PARIS, Maine — A man who admitted setting fire to a boarding house last year will serve 15 years for the crime.
Todd Fickett, 19, was sentenced to 20 years with all but 15 suspended, plus four years of probation with counseling. He pleaded guilty to the arson on March 13. The boarding house, a 2½-story building at 467 Main St., had nine other boarders living there when Fickett started the fire, according to a former resident. Everyone escaped without injuries.
Assistant District Attorney Joseph O’Connor argued for 30 years, the maximum sentence for a Class A crime, with all but 20 years suspended. “This could very easily have been the largest … mass murder in Maine history,” he told the court.
He said Fickett set the fire at night when residents were sleeping and didn’t alert them. “Mr. Fickett did nothing to prevent what could have been a fiery death.”
Ron Ryder, who was asleep when the fire started, told the court that Fickett had threatened another resident earlier that day. “We lost everything,” he said. “We lost stuff we can never, ever replace.”
Ryder said he has nightmares and has trouble sleeping, for fear of waking up in a burning house again. He asked for a harsh sentence, and called Fickett a “menace to society.”
According to an affidavit by investigator Daniel Young of the State Fire Marshal’s Office, the fire was set at around 1:30 a.m. on Monday, May 9, 2011. A resident, Jayson Hill, was awake playing video games and alerted the other tenants when he saw smoke.
According to Young’s affidavit, Norway Police officer James Ventresca reported seeing a burning mattress against a wall in Fickett’s room. The fire destroyed the building and spread onto the roof of Ari’s Pizza and Subs, but firefighters quickly extinguished the fire at Ari’s. The former location of the boarding house is now a parking lot for Ari’s.
Fickett’s attorney, Maurice Porter, said his client was reckless but didn’t intend to kill anyone, and pointed out that Fickett was convicted of arson, not attempted murder. He said Fickett didn’t try to lock people in or set fires in front of other tenants’ doors.
Porter asked for 10 years, with all but the year Fickett has already served suspended, so that he could immediately undergo psychological treatment. He argued that Fickett needed treatment that isn’t available in prison, and that a longer sentence would delay the time until he could begin treatment.
“The longer it takes to get him into those facilities, the longer it’s going to take for him to progress into a more civic-minded individual,” Porter argued.
Fickett spoke briefly, apologizing to the victims of the fire, including Ryder.
Justice Robert Clifford said he had to take public safety into consideration and the inherent danger in setting a residential building ablaze when the inhabitants are asleep. He said evidence showed Fickett “does not appear to really appreciate the seriousness of this offense.”
When Fickett is released, his probation conditions will not allow alcohol or drug use. O’Connor said Fickett was drunk when he started the fire.
After the sentencing, Ryder said he didn’t believe Fickett’s apology was sincere. He said he would have liked to see Fickett get 30 years, but was happy to see the defendant going to prison.
“I think he will always be a menace to society,” Ryder said.
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