SOUTH CHINA — The man accused of breaking into a neighbor’s home and sexually assaulting her Friday night had a key to her apartment, according to police.

James Bickford, 33, is charged with three felonies — robbery, gross sexual assault and burglary — and one misdemeanor assault charge, according to a news release from the Kennebec County Sheriff’s Office.

Bail, originally set at $250,000, was left unchanged after Bickford was arraigned by video teleconference Monday at Kennebec County Superior Court.

The court will revisit his status Oct. 11. If Bickford posts bail by then, he’d face conditions prohibiting him from contact with the victim, possessing firearms, using alcohol or drugs, returning to his home or even entering the town of China.

According to the affidavit, filed by Kennebec County Sheriff’s Detective David Bucknam, the 21-year-old victim locked her residence on Dirigo Road at approximately 10:20 p.m. after her husband had left for work.

Ten minutes later, she heard the doorknob shake and the door open. In came a man dressed in light-colored jeans with white gloves and black work boots, a black belt, black T-shirt and black ski mask covering all of his face but the eyes, the affidavit says.


The man told the woman he needed money and said, “Do not make me pull out my piece.”

The victim said she believed he had a gun, but never saw it. Then, police say, the assailant punched the victim in her left eye.

He then allegedly ordered the victim to take her clothes off and “touched her body,” before ordering her to perform oral sex on him. The affidavit then says the assailant then tried to take her to a back room.

Instead, she ran to the front door, slamming the man’s arm in the door and running outside in the nude. She ran approximately 200 yards across the road and down a driveway to a neighboring house, where she was taken in.

Members of the sheriff’s office responded around 10:45 p.m.

A short while after, the affidavit said, Bickford, who lives in a neighboring unit, approached a sheriff’s corporal outside his unit.


Bickford claimed to be asleep during the attack, the affidavit says.

Investigating deputies said said they heard “fast and loud” snoring earlier from an open window overlooking the victim’s house, which they found “dramatic.”

Bickford fit the victim’s description, and Bucknam wrote that he noticed blue sunglasses on a picture stand in Bickford’s house.

Bickford’s wife then returned from a friend’s house, reporting her husband was not wearing the same pants he had on when she left.

Police asked Bickford’s wife to describe her husband’s genitals. She did, Bucknam wrote, matching the victim’s description.

After obtaining a search warrant, Bucknam wrote he returned to the house and found light-colored jeans to be the only item in a downstairs dryer. In a “sitting room,” he found a black ski mask.


During a search of Bickford’s car, a key that fit the victim’s lock was found. Bickford and his wife said they lived in the victim’s unit before moving to a house on the same parcel of land.

Bickford’s wife said all keys to that unit were turned over to the landlord.

Bucknam said Bickford told him the key opened doors only to his residence. But a test proved otherwise: Bucknam wrote that the key didn’t open any door but the victim’s.

The sum of the evidence led police to arrest Bickford.

On Monday, Dirigo Road and the crime scene — a white duplex with black shutters — were quiet.

Police said the victim did not need medical attention and went to stay with her mother after the attack.


According to town records, the owner of the properties is Genevieve Balmer, of Florida. She couldn’t be located by phone Monday.

Town officials said the properties are managed by Troy Balmer, who lives nearby. He did not return phone calls Monday. Neighbors also declined comment on the incident.

It is the Morning Sentinel’s policy to not identify victims of sex crimes.

Michael Shepherd — 621-5662

[email protected]

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