AUGUSTA — A China man on Tuesday admitted to breaking into a neighbor’s home last year and forcing the woman living there to perform oral sex on him.

The 21-year-old victim was able to escape the night of July 29, 2011, and she ran naked to another residence to get help.

James A. Bickford, 33, of China, pleaded guilty in Kennebec County Superior Court to gross sexual assault and a burglary charge related to the same break-in. He also pleaded guilty to an unrelated charge of theft by unauthorized taking.

Under a plea bargain approved by the judge, Bickford’s sentence would be capped at a maximum of 25 years in prison, with all of the sentenced suspended except 15 years.

A hearing is scheduled for March in the same court to decide Bickford’s final sentence. Defense attorney Walter McKee will argue for a lesser sentence and less prison time to be served initially.

Bickford will be on probation for 10 years when he is released and must register as a lifetime offender under the state’s sex offender registry.

Assistant District Attorney Brad Grant told the judge on Tuesday that the victim was aware of the agreement.

Grant said Bickford broke into the locked home shortly after the victim’s husband left for work that night. Grant said Bickford first demanded money, then sex, and hit her in the face when she resisted.

When Bickford tried to get her to move to a back bedroom, she ran away.

Bickford was arrested not long afterward when investigators followed a trail of footprints in the rain to Bickford’s home. Police became suspicious of him because he was snoring so loudly and claimed not to have heard the woman’s screaming.

Clothing described by the victim was found in a dryer and elsewhere at Bickford’s home. IN addition, the victim’s DNA was found on Bickford, Grant told the judge.

Except for answering the judge’s questions, Bickford made no statement in court Tuesday.

He remains jailed in lieu of $250,000 cash bail.
 


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