol.
“The motive, after interviewing the defendants,” Assistant District Attorney Andrew Robinson had said previously in court, “was to go out and find more alcohol. Then this situation with people out looking for alcohol sort of exploded into the vandalizing and damaging camps.”
A break in the case came when key evidence was provided by Officer Ed Hastings of the Farmington Police Department, which was seized in an unrelated incident in Farmington. Hastings had stopped a group of males, suspecting some were underage and drinking alcohol. He took photos of beer cartons and other alcohol bottles and sent the images to the Franklin County Sheriff’s Department.
Lt. Niles Yeaton of the Sheriff’s Department remembered seeing the same beer and alcohol brands in the woods between the camps and inside one of the camps that was burglarized, which gave investigators the first link to the group Hastings had stopped.
Sturgeon, who Robinson had previously described in court as “one of the leaders,” received 27 burglary counts, seven counts of aggravated criminal mischief, which is also a felony, as well as 18 charges of criminal mischief and five charges of theft. Both of the latter charges are misdemenors.
Heath will face identical charges in court. The state is also allegding a charge of violating the conditions of release, as Heath was on a pre-trial bond through the month of June for an unrelated case.
Couturier and Lagasse face 16 and 11 charges of burglary, respectively. Police believe that each only was present during a single night of the two-night burglary spree. Couturier also faces seven counts of felony aggravated criminal mischief, four counts of criminal mischief and a single count of theft. Lagrasse faces 15 counts of criminal mischief and four counts of theft.
The state had waited to bring their charges to the grand jury, as the damage to camps was still being calculated by owners returning to their properties over the course of the summer and early fall.