June 21, 2018
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Minot man faces spate of charges after allegedly setting fire to estranged wife’s home, ramming van

Daryn Slover | Sun Journal
Daryn Slover | Sun Journal
Michael Callahan (right) appears in Androscoggin County Superior Court with his attorney Jim Howaniec in March 2013.
By Chris Williams, Sun Journal

AUBURN, Maine — Prosecutors expect to bring three arson charges against a former Minot man who remained hospitalized in Lewiston on Tuesday after a possible overdose.

Michael Callahan, 44, also is expected to be charged with two counts of reckless conduct, one count of aggravated assault, violation of a protective order and violation of condition of release.

Police believe Callahan set fire to his house at 185 Verrill Road in Minot at about 1:15 p.m. Friday. Half an hour later, he set fire to the mobile home of his estranged wife, Laurie, who lived at 33 Highland Ave. in Mechanic Falls, according to a nine-page affidavit written by Kenneth MacMaster, an investigator at the Office of the State Fire Marshal.

Shortly afterward, Callahan drove his Chevrolet pickup half a mile from Laurie’s home and rammed the rear of the Ford minivan she was driving. She pulled the vehicle into a church parking lot where he rammed her vehicle twice again. She fled the minivan and was later taken to a hospital with injuries that were not considered life-threatening, according to court records.

Callahan tried to start the minivan, then left the scene in his pickup and sped past his Minot home. Firefighters had set up a portable pool from which to pump water to hoses they used to fight the blaze that by then had fully engulfed his house.

An Androscoggin County Sheriff’s deputy in his cruiser chased Callahan’s truck at high speed. Callahan stopped his truck at the intersection of Pottle Hill and Goodwin roads in Minot. Deputy Denis Sampson noticed Callahan was backing his truck at high speed, so Sampson backed up the cruiser, which landed in a ditch on the east side of Goodwin Road, according to a four-page affidavit written Tuesday by Maine State Police Detective John Hainey.

Sampson, fearing Callahan would ram his cruiser, fired at least three shots from his service handgun, a .40-caliber semiautomatic Glock, at the passenger side windows of the truck, the affidavit said.

Callahan fled the scene in his truck and was chased by other law enforcement vehicles until his eventual surrender on Greenwood Mountain Road in Hebron.

Investigators wrote in affidavits that witnesses said they saw Callahan at both the Minot and Mechanic Falls homes shortly before the two fires were reported. Another witness saw Callahan ram his estranged wife’s minivan.

Callahan had been barred from both residences after he held police at bay for more than six hours during an armed standoff in December. Since then, he had been staying at 31 Leavitt St. in Auburn.

Authorities said Callahan fired nearly 100 rounds from the Verrill Road home during the standoff. A high-powered rifle and a machine gun were fired in the direction of police, who had surrounded his home. Police later discovered an arsenal that included 22 handguns, 26 rifles and six shotguns.

Police said Callahan’s estranged wife and two teenage children had fled the home after he brandished an AK-47 rifle with a scope and said he wanted to die.

MacMaster wrote in his affidavit Monday that Callahan “may have taken some sort of medication overdose” on Friday. He was transported to St. Mary’s Regional Medical Center in Lewiston following his arrest Friday.

Investigators retraced Callahan’s movements earlier on Friday to help piece together the actions leading up to the fires.

Shortly before 12:30 p.m., Callahan went to a hardware store in Auburn, where he bought two 5-gallon fuel containers. About five minutes later, he bought a “self-igniting torch” at a hardware store in Minot. At roughly the same time, a truck matching his was seen at the gas pumps at a Cumberland Farms store in Mechanic Falls.

After Callahan’s arrest, authorities impounded his truck. They found the torch in the bed of the pickup, along with traces of accelerant, such as gasoline. They also found a fuel cap and nozzle and, in the cab, receipts. The pants he wore that day had traces of accelerant on them, police said.

A witness told police he saw a man fitting Callahan’s description walking toward Laurie Callahan’s front porch carrying a five-gallon gasoline container, the affidavit said. Michael Callahan’s pickup truck was parked in the driveway. Police found packaging for a “self-igniting torch” next to the steps where the fire was started, the affidavit said.

Investigators ruled both home fires arson. The Verrill Road home fire started in the garage, investigators concluded. The third arson charge reflects the risk encountered by firefighters who fought that blaze.

Investigators said a lit gasoline container was placed under the porch of the mobile home in Mechanic Falls on paper and cardboard, which was ignited.

The mobile home sustained minor damage to the exterior; the Verrill Road two-story house was a total loss.

Authorities on Friday locked down Poland Regional High School and Minot Consolidated School shortly after the reported fires because Callahan’s two children attend those schools. Elm Street School in Mechanic Falls reportedly was locked down because Laurie Callahan worked there.

Police said her minivan was rammed on Elm Street near the school.


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