WATERVILLE — A Gardiner man who provided striking testimony late last month in Raymond Bellavance Jr.’s arson trial was arrested Tuesday on charges that he stole money from a city home and fled from police.

The man, Thomas J. Mulkern, 26, of 123 Brunswick Ave., Gardiner, was caught 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, who had been admitted to a city hospital Monday night on suspicion that he was under the influence of the drug known as bath salts, was wearing blue hospital scrubs when he was caught Tuesday, police said.

“Mulkern was combative and refused to submit to arrest; officers struggled with him,” said Charles Rumsey, Waterville’s deputy police chief. “A Taser was deployed against Mulkern, which gained his compliance and he then submitted to arrest.”

Mulkern was a key witness for the prosecution at the recent two week-long arson trial, which concluded Friday after Bellavance was found guilty of setting the June 2009 fire that destroyed the Grand View Coffee Shop in Vassalboro. On Dec. 23, Mulkern testified that he accompanied Bellavance and watched him set the building on fire with gas cans.

Saying he wanted to clear his conscience after recently completing a drug rehabilitation program in jail, Mulkern reversed his previous story that he was elsewhere when the fire was set.

Rumsey said Tuesday’s incident began about 4:45 a.m. when a woman living on High Street called police to report that Mulkern and a woman had fled out of her apartment window after stealing cash. The previous night, police had taken Mulkern to MaineGeneral Medical Center’s Thayer Campus after encountering him on Spruce Street and suspecting that he was under the influence of drugs, possibly bath salts.

As police searched High and Spruce streets Tuesday morning, officer Josh Woods recognized Mulkern inside a passing taxi. The officer flagged the taxi to stop, but Mulkern — wearing a gray hooded sweatshirt and the blue hospital scrubs — got out and ran away.

Others officers, including Sgt. Joseph Shepherd and officer Brian Gardiner, ran after Mulkern, who fled onto nearby May Street and then tripped and fell at the intersection with Abbott Street.

Mulkern did not have any stolen cash, so police believe his accomplice does and are attempting to find her.

Mulkern was taken to the Kennebec County jail in Augusta, where he remained Wednesday without bail. He’s scheduled to appear in Waterville District Court on March 20.

Waterville police have dealt with Mulkern previously. On June 7 last year, police chased Mulkern from Walmart to Interstate 95 after he shoplifted from the store, nabbing him in the northbound travel lane. He resisted arrest in that case as well and was doused with pepper spray.

Mulkern pleaded guilty the following month to theft and refusing to submit to arrest.

At the arson trial, in exchange for his unexpected testimony, Mulkern was given immunity from prosecution for any charges related to the fire, including illegal drug use. Mulkern, who had been previously convicted of burglary, theft, escape and drug possession, testified over the strenuous objections of two attorneys representing Bellavance.

In closing arguments, Bellavance attorney Andrews Campbell told jurors, “It comes down to credibility. Do you believe Ray or do you believe Mulkern?”

 


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