AUGUSTA — A Waterville man caught by a game camera as he broke into a West Gardiner garage was sentenced Thursday at the Capital Judicial Center.

Darren M. Ellis, 50, was ordered to serve an initial six months in jail, with the remainder of the four-year sentence suspended, for stealing items that had belonged to a man who recently died. He was placed on two years of probation.

Ellis’ attorney, Kevin Sullivan, told the judge that Ellis was so upset about what he had done that after admitting it to police and returning the property he had taken, he stopped eating for weeks, missed a court hearing and failed to show up for work.

His employer called Augusta police, asking them to check on him; and when officers arrested him on the outstanding warrant, they took him to the hospital, Sullivan said.

“I didn’t eat for three months, worrying about going to jail for a year,” Ellis said. “Two Fridays ago two APD officers showed up and basically saved my life.”

He apologized to the court and to Michael and Melissa Christensen, who owned the property after her father died.

“I would like to say I’m very sorry for what I did. I don’t know why I did it,” Ellis said, after admitting to the offenses that occurred June 20, 2015, in West Gardiner.

Assistant District Attorney Tyler LeClair said Ellis and a co-defendant were working for a man who had been hired to get the property ready to sell. Once the Christensens discovered that tools, welding equipment and other items had been taken, police identified Ellis and Paul M. Harrington from the game camera images, LeClair said. He said that in addition to the tools, birdhouses handcrafted by Melissa Christensen’s father also were stolen.

“They were my dad’s things,” Melissa Christensen said at the hearing.

Michael Christensen said it was obvious that Ellis was a willing participant in the crimes.

“He willingly went into the building,” Michael Christensen said. “The co-defendant went into it first, locked it, and Ellis knocked onto the door to be let in.”

In arguing for Ellis to spend an initial year behind bars, LeClair said Ellis was convicted in state court of criminal use of explosives and reckless conduct with a dangerous weapon in 2012, burglary in 2009, and in federal court in 2003 of mailing threatening communications.

Judge Paul Mathews said he was concerned because the West Gardiner crimes followed the pattern of the previous burglary. He warned Ellis that he could end up serving the 3 1/2-year suspended portion if he violates his probation.

“It’s really significant time,” Mathews said.

Harrington, 43, of Augusta, was indicted on the same burglary and theft charges, and a dispositional conference will be held in the next month or two, LeClair told the judge.

In a separate hearing Thursday at the Capital Judicial Center, Douglas William Hanson, 40, of Oakland, was sentenced to two years in prison after he pleaded guilty to operating after revocation and failure to stop for an officer. The offenses occurred Aug. 17, 2015, in Mount Vernon.

The sentence is concurrent with a 51-month probation revocation.

A charge of aggravated assault related to a knife fight Sept. 18, 2015, in Oakland was dismissed because Hanson was not indicted on that charge within three sessions of the grand jury. However, he could be re-indicted.

Betty Adams — 621-5631

[email protected]

Twitter: @betadams

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