Wednesday, August 20, 2008
A woman and beer.
One put Michael T. Bresnahan on authorities’ radar screens in
Cottage Grove, Ore., and the other is the reason he went back to
the rural town to allegedly hide out.
Now one of Massachusetts’ most wanted fugitives is in custody
after being on the lam almost a year. Mr. Bresnahan, 36, was
cornered by Cottage Grove police Monday night after they got a tip
that he was walking on railroad tracks in the city.
Photo courtesy of KVAL news
The avid outdoorsman who was featured on “America’s Most Wanted”
Saturday is facing charges for allegedly sexually assaulting a
61-year-old retired school teacher inside her North Central Street
home in Winchendon on Aug. 30. He allegedly held a knife to her
throat during the two-hour ordeal.
“Waiting a year is very frustrating when you know who you are
looking for,” Winchendon Police Chief Scott M. Livingston said
As of about three weeks ago, Mr. Bresnahan was living with a woman
in Cottage Grove, which has a population of roughly 9,800. The
pair had a falling out and the woman became suspicious of the man
she knew as Aaron Anderson, according to Cottage Grove Police
Chief Michael G. Grover. He told her that his identification was
destroyed in an apartment fire and he didn’t have his birth
certificate, authorities said.
She starting looking through Mr. Bresnahan’s things and found
identification with his real name. The woman called police but by
then the he had hitchhiked to Seattle.
According to Deputy U.S. Marshal Ross Mueske in Eugene, Ore., Mr.
Bresnahan was in a Cottage Grove bar roughly three weeks ago when
a heated argument started. He allegedly pulled a knife and took
off. Deputy Mueske said Mr. Bresnahan knew people in the city and
worked here and there as a furniture mover.
“He was established here. He had friends,” the deputy marshal
He came back recently; living in a tent in an open wooded area of
Lane County, outside the Cottage Grove city limits. Authorities
have found his campsite, Chief Grover said.
“He was coming back to see her. He knew he was on ‘America’s Most
Wanted,’ ” the chief said. “He came back to square things with
Months before his capture, police in Cottage Grove encountered Mr.
Bresnahan. He was a passenger in a car that was involved in a
Once Cottage Grove police received the tip that Mr. Bresnahan was
walking on the railroad tracks Monday evening, officers set out to
capture him. Officer Carlos Jones was off duty when he heard about
the sighting over his police radio.
The officer saw Mr. Bresnahan walking on the tracks — not far from
where Chief Grover lives — and called other officers for help. Mr.
Bresnahan ran, but Officer Jones followed in his car, caught up to
him and arrested him at gunpoint.
“That’s what we get paid to do,” Chief Grover said.
Other law enforcement agencies were looking for Mr. Bresnahan.
According to a Massachusetts State Police news release, the search
for Mr. Bresnahan shifted to the Pacific Northwest once he was
seen in Springfield, Ore., at a Wal-Mart, and then at a nearby
interstate on Aug. 2.
“Marshals and local police also began an intensive search of
forested areas around Cottage Grove because Bresnahan had
purchased camping equipment in the Wal-Mart on Aug. 2,” the state
police news release said.
On Sunday, a day after the “America’s Most Wanted” segment, people
who watched the show recognized Mr. Bresnahan as the person who
allegedly stole about $3 worth of beer from a Safeway store in
Cottage Grove. The store’s security footage showed someone fitting
his description, police said.
According to Deputy Mueske, Mr. Bresnahan wore a shirt with a New
England Patriots logo when he entered Wal-Mart. He reportedly wore
the same shirt when he entered the Safeway supermarket.
“What we found pretty incredible was the Safeway video was closer
up and clearer than the Wal-Mart video,” the deputy marshal said.
“He wore the same outfit in the Safeway video.”
The 5-foot-9-inch, 160-pound, heavily tattooed man used some of
the trails in the Pacific Northwest.
“Evidently he was a hell of a camper,” Chief Grover said. “He was
living in the woods.”
As a hiker and outdoorsman, he fit in, too. The fugitive, who is
said to be a fan of rock music and a guitar player, blended into
the Cottage Grove community.
“He’s been living the life over the last few weeks that doesn’t
even approach unusual in these parts,” Deputy Mueske said.
“Hiking, living outdoors — no one bats an eye.”
Authorities said he also used the Pacific Crest Trail, which runs
from Mexico to Canada.
Mr. Bresnahan is facing charges here for the alleged assault in
Winchendon. After an investigation, Winchendon police obtained an
arrest warrant for him, and the Massachusetts State Police Violent
Fugitive Apprehension Section began looking for him along with
several other law enforcement agencies.
Worcester District Attorney Joseph D. Early Jr. spoke with the
alleged victim in the Winchendon case and she was pleased Mr.
Bresnahan is in custody.
He was charged Monday with being a fugitive from justice.
Worcester Assistant District Attorney Joseph A. Quinlan said
yesterday that Mr. Bresnahan appeared in Lane County Circuit Court
yesterday, and was ordered held on $10,000 cash bail. He did not
waive rendition, and a court date was set for Oct. 3, Mr. Quinlan
Mr. Quinlan said the Worcester district attorney’s office will
apply for a governor’s warrant to get Mr. Bresnahan back to
Massachusetts to face the sexual assault charges.
Steven H. Foskett of the Telegram & Gazette staff contributed to
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