WATERVILLE — A local man who took his own life in the parking lot of Benton Elementary School on Wednesday had apparently sexually assaulted a teenage girl earlier in the day, according to Waterville police.
Anthony Harding, 41, sexually assaulted the girl at a storage shed that he had rented out, Waterville Police Chief Joseph Massey said Friday.
The assault was reported to Waterville police around 2 p.m. Wednesday by a woman who was bringing the girl to a local hospital, according to Massey, around the same time Harding’s vehicle was reported to be in the parking lot of Benton Elementary School.
The chief said the girl was abducted from a residence before Harding took her to the shed. Police learned of the suicide soon after interviewing the victim.
“Within a half-hour of us talking to the girl we heard that there was a report that someone had shot themselves in a car that matched the description of [Harding’s] at Benton Elementary School,” Massey explained.
“We put things on hold for a second and reached out to responders heading to the scene. We were able to verify that it was Anthony Harding.”
When Waterville detectives combed through the storage shed, they discovered a living space with furniture and a TV, and that Harding had built what Massey described as a solid wall inside the unit. Massey said Harding allegedly told the victim that he had been considering suicide but could not bring himself to do it.
The girl told police Harding held her at gunpoint, and that she escaped the shed after he left.
Massey said Harding did not have any type of criminal history with Waterville police.
SAD 49 schools were briefly locked down during the incident.
Harding’s vehicle was parked about 300 feet from the school in the easternmost part of the parking lot, according to Kennebec County Sheriff Randall Liberty.
Harding, who appeared to be under the influence of an unknown substance, shot himself with a .38-caliber handgun as Fairfield rescue personnel spoke with him from the vehicle’s passenger-side door, according to Liberty. Prescription medication and several syringes were found in the car.