Matthew Lemery

“Good old-fashioned police work” key to solving 2014 robbery case



ELLSWORTH — Tracking down gas receipts, re-interviewing witnesses and subpoenaing company records were essential to identifying a suspect in the case of a 2014 KeyBank robbery in Ellsworth, said Lt. Harold Page of the Ellsworth Police Department.

“It’s like a puzzle — you’ve got a whole bunch of pieces and you’ve got to put them all together,” Page said. “Sometimes it’s a great big puzzle, sometimes it’s a little tiny puzzle. You’ve got to follow every lead.”

The theft made headlines around the region when it occurred on Feb. 3, 2014. Page said it was the only bank robbery he could remember in his nearly 40 years with the department and that it was particularly unusual because of the robber’s behavior.

“He kept apologizing to the teller for robbing the bank,” Page said in an interview with The American that ran the day following the theft. “He kept saying over and over he was sorry.”

For months, officers scrutinized an Old Town man charged with several bank robberies in the region.

“It wasn’t that much of a stretch” to think it could have been him, Page said. The man’s clothing and age fit a similar description to that of the suspect in the KeyBank case, and the robberies of banks in Orono and Corinth seemed geographically close enough to fit the pattern.

Detectives at the Ellsworth Police Department eventually convinced the man’s lawyer to let him sit for a polygraph test.

But the man passed the test, and the leads went cold.

“It just kind of died on the vine,” Page said. “No suspects, nowhere to go.”

Page was assigned to the case in December 2016, nearly three years after the event. He began combing through the evidence and re-interviewing witnesses, including the bank’s teller.

“It was very emotional for her,” Page said.

Police occasionally stage robberies at banks, Page said, to train employees in what to look for and how to react, and the teller initially thought the man might be joking or that the incident might be staged. Recounting the event nearly four years later nearly brought her to tears.

“It brought back all of the fear and anxiety,” Page said.

A re-examination of the evidence brought the first break in the case.

“Sometimes you just need a fresh set of eyes,” Page said.

The veteran officer scrutinized a traffic stop that had occurred about a month after the robbery, when a business vehicle matching the description of the one seen in the surveillance tape was stopped in Ellsworth. There were three men inside, two of whom fit the description of the suspect. One had a long criminal history, Page said, but the other had no record, and hadn’t been looked at closely.

Page requested records from the company that owned the vehicle and spoke to the manager at the time. After obtaining a schedule sheet and gas slip from the day of the robbery, Page was able to place one of the men “within a four-mile radius” of KeyBank on the same day and around the time of the theft.

“It’s all bits and pieces that you pull in,” Page said.

The man Page had identified was fired from the company shortly after the robbery for unrelated reasons, and took a job in southern Maine. He had no criminal record. Page declined to discuss details of the man’s financial situation, but said “he did have a motive.”

The Ellsworth Police Department worked on the case for months, Page said, before accumulating enough evidence to present to a grand jury and secure an indictment. Page credited the work of the Maine State Police along with the Kennebunk Police Department as being essential to tracking down the suspect.

“I can’t say enough” about the work they put in, Page said. “These are people I’ve never met before. It’s good to know that they’re there to help out if you need it.”

On April 5, 2018, over four years after the robbery, an arrest warrant was issued for 29-year-old Matthew Lemery. The Kennebunk resident was booked into York County Jail and charged with theft by unauthorized taking or transfer Class C and robbery Class B, according to a press release distributed on April 12.

Page said the case was one of the longest he’d ever worked on.

“It was just good old-fashioned police work,” Page said. “It got legs under it and it went.”

Kate Cough

Kate Cough

Kate covers the city of Ellsworth, including the Ellsworth School Department and the city police beat, as well as the towns of Amherst, Aurora, Eastbrook, Great Pond, Mariaville, Osborn, Otis and Waltham. She lives in Southwest Harbor and welcomes story tips and ideas. She can be reached at [email protected]