OLD TOWN, Maine — The owner of a house that police said “was just covered with dog feces” and trash when they responded to a suspicious fire there in October was indicted Wednesday on a charge of arson by a Penobscot County grand jury.
Investigators concluded that the fire, which broke out at 614 Main St. on Oct. 27, was set by homeowner Winnie E. Osnoe, 39, who told police the arson was her second attempt to burn down the house, Old Town police Officer Lee Miller said at the time.
Police first suspected arson because there were “some inconsistencies in the story she told us and the fire insurance investigator,” the officer said.
In addition, the origin of the fire, which ripped through the structure, was nowhere near any electrical outlets or other devices, he said.
“We determined it had to be a human element,” Miller said.
While investigators were at the house, Osnoe pointed out fire damage on a wall near the thermostat that she said had occurred two or three weeks earlier, Miller said.
“She ended up admitting to us she started the fire near the thermostat,” he said.
Osnoe told police she started the fire on 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.
A team of investigators made up of Fire Chief Steve O’Malley, Lt. Matthew Redding, Lt. David Daniel and Miller worked on the arson case.
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 shortly after the fire.
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. Osnoe was using the kitchen stove to heat the building she shared with her 20-year-old daughter.
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.”
Osnoe owned four dogs, which were taken to the Bangor Humane Society, and several cats, two of which were captured and taken to the Old Town Animal Orphanage, Miller said.
“I’ve never seen a house look that bad — the [animal] feces, the trash,” the officer said. “It was just covered with dog feces.”
Osnoe, who has no criminal history, could face up to 30 years in prison if convicted of the arson charge against her.