RICHMOND — An Alna man convicted earlier this year of sexually assaulting a child is back behind bars after reportedly approaching a 12-year-old girl outside the middle school.

Zachary Allen Dunning, 20, was arrested Friday and charged with a probation violation, said Police Chief Scott MacMaster. Dunning was being held without bail Monday at Two Bridges Regional Jail in Wiscasset.

Dunning, who lives on West Alna Road, was sentenced in February in Lincoln County Superior Court in Wiscasset to five years in prison, with all but nine months suspended. Officials at Two Bridges said Dunning was released from that sentence on Aug. 4. His probation is not set to expire until at least August 2015.

One of the conditions of Dunning’s probation prohibits contact with anyone younger than 16.

MacMaster said Dunning’s criminal history includes two convictions of gross sexual assault. Those convictions are connected to crimes that occurred in Somerset and Lincoln counties, MacMaster said, and at least one of those charges involved a victim younger than 14.

He was placed on the lifetime sex offender registry as a result of those crimes.

“He’s what we consider a violent predator,” the chief said.

Dunning was arrested around 2:45 p.m. Friday after he and a 17-year-old male companion encountered two girls, ages 12 and 17, on a trail between the high/middle school building and High Street. Students commonly use the path to get to and from the school.

MacMaster said the girls were walking away from the school when they encountered Dunning and his friend. The younger girl knew Dunning’s companion, MacMaster said, and they struck up a conversation. Dunning did not harm the girls, MacMaster said

“It was a short encounter,” he said.

But the exchange lasted long enough to catch the attention of Officer Doug Bellevue, who was filling his police cruiser with gasoline. Bellevue, who frequently works with the school system, was on his way to the school to investigate a complaint that involved Dunning, MacMaster said.

“He saw Dunning with the girl and he knew Dunning was on the sex offender registry,” MacMaster said.

Bellevue arrested Dunning as he left the path near the public works department.

Dunning was arrested on West Alna Road on July 15, 2011, and charged with gross sexual assault. He was indicted in September 2011 in Somerset County Superior Court on charges of gross sexual assault and unlawful contact. The offenses occurred July 3, 2011, in Caratunk and involved a victim younger than 14.

He was sentenced in May to nine months in jail, which ran concurrently with the Lincoln County sentence. The count of unlawful sexual contact was dismissed.

Craig Crosby — 621-5642

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