AUGUSTA — A local man who allegedly robbed an elderly city woman before leading police on a vehicular chase told investigators he needed money to support his drug habit.

Justice Nancy Mills on Monday ordered 34-year-old Jed St. Hilaire of Augusta to be held on $20,000 cash bail or $40,000 surety during his initial appearance in Kennebec County Superior Court. St. Hilaire, who appeared via video conference from Kennebec County jail, is charged with robbery, theft, eluding an officer, passing a roadblock and driving to endanger.

Wearing a green jail uniform, St. Hilaire made no plea to charges and said only a couple of words while answering Mills’ questions during the brief appearance.

St. Hilaire was arrested Saturday after reportedly robbing two women of their purses outside city shopping centers and later leading police on a chase that ended on Interstate 95. Neither of the women was injured.

Augusta police Detective Jason Cote, in an affidavit filed in Kennebec County Superior Court, wrote that St. Hilaire admitted to the robberies and told police he needed money to buy cocaine.

“Jed stated that after he had stolen each purse, he only took the cash and threw both purses off the Calumet Bridge,” Cote wrote.

Police were called to Walmart off Civic Center Drive shortly before noon Saturday after a man reportedly pushed an 86-year-old South Thomaston woman and took her purse as she was getting out of her car. The victim said the bag had $250 cash, a cellphone, a credit card and a checkbook, police said.

Video surveillance of the incident showed the robber running across the parking lot with the purse and getting into a gold car, Cote wrote. A license plate number given by a witness was linked to a gold 2003 Toyota Echo that belongs to St. Hilaire’s mother, who lives with her son on Jefferson Street.

Coincidentally, Augusta police responding to report of suspicious activity had talked to St. Hilaire recently and later saw him leave in a gold Toyota Echo. St. Hilaire was not at home when police went to see him after the robbery.

Then, shortly before 5 p.m. Saturday, police were sent to the Hannaford supermarket off Cony Street in response to a report of a second woman robbed of her purse.

“The suspect was described to be same … and also was driving the same vehicle,” Cote wrote. “A witness followed the suspect onto Bangor Street but then lost him.”

The second victim was not threatened and there was no physical contact with the robber.

Police continued to search for the car until around 6 p.m., when it was spotted turning left from Gage Street onto Memorial Drive. Augusta police Officer Matthew Estes, who had spoken to St. Hilaire while investigating the complaint on Jefferson Street, recognized him as the driver. Another man was riding in the front passenger’s seat.

Estes tried to pull the car over, but the car wouldn’t stop. The Toyota sped onto Memorial Circle, where another Augusta police cruiser pulled in front to stop it, but it continued with police in pursuit down State Street, Mount Vernon Avenue and Bond Brook Road. The Toyota took a right onto Leighton Road, then left onto Mount Vernon Road, proceeding to Sanford and Summer Haven roads before turning south onto Civic Center Drive.

Speeds during the pursuit reached 70 mph at times.

The Toyota turned onto Interstate 95 and headed south, reaching speeds of more than 100 mph, according to police. It forced several cars to the side of the road as police continued the chase.

The fleeing driver tried to leave the interstate at exit 109B, which steers traffic onto Western Avenue’s westbound lanes, but Maine State Police Trooper Lee Vanadestine blocked the ramp with his cruiser. The Toyota then veered back onto I-95 in the midst of traffic.

At mile 105 in West Gardiner, the driver stopped at a paved turn-around spot for emergency vehicles, crossed over to the northbound lanes and headed south, almost striking an approaching car head-on, Vanadestine said. The Toyota went into a ditch and stopped.

“Officer Estes could see both occupants exit the vehicle and start to run into the woods,” Cote wrote.

The passenger was arrested quickly, but St. Hilaire continued into the woods, where police found him on the ground. He was arrested without further incident.

Police found a large amount of cash on the ground where the passenger was found. Police reportedly found a spoon and a cellphone where St. Hilaire was arrested. Police did not charge the passenger.

Craig Crosby — 621-5642
[email protected]