AUGUSTA — A key witness in a recent high-profile arson trial was hospitalized Thursday after he reportedly attempted to strangle himself inside a cell at the Kennebec County jail.

Thomas J. Mulkern, 26, of Gardiner, was arrested Tuesday in Waterville after police there charged with him stealing from an apartment and chased after him. Mulkern was taken to MaineGeneral Medical Center Thursday after he tried to strangle himself with a twisted bed sheet, said Kennebec County Sheriff Randall Liberty.

“He was responding and alert and talking,” Liberty said.

Mulkern was expected to return to the jail Thursday evening. Liberty said he will be placed on watch, which includes a check every five minutes.

Waterville Police arrested Mulkern Tuesday night after a brief foot chase and was charged with theft, refusing to submit to detention and a probation hold after police responded to a report of stolen money from a house on High Street.

Mulkern struggled with police and had to be subdued with a Taser, Waterville Police Deputy Chief Charles Rumsey said after the arrest.

Mulkern was taken to the Kennebec County jail. Mulkern on Wednesday became aggressive with corrections officers, who doused him with pepper spray to bring him under control, Liberty said.

“We were bringing him to general population and he became difficult,” Liberty said. “He saw his girlfriend in the jail and he wanted to talk to her. That caused the conflict.”

Mulkern was placed in an observation cell Wednesday night. Around 11 a.m., officers checked on him and found him unconscious with the sheet around his neck, Liberty said.

Mulkern provided pivotal testimony in the arson trial of Raymond Bellavance Jr., last month in Kennebec County Superior Court. A jury on Dec. 30th convicted Bellavance of burning down the controversial Grand View Topless Coffee Shop in Vassalboro. Mulkern testified that he accompanied Bellavance and watched him set the building on fire with gas cans.


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