Convicted murderer Arnold Nash, who walked away from a minimum security prison in Penobscot County last Thursday, was arrested shortly after sunrise Tuesday while walking along a major road in Dover-Foxcroft.

Maine Department of Corrections Commissioner Joseph Fitzpatrick said it appeared Nash wanted to be caught.

“Certainly, the way he was wandering along the roadway, he didn’t seem to be hiding at the point he was discovered,” Fitzpatrick said in an interview. “This is the best outcome we could have hoped for.”

Nash, 65, was dehydrated and exhausted, but was otherwise unharmed. His peaceful surrender ended a five-day manhunt but also gave the department an opportunity to review protocol to see whether any changes need to be made, both to how prisoners are transitioned in anticipation of their release and how minimum security prisoners are supervised.

“We’re not a perfect organization, but we hold ourselves accountable,” Fitzpatrick said.

Nash was taken into custody by Sgt. Michael Gould of the Piscataquis County Sheriff’s Office. Gould did not respond to multiple messages left for him, but told a WGME-TV reporter that Nash said he wanted to escape because he wanted more prison time added to his sentence.

Nash was sentenced in 1992 to a maximum of 45 years in prison for beating his former neighbor, Wilbur Gibeault, to death in the Hancock County village of North Sullivan. However, because of credit he had earned for good behavior, he was due to be released from prison next December, well shy of that maximum sentence.

‘NOT SAYING VERY MUCH’

Fitzpatrick said Nash had not made any statements to corrections officials about why he escaped from Mountain View Correctional Facility in Charleston, a rural community northwest of Bangor.

Arnold Nash

“He’s not saying very much right now,” the commissioner said. Fitzpatrick did say Monday that it was certainly possible that Nash committed the crime of escape to avoid being released from prison, the only home he’s known for decades.

After Nash was cleared medically, he was taken to the Maine State Prison in Warren, a much more secure facility than Mountain View. Fitzpatrick said officials cannot alter Nash’s release date on the murder conviction but said the prisoner will be charged with a new crime, escape, that would in all likelihood lead to a new prison sentence. Those charges would come from the local district attorney’s office, which was still reviewing the case Tuesday.

Nash had a lengthy criminal history before his murder conviction that included two prison escapes, one in 1973 when he was still a teenager, and another in 1981 from the former Maine State Prison in Thomaston. The latter escape, which involved another inmate, Milton Wallace, led to one of the most infamous manhunts in state history, the Moody Mountain Manhunt. The men were captured in the woods of the Waldo County town of Morrill after 22 days.

During his most recent prison sentence, Nash showed no signs of violence or aggression, Fitzpatrick said. In 26 years, he had only two infractions and both were minor.

HOW TO MITIGATE RISK

Nash spent most of his sentence in a traditional lockdown facility, the Maine State Prison, but in the last year had begun transitioning to a prerelease environment, first at the now-closed Downeast Correctional Center in Machiasport and then at Charleston. Fitzpatrick explained that every prisoner who is set for release goes through the same process.

“I still believe strongly in transitioning inmates, even those who are high-risk or serious criminals, prior to their release,” he said. “The reality is that percentage-wise, the majority of prisoners return back to their communities. Part of the challenge for me is: How do we mitigate the risk when we do that?”

Although Fitzpatrick defended the practice, he said he has authorized an internal review to ensure that Nash – who was unique in that he was both a convicted murderer and someone with a history of escaping – was properly evaluated prior to his transition to a less secure facility.

“We’re looking at whether the proper process was followed. We just don’t know yet,” the commissioner said.

Fitzpatrick said it appears Nash simply walked away from the Mountain View campus while no one was looking. The campus does not have a perimeter fence. He was last seen at 8:20 p.m. Thursday, when it would have been dark.

But Fitzpatrick said his office also would review supervisory protocols as well.

“If there are pieces that don’t exist that would put us in a better position, I’m going to look at adding them,” he said.

 

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