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ELLSWORTH, Maine — A man arrested Wednesday in a 26-year-old cold case in Hancock County is suspected of being a serial rapist, according to a prosecutor.
Jason Follette, 56, of Gouldsboro was taken into custody at gunpoint on Wednesday on a fishing pier in Gouldsboro after police matched his DNA to a sample collected at a crime scene in Hancock in August 1996.
Toff Toffolon, deputy district attorney for Hancock County, told Judge Terence Harrigan on Thursday that there is a “less than one-in-36-billion chance” that the DNA sample taken from the crime scene does not match Follette’s unique genetic profile.
He also told the judge that Follette is a suspect in several other rapes that occurred in eastern Hancock County around the same time.
“Multiple other women were attacked in the general area,” Toffolon said. “Those investigations are ongoing.”
Toffolon said the victim in the rape that Follette has been charged with was assaulted in her home. Another woman in a similar case was dragged into the woods and struck with a gun. A third victim was attacked in her home while taking a shower, he said.
“Numerous other women,” also may have been assaulted by Follette, he told the judge.
Follette has been charged with two counts of gross sexual assault and one count of burglary of a motor vehicle. Police said in 2002 that another DNA sample collected from the steering wheel of a car in October 1996 matched the earlier sample that led to Wednesday’s arrest.
Follette was technically initially charged in 2002 even though police had not yet figured out who he was.
Michael Povich, then the Hancock County district attorney, filed charges identifying what then was described as a “John Doe” suspect only by his DNA profile. Police had collected DNA evidence at the crime scene when it happened in August of 1996 and, when the statute of limitations on the alleged crime was within days of expiring, Povich filed the charge in court, spelling out Follette’s DNA profile as the lone identifier of who was being charged.
It was the first time criminal charges had been filed in Maine against a suspect that had been identified only by his or her genetic profile.
Toffolon argued Thursday that the court should set a $100,000 cash bail because Follette, who works as a lobsterman, could potentially flee and because he should be considered a threat to the community. He said Follette is suspected of having threatened in the past to shoot people.
Don Brown, Follette’s defense attorney, rebutted that claim, saying that Follette has not threatened anyone. Follette has lived in Gouldsboro his whole life, is married, has two sons and grandchildren, Brown said.
Brown asked for bail of either $150,000 surety, which can be guaranteed with property worth that much, or $25,000 cash.
Harrigan agreed to set bail at $100,000 cash, even though Follette has only a couple of misdemeanor crimes on his record. He said Follette could be a flight risk and pose a danger to the public.
“There is an allegation he was a serial rapist, and a possibility there are another four or five victims,” the judge said.