OAKLAND — A neighbor — found by police hiding in his attic — was arrested Friday in connection with the theft of an elderly couple’s Christmas presents.
Jason Horne, 25, was found by police hiding underneath the insulation in the attic of his home on Summer Street during a search for stolen property, according to Capt. Rick Stubbert.
Horne lives across the street from Charlotte Lovejoy, 87, and her husband, Del, 88, a former head custodian at Messalonskee High School.
The Lovejoys have been swamped with community support since they woke up Thursday morning to find that the Christmas presents they bought for their family, including their 6-year-old grandniece, were stolen from their home while they slept. Their medication was also gone.
Stubbert said a tip led to Horne’s arrest. He will be charged with class B burglary and theft. There was also an unrelated arrest warrant active for Horne.
Horne was convicted of a burglary in Bingham in 2008 in Somerset County Superior Court.
The theft, which Stubbert called particularly distasteful, was overshadowed Friday by people from as far away as California calling to ask how they could help the Lovejoys.
“The whole town has come together,” Stubbert said. “It’s amazing the response we’re getting.”
In Oakland, the town office, Messalonskee High School and the police and fire departments collected donations for the couple.
Many of those who called, including comedian Bob Marley, said they were outraged at the theft of presents from the Lovejoys, who live on a fixed income.
Los Angeles resident Darcy Hotchkiss was a student at Messalonskee High School 20 years ago, when Del Lovejoy, who is disabled, was working there.
After hearing about the theft through Facebook, she called to find out how to make a donation.
“He was just a great guy,” she said. “He came every day, he was nice to everybody and he was always really happy. He’s just a good person all around.”
Hotchkiss said that she was motivated by the thought that the Lovejoys would have to do without on Christmas morning.
“I left Maine when I was just 16 or 17, but I never forgot,” Hotchkiss said. “I want to make sure this guy gets his Christmas.”
Stubbert said the members of the force were touched by the response.
“It renews our faith in humanity,” he said. “Especially for us, because usually we see the worst side.”
According to Stubbert, some of the presents were recovered, some had been destroyed and others had not been located.
Stubbert said the amount collected would exceed the value of the presents that were stolen from the Lovejoys.
“I think people are OK with that,” he said. “What the Lovejoys went through was terrible.”
Lia Daniels, of Standish, said she and her husband intended to contribute because she could imagine the same thing happening to her and her family.
“It’s just awful,” she said. “They were sleeping in their own home.”
Charlotte Lovejoy said people have also stopped by her house or called to offer their help.
“I’ve been touched,” she said. “There’s so many good people out there.”
Lovejoy said she wasn’t sure what she would do if the amount donated exceeds what was stolen.
“If that’s the case, I would donate some to the soup kitchen or the animal shelter or something,” she said.
She said that the experience has taught her about the good people who surround her in the community.
“It just takes one bad person who thinks they can spoil Christmas,” she said. “But they can’t.”
Matt Hongoltz-Hetling — 861-9287