Saco man found dead in burned home after police standoff was ‘mentally ill,’ family members say

By Tammy Wells and Liz Gotthelf, Journal Tribune
Posted May 20, 2013, at 1:12 p.m.

SACO, Maine — The body of a Saco man was found in the rubble of his burned out home Saturday night after a standoff with police.

The state medical examiner’s office was scheduled to perform an autopsy to determine the cause of death of Charles Scontras, 58, who held police at bay for more than four hours, beginning at about 2 p.m. Saturday.

The standoff at 16 Hillview Ave. began after a police officer and Scontras’ estranged wife had gone to the home so she could retrieve her belongings. They retreated when they saw smoke coming from the home and heard at least one gunshot.

Law enforcement, including Saco police and the Maine State Police tactical team, were at the scene for several hours, as was the Saco Fire Department. Scontras refused to come out of the house.

Saco Deputy Police Chief Jeffrey Holland said Scontras was a longtime Saco resident who had once owned a shoe repair shop on Main Street. Holland said Scontras and his wife, Diane, had recently separated, and although there were no prior reports of domestic violence at the home, Diane Scontras did not feel comfortable entering the house alone. She needed to get her personal belongings and asked a police officer to escort her into the home, said Holland.

When police came to the house around 1:45 p.m., said Holland, they noticed smoke and sent Diane Scontras to a neighbor’s house. Holland said within about 15 minutes, Charles Scontras fired a shot from an open second-floor window.

Police evacuated residents from neighboring homes.

Holland said he had two brief phone interactions with Charles Scontras that afternoon. He said he initially called Scontras and left him a voice mail message asking him if they could resolve the situation peacefully. Holland said Scontras called him back and said he wasn’t leaving the house and asked police not to come in. Holland said he had another brief phone call later in the afternoon from Scontras, saying he was not going to leave the house.

Holland praised his staff, along with the Maine State Police and Maine Marine Patrol, who all worked to make sure other residents in the neighborhood were not harmed.

Maine Public Safety spokesman Stephen McCausland said investigators with the state fire marshal’s office believe Scontras set one or more fires inside the two-story home, located in the Hillview Heights subdivision off Route 112.

At about 6 p.m., more smoke and flames erupted. The home was destroyed, and heat from the fire melted siding on a neighboring house.

Walkers and a steady parade of motorists drove past the charred shell of a home Sunday morning.

An older man who said he lives a bit farther along Hillview Avenue said police stopped by where he and his neighbors were chatting and keeping an eye on events and told them to go inside and stay inside.

Carol-Ann Scontras, Charles Scontras’ niece, stood gazing at the burned-out remains of the home Sunday morning. Her grandparents had once lived there, she said, and she mourned the loss of family mementos such as family photos and her grandmother’s recipe books.

“There are a lot of memories” of when her grandparents lived there, she said.

She described her uncle as a man who ill-treated his family members.

“He was severely mentally ill and [it was] untreated,” she said.

Charles Scontras’ brother Peter Scontras runs the Way Way Store on Buxton Road. Peter Scontras said on the store’s Facebook page that because of the tragic death in the family, the store will be closed.

“We will be open next weekend. If you are so inclined, please pray for my brother, Charles and his family,” he wrote. “He suffered for years with an illness.”

At around 8 a.m. Monday, more than 70 people had responded with condolences and prayers on the store’s page.

http://bangordailynews.com/2013/05/20/news/portland/saco-man-found-dead-in-burned-home-after-police-standoff-was-mentally-ill-family-members-say/ printed on July 26, 2014