January 9

Accused Oakland man: Christmas Eve theft ‘dumb mistake’

Charged with robbing widow of her jewelry, he says, “It was Christmastime and I couldn’t get the kids nothing.”

By Matt Hongoltz-Hetling mhhetling@centralmaine.com
Staff Writer

OAKLAND — A Main Street man who was charged with stealing a widow’s jewelry on Christmas Eve said drug and money problems caused him to have a lapse of judgment.

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Stephen Frappier

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Melissa Burgess

Stephen Frappier, 27, was charged Dec. 26 with taking jewelry worth more than $1,000 from a 76-year-old neighbor’s apartment.

Frappier, a flagger for road construction crews, said a lifelong drug habit he recently kicked was a contributing factor. “I don’t deny the charges, and I’m not saying I’m guilty,” he said. “But I have a bad past. I had a juvenile moment.

“I just kicked a heroin habit two weeks ago,” he said. “I’ve been clean. It was Christmastime and I couldn’t get the kids nothing.”

He said he and his wife have four kids.

Oakland Police Officer Gary Bowman, who handled the case, said his sympathies lay with the victim, who he described as very trusting.

“She’s a grandmother,” he said. “Older women are supposed to be off limits.”

Frappier’s wife, Melissa Burgers, 26, was charged with receiving stolen property last week.

Frappier disputed previous reports from police that he befriended the victim, who lives in the same building as he and his wife.

“It’s not like I’m hunting people down just to rob them,” he said.

Bowman said it depends on the definition of befriend.

Burgess had coffee with the victim in the victim’s apartment on multiple occasions, according to Bowman. Bowman said Frappier’s relationship with Burgess made the victim feel more comfortable around him. As she left the building on Christmas Eve, she saw Frappier shoveling the building’s walk, and told him that she was leaving for the holiday.

“She was comfortable sharing information with him,” Bowman said. “During the investigation, I asked her if she suspected anyone and she said no.”

Then Bowman asked her whether anyone knew she was leaving for the holiday.

“She stopped and looked at me and put her hand over her mouth and said ‘Oh my God, I shouldn’t have told him.’”

Frappier said he wasn’t aware that Burgess and the victim had coffee together. He said he didn’t know what apartment she lived in, but that when he saw an open apartment door in the hall, he had a moment of weakness brought on by stress.

Bowman said he interviewed neighbors in the building, and found one who overheard Frappier on the phone, trying to sell the jewelry to a local business. Bowman visited the business and reviewed security camera footage that showed Frappier and Burgess unsuccessfully trying to sell the jewelry together.

That led to a charge of receiving stolen property, a class D misdemeanor, against Burgess.

Frappier said Burgess is innocent, and that he told her the jewelry came from his mother.

“She didn’t do anything,” he said.

When Bowman knocked on Frappier’s door, Bowman said Frappier initially denied having the jewelry. When Bowman confronted him with the evidence, Frappier returned the jewelry, which included wedding and engagement rings, from a hiding place in the ceiling.

Bowman said Frappier was cooperative with the investigation from that point.

Burgess will face her charge in Waterville District Court in mid-February.

Frappier is scheduled to appear in Kennebec County Superior Court to face his charges, a class D misdemeanor and a class C felony, also in mid-February.

Frappier said he was introduced to heroin at the age of 12 and that he has struggled to stay out of trouble with the law. He first tried other types of drugs at age nine or 10, he said.

“It was a dumb mistake,” he said. “When you fall back on something, you fall back on what you know. My history is theft and burglaries.”

Matt Hongoltz-Hetling — 861-9287 mhhetling@centralmaine.com Twitter: @hh_matt
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