James Berube. Credit: Hancock County Jail

Before he led police on a chase in Hancock County on Sunday afternoon, a Machias man allegedly set suspicious fires and then tied up a Baileyville woman and stole her truck, according to police.

James Berube, 21, knocked on the woman’s door on Houlton Road, also known as Route 1, on Sunday morning, Baileyville police Chief Robert Fitzsimmons said Monday. He asked the woman, whom he did not know, if she would give him a ride to Machias.

“When she wouldn’t provide it, he knocked her down and tied her up and took her truck,” Fitzsimmons said.

Berube also allegedly ransacked her house, destroyed phones and computers so she couldn’t call for help and looked for cash before he left, the police chief said.

About an hour or so later, a neighbor heard the woman yelling for help and went to her aid, Baileyville police said. Emergency medical technicians later checked her, and she declined to be taken to the hospital.

Fitzsimmons said Monday afternoon that the woman, a retired worker from the local paper mill, was more “hot and mad” than physically injured.

“Every time she opens the door she’ll wonder what’s on the other side of it,” Fitzsimmons said. “She’s tougher than a boiled owl. She’s one of ours and we want to make sure justice is brought to her just as well as anywhere else.”

Berube also is accused of starting suspicious fires earlier Sunday morning in Princeton and Indian Township that damaged three buildings, according to the Maine fire marshal’s office. Additional details about the fires were not available Monday..

From Baileyville, Berube drove the truck to Ellsworth, where he was spotted by an Ellsworth police officer who attempted to stop him around 1 p.m. Sunday. Berube sped off, leading police on through the Mill Mall parking lot and down Oak Street, according to Ellsworth police chief Glenn Moshier. Officer Jon Mahon backed off the chase, Moshier said, but estimated that Berube sped down Oak and High streets toward Trenton at speeds ranging between 75 and 80 mph.

A short time later, the Hancock County Sheriff’s Department located the truck — a 2017 Chevrolet Silverado — at the Trenton Marketplace IGA supermarket on Route 3 in Trenton and attempted to track down Berube in the woods behind the store. He eluded police temporarily but was arrested at gunpoint Sunday evening at Dysart’s Moose Crossing store in Trenton, about three miles away, by Sgt. Joel Davis of the fire marshal’s office, according to Stephen McCausland, spokesman for the Maine Department of Public Safety. Davis encountered Berube inside the store when Davis stopped to buy a soda for himself, McCausland said.

According to the Hancock County Jail booking log, Berube is facing felony charges of arson, aggravated assault, burglary, aggravated driving to endanger and eluding an officer, as well as multiple misdemeanor motor vehicle offenses.

According to Fitzsimmons, Berube potentially will also face charges of kidnapping, robbery, theft, obstructing report of a crime, assault and criminal mischief.

Berube was arraigned Monday afternoon in Ellsworth District Court, where his bail was set at $85,000 cash or $60,000 surety. He is expected to remain at Hancock County Jail in Ellsworth until Wednesday, at which point he likely will be transported to Washington County and arraigned in Machias on the additional charges, according to Fitzsimmons.

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Bill Trotter

A news reporter in coastal Maine for more than 20 years, Bill Trotter writes about how the Atlantic Ocean and the state's iconic coastline help to shape the lives of coastal Maine residents and visitors....