September 13, 2011

Pair held in Manchester home invasion

By Craig Crosby
Staff Writer

AUGUSTA -- Two men have been charged in connection with a Manchester home invasion in which a woman was awakened in the middle of the night by a masked man threatening her with a knife.

Ricky Allen Lane, 24, of Augusta, and Michael Jo Ruth, 36, of Gardiner, were arrested Friday. Each was charged with identical counts of burglary, robbery, terrorizing, criminal mischief and theft in connection with the incident, Kennebec County Sheriff Randall Liberty said.

Augusta police, who collaborated with the county on the investigation, also charged Lane with two counts of felony robbery in connection with robberies at two city convenience store in recent weeks, Augusta police Detective Sgt. Matthew Clark said: the Aug. 28 robbery Big Apple convenience store on Stone Street and a Sept. 1 robbery at the Mobil on the Run on Bangor Street.

Lane and Ruth both made initial appearances Monday in Kennebec County Superior Court; both are being held at the Kennebec County jail in lieu of $500,000 cash bail or $1 million worth of property.

The men confessed to the home invasion, according to an affidavit filed in Kennebec County Superior Court by Sheriff's Deputy Jesse Duda, though each man claims the other carried the knife.

Liberty said Lane and Ruth broke into the Manchester home of Dwight Wheeler at 97 Prescott Road a little before 2 a.m., Sept. 5.

Wheeler's live-in companion, Charlotte Pinkham, 67, awoke to find a man holding a 4-inch knife, standing over her and demanding money, Liberty said.

The man, described as approximately 5 feet 8 inches in height and weighing 200 pounds, was wearing a dark ski mask.

"As Pinkham attempted to turn on the light, the intruder knocked the bedstand lamp over and further demanded money," Liberty said. "Pinkham gave her purse, and he also took a jewelry box as he fled out the front door."

Wheeler, 91, who sleeps in a different room and is hard of hearing, did not hear the intruder, Liberty said.

Lane and Ruth told detectives they broke into the home to get money for drugs.

The men said they had been using cocaine with a group of people, one of whom was familiar with Wheeler and had seen the Pinkhams' jewelry box while at the home.

"Michael (Ruth) stated that they planned to go to the house, break in and steal the jewelry box," Duda said. "Michael later admitted that he and Ricky went inside and took the items."

Ruth said while they were planning the break-in, Lane told him "about how he robbed the On the Run Mobil in Augusta," Duda said.

Lane told investigators that, the night of home invasion, he and Ruth put on masks and gloves. Lane said Ruth had the knife, which he used to cut a screen to get inside the house and then opened the door.

Lane said he waited in the kitchen while Ruth went into the bedroom.

"Ricky (Lane) stated that he noticed the purse on the kitchen counter on the way out, and grabbed that as well," Duda said. "He stated the credit card was inside the purse."

Less than an hour later, the card was used for two separate purchases, totaling more than $140, at a Cumberland Farms in Augusta.

A couple hours later, the card was declined for two separate purchases totaling nearly $200 at other convenience stores in Augusta. The clerk at one of those stores told detectives a man had tried to use the card to purchase Newport cigarettes and lottery tickets.

The man put the card in his pocket and left when the clerk asked to see it.

Lane told detectives they hoped to trade the cigarettes and lottery tickets for cash to purchase more cocaine, Duda said.

Detectives used surveillance images taken at one of the stores to identify Ruth -- which, in turn, led to Lane, Duda said.

In the convenience store robberies, police said a Big Apple store employee was assaulted and a weapon was displayed at the Mobil on the Run.

Lane and Ruth were arrested around 3:30 p.m., Friday during a traffic stop on Water Street conducted by Augusta police and the Kennebec County Sheriff's Office . Detectives waited until Lane and Ruth were together at Lane's house on Bond Street.

"We observed them leave and conducted a traffic strop," Duda said.

Liberty said Lane has an extensive criminal history that includes convictions for assault, criminal mischief, forgery, receiving stolen property, drug possession and trafficking, and violating conditions of release.

Lane was most recently convicted of assault in July 2010 and sentenced to 364 days in jail, with all but four months suspended. He also was fined $300 and ordered to pay $655 in restitution.

"It was important to solve this crime and to get these suspects in custody," Liberty said. "We're pleased the victims were not hurt."

Liberty said the investigation is ongoing and several more arrests are expected in the future.

Craig Crosby--621-5642



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