BANGOR, Maine — Investigators were in Prentiss Township on a stakeout the night a state fire marshal’s car was torched, watching for the same man who later was charged with setting the car on fire.
A call from John Weckerly, the man accused of setting fire to the state-owned 2009 Chevrolet Impala, on Tuesday triggered the nighttime detail into the early morning hours Wednesday, according to an incident report from the State Fire Marshal’s Office filed Friday at the Penobscot Judicial Center.
Weckerly, 53, was charged with Class A arson in connection with the car fire. He remained at the Penobscot County Jail late Friday night, unable to make bail after his first court appearance earlier in the day.
Weckerly called investigator Ed Archer to renew his complaint about a logging company, which is not named in court documents, making too much noise near Weckerly’s property. Archer apparently had talked previously with Weckerly about fires near his property — one in November and two in July — stated the incident report, which was dated Wednesday, Aug. 4.
“Investigator Archer advised that each of the fires occurred shortly after John Weckerly complained to law enforcement authorities about the logging operation and was unsuccessful in his attempts to stop the woods operations,” the report said. “Due to this concern, a surveillance detail was planned for [Tuesday, Aug. 2].”
Weckerly was arrested without incident and charged with arson early Wednesday after a state police dog followed a scent from the destroyed car of Fire Marshal Sgt. Timothy York from Aurora Drive to Weckerly’s home about a half mile away. The car had been set afire with a flammable liquid, state police said.
A butane lighter was found in Weckerly’s back pocket, according to the report filed in court on Friday.
York and two other officials from the State Fire Marshal’s Office, Archer and Scott Richardson, were in Prentiss conducting an investigation into three arson fires set in the area over the past 10 months, according to a statement released Wednesday by Maine State Police. A garage, a seasonal camp and other structures were damaged or destroyed by the fires, which occurred on Nov. 16, July 3 and July 20, state police said.
Weckerly denied setting the fires in an interview Wednesday with fire marshals.
“[He] stated that the logging operation was crazy and responsible for the fires,” said the report. “Weckerly denied [causing] the fires and stated that he never leaves his property.”
Weckerly did not enter a plea when he appeared before Superior Court Justice Ann Murray at the Penobscot Judicial Center by videoconference from the jail about 1 p.m. Friday.
“Mr. Weckerly was a man on a very dangerous mission here,” James Aucoin, assistant district attorney for Penobscot County, told Murray. He asked that bail be set at $25,000 cash.
Bangor attorney Marvin Glazier, who served as the attorney of the day for those in custody, recommended that $5,000 cash was reasonable bail for Weckerly, whom he described as a 12-year resident of Prentiss Township.
Murray set bail at $5,000 cash or $25,000 surety with the condition Weckerly enter into a contract with Volunteers of America, a pre-trial services organization. Murray strongly urged VOA to included a condition of house arrest for Weckerly along with the condition that he possess no incendiary devices.
Weckerly will not be required to enter a plea to the Class A charge of arson until after he has been indicted. The Penobscot County grand jury is scheduled to convene on Aug. 24.
Landowners in the area interviewed Wednesday said that Weckerly was somewhat eccentric. Known around the area as “moped man” because he drove one, Weckerly was a loner often seen muttering to himself, neighbors said.
If convicted, Weckerly faces up to 30 years in prison and a fine of up to $50,000. In addition, he could be ordered to pay restitution for the damage to the car.
BDN writer Nick Sambides Jr. contributed to this report.
Correction: An earlier version of this story contained a wrong name. James Aucoin is the assistant district attorney for Penobscot County, not James Diehl.