Two hostages held by a knife-wielding prisoner were released Monday night without serious injury and the hostage taker was back in custody following an hours-long drama at the Maine State Prison, home to the state’s most dangerous offenders, officials said.
Few details were immediately available about how the situation ended. “I’m thankful that the crisis has ended without loss of life,” Gov. John Baldacci said Monday night.
Associate Corrections Department Commissioner Denise Lord identified the hostage-taker as Michael Chasse, who was convicted of breaking into the home of the brother of then-Defense Secretary Bill Cohen in 1997. Chasse later escaped during his trial by throwing laundry detergent in the eyes of a sheriff and chief deputy.
The hostage-taking incident unfolded at 2:30 p.m. Monday inside the state’s largest prison and it dragged on before it was resolved before 10 p.m. The two hostages were described by corrections officials as an inmate and a staff member at the prison. Their names weren’t released.
‘Minimal or no injury’
Corrections Commissioner Marty Magnusson declined to brief reporters after the incident ended. In a brief statement, Lord said both hostages were released “with minimal or no injury.” She said no more information about the incident would be released until Tuesday.
Chasse was armed with a knife in 1997 when he broke into the home of Robert Cohen in Brewer. He was sentenced to 12 years in prison on charges related to that incident.
He was ordered to serve an additional 14 years for charges related to his escape outside the Piscataquis County Superior Court during his trial in 1998. After his escape, he stabbed two law enforcement officers and commandeered a pickup truck. He was arrested five hours later in a canoe on Sebec Lake.
State's 'Super Max'
The Maine State Prison, which has 899 inmates, contains the so-called “Super Max,” which houses the state’s most notorious prisoners. It also houses medium-security inmates, as well.
Law enforcement officials declined to discuss what might have provoked the hostage-taking, where in the prison it occurred and whether demands were made by Chasse.
The state police tactical team responded to the prison 58 miles northeast of Portland. Baldacci’s spokesman, David Farmer, said a corrections department negotiating team made contact with the prisoner but he said prison officials weren’t revealing what was said.