Lowell man pleads insanity in home arson case

Posted Dec. 06, 2010, at 8:17 p.m.

BANGOR, Maine — Frank Stedford said he started a fire on the first floor of his Lowell home last year “to smoke out” the voices he was hearing.

Stedford, 57, pleaded not criminally responsible by reason of insanity to arson Monday at the Penobscot Judicial Center.

He told Superior Court Justice William Anderson that he wasn’t trying to burn his house down, he just wanted the voices to show themselves.

Anderson found Stedford not guilty by reason of insanity of the Class A crime and ordered that the defendant be committed to Riverview Psychiatric Hospital in Augusta.

Stedford was indicted for arson by the Penobscot County grand jury in January. He pleaded not guilty in March and was released on unsecured bail.

Since his arrest, Stedford has undergone treatment for anxiety and paranoid-schizophrenia, the defendant told the judge Monday.

After setting the fire on Sept. 10, 2009, Stedford ran to a neighbor’s house to tell him the fire was out of control. The neighbor called the Fire Department, said Michael Roberts, deputy district attorney for Penobscot County, and damage was moderate.

Defense attorney Aaron Frey told Anderson that he agreed with Roberts that commitment to Riverview was the best outcome for his client.

If he had gone to trial and been convicted, Stedford would have faced up to 30 years in prison and a possible fine of up to $50,000.