June 22, 2018
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Searsport man arrested after allegedly threatening to set woman on fire

John Morton
By Abigail Curtis, BDN Staff

SEARSPORT, Maine — A man who served time in southern Maine for holding his estranged wife captive with a live grenade is in police custody again after allegedly dumping gasoline on a Searsport woman Sunday morning and threatening to light her on fire.

John Morton, 46, of Searsport, was arrested and charged with domestic violence terrorizing, domestic violence assault and criminal mischief, according to Searsport Police Chief Dick LaHaye.

“There’s heavy involvement with law enforcement in his past,” LaHaye said Wednesday. “He has a long history.”

Police were called to the Frankfort Road residence at about 8:30 a.m. Sunday after getting a report of a domestic situation. When Officer Dennis Remillard arrived, he talked with the alleged victim, who said that she had been assaulted and that Morton had left their home in a pickup truck. She told the officer that the couple had been in an argument when Morton poured gasoline on her and threatened to light her on fire, LaHaye said, adding that the woman did not require hospitalization.

At some point during the argument, Morton let the air out of all the tires on her vehicle and also went into the house with a can of gas and a propane torch, the chief said.

“He dumped gasoline on the furniture and said he was going to touch it off. But he apparently had a change of heart and walked back out,” LaHaye said.

The woman was able to call another family member to ask for help, and that person picked her up and took her away from her home. But she started thinking that she needed to get back to the house, LaHaye said, and called 911 and reported the possibility that a fire would take place.

When Remillard met her at the house, she described Morton and his truck, and police put a “be on the lookout” order to area law enforcement agencies.

Maine State Police Sgt. Patrick Hood spotted Morton at a little after 9 a.m. on Route 52 in Belfast, stopped him and took him into custody.

Morton was taken to Waldo County Jail to be booked and remained in jail on Wednesday, LaHaye said, under a probation hold from a prior offense or conviction.

In 2001, Morton pleaded guilty in York County Superior Court to felony charges of kidnapping, gross sexual assault and criminal threatening. Prosecutors said he kidnapped his wife the previous year by using a live grenade and threatening to “blow them to kingdom come,” according to the BDN archives. His defense attorney said that he bought a bag of old military equipment at a Gorham flea market and then discovered the grenade, wrapped in cloth, at the bottom of the bag.

He was sentenced to 20 years in prison with all but seven years suspended and six years of probation, under a plea deal.

Justice Robert Crowley said then that the sentence was comparatively light. If a jury had convicted Morton then of all three counts, he would have faced up to 85 years in prison.

According to LaHaye, Morton moved to the midcoast area a few years ago and lived around Union before moving to Searsport about three years ago.

If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic violence and would like to talk with an advocate, call 866-834-4357, TRS 800-787-3224. This free, confidential service is available 24/7 and is accessible from anywhere in Maine.

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