Lighter leads to arsonist’s arrest, police say

Posted June 29, 2012, at 10:12 a.m.
Last modified June 29, 2012, at 8:21 p.m.
Dana R. Benner
Knox County Jail
Dana R. Benner

ROCKLAND, Maine — A 51-year-old South Thomaston man who is awaiting sentencing for setting fire to his home in an effort to collect insurance is behind bars after he was found in possession of a pink Bic lighter.

Dana R. Benner was arrested Friday morning after the district attorney’s office obtained an arrest warrant Thursday, arguing that Benner violated terms of his bail. One condition of his bail was that he not possess any incendiary devices.

Benner pleaded guilty in December to one count of arson for a fire that damaged his home in September 2008 in South Thomaston. The agreement reached between the prosecution and defense was that he be sentenced to four years in jail with all but nine months suspended if he does not violate bail in the next 12 months. He was scheduled to be sentenced in December.

Benner was stopped May 3 by police in Damariscotta when he was driving his son’s vehicle with one headlight not working. The officer determined he was on bail and was informed of the prohibition of having no incendiary devices. The officer found a pink Bic lighter in plain view in a dashboard compartment.

Benner was issued a summons for violating a condition of bail. The case was referred to the district attorney’s office, which then sought the arrest warrant that was issued Thursday.

Benner’s attorney, Jonathan Handelman of Brunswick, filed a motion Thursday asking that Benner’s bail conditions be amended to allow him to be able to smoke.

“Although Dana is struggling to overcome his nicotine addiction and is taking medication to help him quit smoking, he has not yet quit,” stated the motion.

Benner is scheduled to make a court appearance Friday afternoon in Rockland District Court.

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