Former Verso paper mill employee faces kidnapping, terrorizing charges for armed hostage incident in Jay, Maine; bail set at US$10,000

JAY, Maine , March 16, 2012 () – A former Verso paper mill employee who held the mill manager hostage for more than nine hours Wednesday is expected to be arraigned Friday in Franklin County Superior Court.

Francis “Frank” G. Smith III, 50, of Norridgewock was being held Thursday at the Franklin County Detention Center in Farmington on felony charges of kidnapping and terrorizing, Jay police Chief Larry White Sr. said. Smith’s bail was set at $10,000 cash.

He surrendered at about 6:30 p.m. Wednesday and was taken to Franklin Memorial Hospital in Farmington for an examination per police protocol, White said.

A distraught Smith drove his truck through the main gate of the Androscoggin Mill and up to the Administration Building on Riley Road, where he entered with two fully loaded guns, a 12-gauge shotgun and a .357 Magnum revolver, White said. The gate was left open to allow access to a contractor working in the mill, White said.

Jay police were called at about 8:40 a.m. and alerted to an armed person holding an employee hostage. The mill manager, Marc Connor, was the only hostage, White said, discounting reports of a second hostage taken and released for Connor.

The mill went into immediate lockdown. When White, Detective Richard Caton and Officer Russell Adams arrived, they evacuated the wing around the manager’s office and kept the armed Smith in one room, White said. Smith couldn’t have gotten farther into the mill.

Before the Maine State Police Tactical Team arrived, police could hear the conversation between Smith and Connor, White said.

Smith appeared very upset but wasn’t asking for anything or making demands, the chief said. Smith’s employment at the mill had ended in September 2011. He was unemployed and distraught, White said.

One state police hostage negotiator kept Smith in conversation by telephone throughout the day. A negotiator’s job is to try to develop a relationship with the person, White said. In this case, the negotiator helped Smith realize that the mill manager had done nothing to him and that he had a family, too.

Smith never made threats or harmed Connor and let him go at about 3:30 p.m.

Connor handled the situation well, White said. Attempts to reach Connor on Thursday were unsuccessful. White said the mill manager was spending the day with his family.

The negotiator continued talking with Smith for three more hours after Connor was released. Smith didn’t ask for anything and “didn’t seem to know what he wanted,” White said.

He said no shots were fired and no employee, other than the manager, was in danger.

Jay police took the firearms and impounded Smith’s truck. They continued their investigation Thursday as the district attorney’s office reviewed the case.

White said about eight Franklin County deputies came to help secure the area and six Jay officers, including some who were off-duty, worked at the scene. About 20 state police troopers, including members of the Maine State Police Tactical Team, came to the site. Verso mill personnel also assisted police, he said.

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