SKOWHEGAN — A resident of the Trinity homeless shelter was arrested early Tuesday on a charge of gross sexual assault in connection with an incident in the McClellan Street shelter.

Mark Allen Johnson, 35, is charged with a class B felony for allegedly engaging in a sexual act with his wife while she was unconscious or otherwise physically incapable of resisting and had not consented to the contact, Police Chief Ted Blais said. The crime is punishable by up to 10 years in prison.

The arrest came after a string of arrests at the shelter that recently prompted Blais to say the shelter adds to the town’s crime rate.

Earlier this month, a resident was sentenced to jail after taking a loaded gun to the shelter and threatening the pastor in April. In March, three men were arrested on various warrants at the shelter, and Blais said it attracts crime. Last summer, a resident stole medication from the shelter and later was sentenced to 30 days in jail.

Tuesday’s alleged assault was reported to police at 2:28 a.m. by a friend of the woman, Blais said. He said the investigation remains open, and it is not yet known why the woman was unconscious or unable to resist the contact.

“I know that’s what he is charged with, and I know that she was unconscious. That’s all I know,” Blais said. “It’s a class B crime. That’s very serious.”

He said it appears the woman regained consciousness and contacted the friend, who called police. Blais said he sent Detective Josh King to investigate because of the seriousness of the charge.

The woman was taken to Redington-Fairview General Hospital in Skowhegan for an examination that includes sexual assault evidence collection, which Blais said is the recommended action when a sexual assault is reported.

“They have specially trained nurses for that,” he said. “Any time there’s ever a situation, whether it’s domestic violence or date-rape-related, any kind of situation like that, it’s always recommended by us that you immediately go to the emergency room and seek assistance.”

Blais said Johnson and his wife are from out of state and came to Skowhegan particularly because of the shelter, which is the only one in the Skowhegan area. He said the inquiries about the couple show they possibly have lived in Maine, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Missouri.

“Once again, we’re getting people from away,” Blais said. “It appears that they are coming here for the homeless shelter.”

Richard Berry, senior pastor of Trinity Evangelical Free Church, which runs the shelter, said the couple is homeless with three or four children and came to him for help.

“They came here as a family,” Berry said. “They are a homeless family. That’s what they are.”

The main dormitory section of the shelter is for men only. Part of the nearby church provides space for families.

He said work on a vacant house and barn the church bought on abutting land in February 2014 is set to begin in a matter of weeks.

Berry said the men’s shelter, which opened with 45 beds in 2008, expanded in 2012 and now accommodates 60 men. He said the shelter is at capacity.

Berry said he didn’t know the details of what happened Tuesday.

He said the state Department of Health and Human Services is working with the woman while her husband remains at the county jail awaiting a court date. The next in-custody appearance day in court is Wednesday.

In response to Blais’ criticism, Berry said earlier this month that if a shelter anywhere is taking in homeless people, it is also taking in people who are desperate and who get into trouble. Most people in a shelter are there because they have lost their homes or lost their jobs, he said.

“They are not criminals,” Berry said. “Very few of them that go through here are criminals. Our guys aren’t out wandering the streets at night. We do the opposite. I think we’re more of a deterrent to local crime, not a cause of it.”

Berry said Tuesday he doesn’t think the shelter attracts people who are more likely to run afoul of the law despite the April 28 loaded gun incident, in which Raymond Lewis threatened to shoot him.

“We’ve had six incidents in the six years out of probably 4,000 people, so I’d say the answer is absolutely not,” he said. “The ultimate goal hasn’t changed. It’s to get people off the street and help them get their lives together and move them along.”

Doug Harlow — 612-2367

[email protected]

Twitter: @Doug_Harlow

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