AUGUSTA — Ernest L. Gagnon told his mom, “I don’t want you to see me do this.”

Then he hugged her and lowered his voice. “You won’t get in trouble. I’ll be at the house tonight.”

As soon as a deputy escorted her out of the interview room at the Kennebec County Sheriff’s Office, Gagnon opened the ground-floor window, pushed out the screen, and dived through, head first.

One leg and half of another remained in the interview room. Then he popped back inside. Sheriff’s Deputy David Bucknam, who was waiting outside the window, pushed him back in.

“We had to before his head hit the ground,” Bucknam said.

Tuesday afternoon’s foiled escape attempt — and the planning — was all caught by the surveillance video camera that was clearly visible on the ceiling of the interview room, and by deputies viewing a monitor in an adjacent room, who stopped him.

Gagnon, 29, of Mount Vernon, is charged with attempted escape. His mother, Brenda Choate, 46, also of Mount Vernon, is charged with aiding an escape. She was released on unsecured bail.

It wasn’t Gagnon’s first attempted escape. Several years ago, at 18, he escaped from Bolduc Correctional Center in Warren. He then stole a series of vehicles before being picked up in Lynn., Mass., following an accident with one of the stolen vehicles, according to a published report. He was sentenced in superior court in Rockland to 24 months in prison for that escape and related charges, according to court records.

In the latest motor vehicle theft investigation, Deputy Jesse Duda arrested Gagnon Tuesday in connection with a Feb. 1 theft of a 2005 Toyota 4-Runner from a home in Mount Vernon.

According to a statement from Kennebec County Sheriff Randall Liberty, Gagnon confessed to that theft, and said he used the SUV to haul scrap metal to area junk yards. Gagnon told police he dumped the Toyota in a field in Canaan, stripped the tires and rims and abandoned it.

Gagnon asked to see his mother before he was taken to jail, and deputies escorted her to the interview room at the sheriff’s office.

“He knew he was going to be extradited to Virginia,” Bucknam said.

Gagnon was released from prison in Virginia Nov. 11, after serving 22 months of a 10-year sentence for grand larceny and auto theft. He was convicted there on Aug. 31, 2010, and remains on probation in Virginia.

Bucknam said Gagnon stole a vehicle in Virginia, and he was using it to haul a broken down pickup, which contained one of two four-wheelers reported stolen in 2010 in Mount Vernon.

Liberty said authorities in Virginia indicated they will file paperwork to revoke Gagnon’s probation.

On the sheriff’s office surveillance video, Gagnon told his mother to distract the deputy while she was leaving so he could escape. He also made a cellphone call to a friend to arrange a meeting at the fire station in Augusta after escaping.

On Wednesday, Gagnon made an initial appearance by video in Waterville District Court on two counts of theft of motor vehicles, plus charges of criminal mischief and criminal attempt to escape. A judge set bail at $10,000 cash.

Liberty credited the arrest of Gagnon in the motor vehicle theft case to a cooperative investigation with the Oakland Police Department. Gagnon had been stopped in Oakland Feb. 8 on a charge of felony theft by unauthorized use of property.


Betty Adams — 621-5631

[email protected]


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