Courts and Crime

Officials at the University of Southern Maine are investigating what they say is anti-Muslim graffiti found in a student government office at the Campus Center in Portland.

The Latin phrase "Deus Vult," which means "God Wills It," was a rallying cry for Christians during the Crusades and has more recently been adopted by alt-right political activists as an anti-Muslim insult.

AUGUSTA, Maine - Seventeen-year-old Andrew Balcer has been ordered held on charges he murdered his parents, Alice and Antonio Balcer of Winthrop.

Balcer spoke softly, saying "yes" when District Court Judge Eric Walker asked if he understood the proceedings.

Balcer was ordered held in custody by the judge until a hearing Nov. 17 in District CCourt to give time for a psychological evaluation that will done by the state’s forensic service.  

WINTHROP, Maine - Police say they've charged a teenage boy with a double-killing in Winthrop.

Police declined to say whether the boy is related to the victims, Antonio and Alice Balcer, whose bodies were found early Monday at their home. The couple had two sons.

Maine Public Safety Department spokesman Steve McCausland says the teenager is due to make an appearance Tuesday in Augusta District Court on two counts of murder. The teenager was being detained at Long Creek Youth Development Center in South Portland.

OXFORD, Maine - The Oxford Police Department is experiencing a nearly 80 percent increase in calls from the Oxford Casino so far this year.

Police Chief Jon Tibbetts tells the Sun Journal that the department has answered 198 calls between January and October. Police were called for intoxication, drugs and trespassing, along with child abuse and removal of unwanted people.

PORTLAND, Maine - More than a year after Maine legislators passed a law regulating the use of drones by law enforcement, most police departments in the state still aren't utilizing the technology.

An informal survey conducted by the Portland Press Herald found that many police officials cited those regulations as the reason for not using unmanned aircrafts in the field.

Cost and a lack of manpower was also said to have played a role in law enforcement's limited use of drones.

The manslaughter trial of Portland landlord Gregory Nisbet continued Thursday. Prosecutors say he’s responsible for the deaths of six tenants in a house fire two years ago.

Prosecutors say Nisbet’s building was a death trap, with fire hazards, inoperative smoke alarms and a lack of top-floor escape routes as required by code. But Nisbet’s lawyers are trying to sow reasonable doubt about those claims, and arguing that the building did not have to meet the most stringent safety codes.

Police say they’re still investigating the circumstances leading them to issue Maine’s first Amber Alert in nearly seven years.

Augusta police have provided few details about the safe return of 3-year-old Lenore Wilson after she was reported missing Tuesday morning. It’s also unclear whether any charges will be brought in connection with the incident.

The manslaughter trial of Portland landlord Gregory Nisbet for the deaths of six tenants in a Nov. 2014 fire continues.

Testimony Wednesday morning focused on fire safety officials’ determination that 20-24 Noyes St. operated as a rooming house, a designation prosecutors say required a greater level of fire protection than Nisbet provided.

Defense lawyers are contending the the building was functionally a single-family home, which would have to meet less-stringent safety criteria.

The trial continued Tuesday in Portland for Gregory Nisbet, who is facing manslaughter charges in a Nov. 2014 fire that killed six city residents.

Nisbet was the owner of the building, and if he’s convicted, it would be the first time in the state’s history that a landlord is convicted for manslaughter in a tenant death stemming from negligent building operation. He faces up to 30 years in prison if convicted.

Maine Public Radio’s Fred Bever was at the trial, and he spoke with Nora Flaherty.

MDEA

While the state’s worsening heroin and opioid addiction crisis dominates the headlines, Maine’s drug enforcement community is also chasing a growing methamphetamine problem. They say they’re on track to double the number of meth lab busts this year.

So far this year, authorities have uncovered more than 100 meth labs, or debris from former operations, across the state. That’s twice as many as last year, and a decade ago, it would have been just five or six.

MPBN/file

The trial began today in Portland for Gregory Nisbet who is facing manslaughter charges in a November 2014 fire that killed six people in the city.

Nisbet was the owner of the building; this could be the the first time in the state’s history that a landlord is convicted for manslaughter in a tenant death stemming from negligent building operation.

Manslaughter is punishable by up to 30 years in prison and a $50,000 fine in Maine.

A federal appeals court has apparently ended the appeals of Dennis Deschaine, convicted of the 1988 murder and sexual assault of Sarah Cherry, then a 12-year-old from Bowdoin.

Since his first trail and through appeal after appeal, Dennis Deschaine has maintained his innocence. But a jury convicted him of sexually assaulting Sarah Cherry, stabbing her, and dumping her body in the woods near the Bowdoin home where she was babysitting. The State Supreme Court upheld his conviction. Motions for a new trial were denied.

PITTSFIELD, Maine — Maine State Police say they’ve charged an 18-year-old Manchester man with driving a Dodge Neon at 146 mph on Interstate 95. That’s more than twice the 70-mph speed limit.

Police say 18-year-old Tyler Barrows was stopped in Pittsfield, Maine, on Wednesday and was charged with criminal speeding, a misdemeanor punishable by up to six months in jail and a fine of up to $1,000.

A South Paris man has been found not guilty of reckless conduct in connection with a fatal hayride accident that killed an Oakland teenager in 2014.

Prosecutors tried to show that David Brown was criminally reckless in driving a jeep pulling the hay wagon at a farm in Mechanic Falls. Investigators found that mechanical failure caused the hayride to plunge down an embankment and crash into a tree.

LEWISTON, Maine - Crime in Maine has decreased for the fourth consecutive year, according to the state Department of Public Safety. 

Overall, crime dropped by 7 percent in 2015, though some categories of crime increased, such as rape, which jumped by nearly 5 percent. 

But Cara Courchesne of the Maine Coalition on Sexual Assault says that jump is likely due to better reporting. "We definitely, in terms of people calling our crisis support line, see jumps when there are high-profile cases."

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