Princeton Man Pleads Guilty to Multiple Counts of Underwear Theft

Brian T. McLaughlin of Princeton.

By Lura Jackson

 

Some community members in Princeton are feeling more at ease as the result of a court hearing on Wednesday, January 17th that saw a local man, Brian T. McLaughlin, pleading guilty to charges of burglary of multiple pieces of women’s underwear over several years’ time. McLaughlin, 38, was sentenced to four years following a guilty plea to one charge of Class B burglary and one charge of Class C theft. All but 120 days of the sentence was suspended. McLaughlin will have three years of probation once he is released.

According to Kim Sawyer of the Maine State Police who worked with Detective Chad Lindsey on the case, the instances of theft go back at least to 2012. Several residences in the Princeton area were targeted over that time, all of which had an association with McLaughlin. “Everybody that was a victim had a connection to him,” Sawyer said. 

The situation came to light in July of 2017 when McLaughlin’s wife noticed underwear in their home that did not belong to her. After a neighbor confirmed it belonged to her, the state police were contacted and the investigation began. 

Among the victims that were involved was Lacey Arsenault. McLaughlin plead guilty to breaking into the Arsenaults’ home between 8 and 12 times, taking a piece of underwear each time. Finding out that McLaughlin had been taking the items was both a surprise and a relief to Arsenault, who had been at a loss at to where her intimates had disappeared to. “We knew items were missing, but we weren’t sure where they were going,” Arsenault said. “I thought that maybe my niece was stealing them, since we’re the same size.”

The news that it was McLaughlin taking the pieces was a shock, Arsenault related. “He’s quiet, and demure, and he goes to church every Sunday,” Arsenault said. She herself went to the same church as McLaughlin, and that is where part of their connection was built. Another link was established through Arsenault’s husband, Adrian, who worked with McLaughlin at the Baileyville mill. “I never would have thought it was him, and I worked with him for four years,” Adrian said. Working side by side with Adrian, McLaughlin was constantly apprised of what his schedule was and when he would not be home. Since McLaughlin’s stepchildren attended school with the Arsenaults’ children, they believe he could keep track of when they were at sporting events. On one occasion, according to the Arsenaults, McLaughlin came into their home when their 16-year old nephew was home. He promptly left, and the nephew relayed that “some guy was here”, but the incident went relatively unnoticed until the underwear thefts came to light.

The items that were taken were consistently higher quality, lingerie-style underwear, bras, and swimsuits. Some of the items were taken off of clotheslines, while others were taken from washers, dryers, or laundry bins. “The worst part about it was thinking I was losing my mind,” Lacey said of the missing pieces.

Like many in the Princeton community, the Arsenaults did not lock their doors, thinking that they were basically “always home” and feeling protected by their 180-pound dog that was often outside. That will be changing now. In addition to keeping their doors locked, the Arsenaults have each purchased pistols to carry around for personal protection. “With all the other stuff going on around town, what choice do you have?” Adrian questioned.

After the police were first contacted in July, the case was essentially wrapped up in August. Four affected residences were confirmed by the state police for the purposes of the hearing, but others have suggested that there are as many as eleven victims in total. Per the Arsenaults, the number of items presented for identification was approximately 40. “There are other people involved that don’t even know he’s had their stuff,” Lacey asserted.”

The Arsenaults were pleased with how quickly and effectively the Maine State Police handled the case. “They were really good about it, and they let us know what was going on,” Lacey said. “Chad Lindsey was amazing and very supportive. He really took the lead and got this on track.” 

While the Arsenaults are generally pleased with the ruling, Lacey and another unidentified victim are working with the state legislature to make the case for instances similar to McLaughlin’s to be added to the sex offender registry. Maine does not currently consider the theft of underwear to be admissible to the registry. “It’s a safety issue, because we can’t put him on the registry, and he lives in such a small community, and he seems like such a harmless guy but he’s not,” Lacey expressed.

Per Officer Sawyer, once McLaughlin is released in four months, the general public does not necessarily need to be concerned unless they were in some way associated with him. Those who are concerned can take the precaution of locking their doors, especially with a tamper-evident deadbolt, putting up a camera, or adding a security system.

This isn’t the first time in recent memory that an individual from Maine has been arrested for stealing underwear. In October of 2017, a Limerick teen was found guilty of taking 70 pairs from homes in the Southern Maine community. 

If you suspect that a loved one or friend is engaging in suspicious or erratic behavior, Officer Sawyer recommends working with them to find counseling. If you find unfamiliar items, contact neighbors to inquire if they are missing anything, or contact the police directly to enable them to begin building a case.