OLD TOWN, Maine — Investigators have concluded that the fire which broke out at 614 Main St. last weekend was set by the homeowner, who allegedly told police the arson was her second attempt to burn down the house.
“She had enough and didn’t want anything to do with the house,” Old Town police Officer Lee Miller said of Winnie Osnoe, 39, who was charged Wednesday with felony arson.
Osnoe, who co-owns the house with her mother, is behind on her mortgage payments and there are several problems with the house, which code enforcement officer Dave Russell condemned on Monday.
“I’ve never seen a house look that bad — the [animal] feces, the trash,” Miller said. “It was just covered with dog feces.”
Osnoe owned four dogs, which have been taken to the Bangor Humane Society, and several cats, two of which were captured and taken to the Old Town Animal Orphanage, Miller said.
The house is “unsafe for human habitation” because of the extensive fire damage and “pre-existing environmental deficiencies,” Russell said, referring to the trash and excrement.
“It’s a mess,” he said. “They let their animals do whatever they wanted.”
The only water to the residence was provided by an outside spigot, because the building’s copper pipes reportedly were stolen this past summer, Miller said, and Osnoe was using the kitchen stove to heat the building she shared with her 20-year-old daughter.
Osnoe told police she started the fire on Saturday, Oct. 27, by throwing a lighter into trash piled in an upstairs bedroom and then left the house to go for a walk with her daughter, Miller said. People in the neighborhood reported the fire shortly before 11:30 a.m. Heavy smoke and flames were pouring out of the two-story building when fire crews arrived.
“She said there may or may not [have been] lighter fluid over by the bed,” Miller said.
Evidence from the area around the bed was collected and is being tested for incendiary elements by a team of investigators made up of Fire Chief Steve O’Malley, Lt. Matthew Redding, Lt. David Daniel and Miller.
After the fire, the Pine Tree Chapter of the American Red Cross arranged for temporary housing for Osnoe and her daughter, who were put up at a local motel.
Police first suspected arson because there were “some inconsistencies in the story she told us and the fire insurance investigator,” Miller said.
Also, the origin of the fire was nowhere near any electrical outlets or other devices, he said.
“We determined it had to be a human element,” the officer said.
While investigators were at the house, Osnoe pointed out fire damage on a wall near the thermostat that she said occurred two or three weeks ago, Miller said.
“She ended up admitting to us she started the fire near the thermostat,” he said.
Osnoe, who has no criminal history, could face up to 30 years in prison if convicted of the arson charge against her. She is scheduled to appear in court in December.
Where she and her daughter now are staying was not available Friday.