PARIS, Maine — An Oxford County jury found Andrew Freeman, 22, guilty of trying to burn down his ex-girlfriend’s house in Norway last December while she and her grandparents were asleep.
The jury of six men and six women found Freeman guilty of two charges of aggravated attempted murder, arson and burglary Wednesday after just over an hour of deliberation.
Assistant District Attorney Joseph O’Connor said he was pleased with the verdict. “He’s a very dangerous individual,” he said, adding that Freeman had an extensive criminal record that couldn’t be discussed at the trial, but would be addressed at his sentencing in November.
O’Connor said that at the time of the fire last year, five different young women had filed protective orders against Freeman, and said Freeman had been convicted of stalking and criminal trespass. “If he had been acquitted, I think we would have seen him again,” O’Connor said.
Both attempted murder charges were aggravated, one by the fact that the act was premeditated and one by the fact that the fire could have killed multiple people. Aggravated attempted murder is punishable by up to life in prison. The arson charge is punishable by up to 30 years.
Freeman’s sentence will follow a pre-sentence investigation, and is expected to happen in late November.
After both “guilty” findings in the aggravated attempted murder charges, presiding Justice Donald Alexander asked the jurors if they believed, beyond a reasonable doubt, that Freeman had met the criteria for the charges. The jurors answered that they had.
Freeman is accused of starting two fires in the basement. One failed to ignite. The other woke up the girl’s grandmother, Sandra McLeod. The family managed to extinguish the fire before it could catch on to the ceiling rafters.
Both O’Connor and Freeman’s attorney, Sarah Glynn, made closing arguments Wednesday.
Glynn accused the state of making too many assumptions in its case and raised the idea that the 17-year-old girl, who had broken up with Freeman the day before the fire, might have staged the fire so he’d leave her alone and stop calling.
Glynn said there was no evidence that Freeman broke into the house, and that DNA evidence on a milk bottle and a lighter could be explained by Freeman’s previous visits to the home.
O’Connor argued that the explanation that Freeman had started the fire was the only one possible, saying the girl wouldn’t burn down the only home she has ever known and possibly kill her grandparents. He pointed to Freeman’s attempt to use a friend’s saliva to fool a DNA test after the fire as evidence of Freeman’s consciousness of guilt.
The McLeods were not present for the verdict.