DOVER-FOXCROFT – A nurse’s compelling testimony Wednesday regarding details of an encounter with a Garland man last fall in remote Elliotsville Township helped convince a jury to convict the man of reckless conduct and criminal threatening.
Mark A. Meech, 39, was found guilty of the charges after a day-long trial in Piscataquis County Superior Court. He was found not guilty of attempted theft by unauthorized taking. His sentencing was continued.
This was not Meech’s first brush with the law. He was convicted in 2000 of four counts of burglary and one count each of cruelty to animals and operating a motor vehicle after revocation. Meech shot and killed one dog and seriously injured another dog at one of the four homes he had burglarized. He was sentenced to eight years in prison with all but four years suspended and he was placed on probation.
Piscataquis County District Attorney R. Christopher Almy said outside the courtroom Wednesday that Don Stouffer, Meech’s probation officer, plans to file a motion to revoke Meech’s probation based on the new conviction.
“In our opinion, this fellow is a dangerous person and the probation department and our office should be aggressive in holding him accountable not just for the new offenses but for violating his probation,” Almy said.
Defense Attorney Randy Day of Garland said Wednesday he plans to file an appeal.
“What happened was very scary – there can’t be any question about that,” Almy said during the trial. He said the victim, Sara Camenga, 48, of Embden, was “absolutely scared to death” of her encounter with Meech.
Camenga testified she had gone to Elliotsville alone on Oct. 26 to hike Borestone Mountain, a hike she’d done before. After arriving at the empty parking lot around 9 a.m. she said she set off on the approximately one-hour hike. As she returned from the mountain, she noticed an unfamiliar man walking toward her. He asked if the place was open and she replied it was and then continued down the path to the parking lot. There she saw two other vehicles, including an older reddish-orange Jeep.
Camenga said she then drove toward Barron Mountain and stopped at a bridge to write down a telephone number displayed on a sign there intending to call the landowner later in inquire about a particular trailhead. She said the reddish-orange Jeep, which was driven by the man she had spoken to on the Borestone trail, passed her. When she started up again, she noticed the Jeep returning her way.
When the driver backed his vehicle up and pulled over to allow her to pass, Camenga said she rolled down her window and asked directions to the Appalachian Trail. She told police she followed his directions and had driven about two miles or more from Borestone when she noticed the Jeep behind her.
Camenga said a short while later she turned her vehicle around and was headed in the opposite direction when the driver of the Jeep waved for her to stop. She stopped and the man walked in front of her vehicle to her open window, crouched down and proceeded to give her further directions to the A.T. After she thanked Meech and told him she was not hiking it that day, she said he “suddenly reached toward me with both hands” and in a sexual tone said, “Hey, baby, what’s happening?”
Panicked, Camenga testified she accelerated the car as Meech was reaching for her. She said Meech held onto the car with his left hand and grabbed the steering wheel with his right hand, attempting to steer the vehicle to the ditch. Camenga said she was “screaming at the top of her lungs” as he ran alongside the car still holding the steering wheel and yanking it to the ditch while she attempted to keep control of it. “I was thinking my God how can I get away; I was feeling very scared.” She said her vehicle veered into the brush on the side of the road twice during the process and the last time Meech was knocked off. She then drove 10 miles to the Monson General Store where she called police.
On the witness stand, Meech said he met Camenga on the trail and inquired about the trails. After speaking with her, he decided not to hike the trail because his leg was bothering him so he sat down, had a cigarette and later returned to his vehicle.
Under cross-examination by Almy, Meech said he told Investigator Dave Wilson of the Piscataquis County Sheriff’s Department that he decided to wait a few minutes because he didn’t want to “spook” Camenga or make her think he was some kind of a “freak.” He said he then headed to Slungundy Falls which is in the same direction as the A.T. but took a wrong turn and retraced his path. He planned to go fishing there.
Meech’s recollection of the events didn’t differ greatly from Camenga’s until the part when he approached her vehicle. Meech testified he drove by her vehicle and stopped, got out and walked around to the driver’s side of her vehicle, leaned down on his knees and explained she had taken a wrong turn. When she explained she was not hiking the trail that day, Meech said he remarked, “Well, it’s something worth doing if you get the chance.” He said he went to stand up after speaking to her, grabbed the middle part of her door to steady himself and apparently scared Camenga. He said she slowly started to move her car forward and she drove onto his shoelace. Then she jammed on the gas and he started to fall back, Meech testified. He said Camenga was turning the wheel toward him and he felt he would get run over, so he turned the steering wheel toward the ditch. He said he finally let go and the tire ran over his lower leg.
After the incident, Meech went home. He said he arrived home at about 3 p.m., but didn’t tell his sister about being injured in an accident until 3:45 p.m. after her young children left the house with an aunt. The sister then called police to report the accident.
He was arrested that night and went to the emergency room for treatment several days later.
A probation officer’s last name was misspelled in a story published Thursday on Page B1 about the conviction of Mark Meech. His name is Don Stauffer.