Two students from the University of Maine at Presque Isle received the Maine Sheriffs’ Association’s Presidential Valor Award for 2015 for an act of heroism in which they put themselves in danger to help someone else.
According to news reports, on August 18, 2015 Vanessa and Justin Hodgkin were driving along State Road in Mapleton when they saw that the passenger door of an approaching SUV was open. A woman’s legs were hanging out of the vehicle, nearly touching the ground, and the man who was driving the vehicle pulled her by the hair. The Hodgkins realized that the man was trying to force the woman back into the vehicle and they followed the SUV to a church parking lot nearby. After approaching the SUV, the couple noticed that the woman had bruises on her face and body.
“She was crying,” Vanessa Hodgkin said. “I had a conversation with the lady. I was trying to get her out of the vehicle. I said she didn’t have to stay there.”
The couple were unsuccessful in getting the woman out of the SUV, but Hodgkin wrote down the car’s license plate number. She and Justin Hodgkin, who did not own cell phones, drove to her grandmother’s home to call 911. They reported the SUV’s license plate number, a description of the vehicle and the direction they had last seen the vehicle travelling.
Sheriff’s Deputies and Border Patrol Agents later stopped the SUV in Ashland and the driver was charged with domestic violence assault and criminal restraint. The woman was badly bruised, but suffered no life threatening injuries. The driver eventually received a deferred disposition because the woman refused to cooperate with prosecution of the case.
“That changes nothing about what the Hodgkins did,” Sheriff Darrell Crandall said in nominating the couple. “As a matter of fact, we believe the Hodgkins did more to try to protect the victim than did the criminal justice system. So many people are unwilling to get involved even to the point of calling the police and reporting a crime. The Hodgkins were willing to do so much more. They put themselves in harm’s way to protect another human being in peril. For that, they are heroes.”
The Hodgkins were presented with the Presidential Valor Award for 2015 during the Maine Sheriff Association’s annual banquet at the Holiday Inn by the Bay in Portland on March 24, 2016. The prestigious award is given to only two or three Maine citizens each year who are not police officers and who “risked their lives in the line of duty, exemplify the ideals and spirit of Maine’s Sheriffs and have unselfishly given of themselves to help others.”