BANGOR, Maine — It took the jury about an hour to find Brian Pelletier, 26, of Bangor not guilty of setting a Brewer apartment building on fire in September 2007.
The testimony of an alternative suspect, who threatened to burn down the building in the days before the arson, is believed to have swayed the jury of five men and nine women in their verdict, defense attorney Thomas Matzilevich said Tuesday after court.
“The alternative suspect … testified and he acknowledged that he made the threats to residents at 121 Park St.,” in Brewer, he said.
A barking dog alerted residents in the multifamily apartment building on Parker Street to an emergency in the early morning hours of Sept. 22. The fire destroyed the entire back of the dwelling, dis-placed two families and a group of friends living there, and killed three pets — two cats and a dog.
Pelletier was drinking alcohol at a party in the top-floor apartment, rented by his brother Shawn Pelletier hours before the blaze broke out, but he had returned home before the fire started, his attorney said.
Testimony by a friend of Pelletier who was on the phone with him the morning of the fire, walking him through how to fix a video game machine, created another hole in the state’s case against him, Matzilevich said.
A state eyewitness who placed Pelletier at the fire minutes before the blaze, wearing red and dark pants, also was contradicted by a defense witness who testified that Pelletier “was wearing a blue-green T-shirt and khaki-colored shorts,” Matzilevich said.
“Obviously, we’re very pleased with [the verdict],” he said. “I think the jury did an excellent job sorting through the facts. I think it’s a wonderful thing that Brian and his family will have some closure.”