LEWISTON, Maine — A then-12-year-old city boy confessed to police and again to his mother in a videotape shown in court on Monday that he set a fire on the back porch of 109 Blake St. on April 29.
Brody Covey, now 13, was shown in a local police interview room talking first to Lewiston police Detective Robert Morin, then later to his mother, Jessica Reilly, on May 2.
Covey first said he poured gasoline on the back porch of the apartment building and on some clothes, then lit them with a lighter.
After Reilly entered the interview room and talked to her son, Covey first told her the fire was an accident but later said he had poured rubbing alcohol on a flattened cardboard box on the back porch, lit it and put it next to a nearby shed.
Covey’s attorney, Allan Lobozzo, filed a motion to suppress statements Covey made to police about his involvement in the fire. Lobozzo’s motion was heard in 8th District Court at noon on Monday. Judge Rick Lawrence continued the hearing to Friday after running out of time while viewing the lengthy police interview.
The District Attorney’s Office said last week it would not seek to have Covey tried as an adult on three counts of arson. That means he would be tried in juvenile court and, if adjudicated (found guilty), he could be committed to a youth detention center until he is 21 years old.
Assistant District Attorney Melanie Portas questioned Morin on Monday about events leading up to his interview of Covey.
Police videotaped Morin’s interview with Covey, who was a seventh-grade student at Lewiston Middle School. The teenager — who was 12 years old at the time — at first denied setting the fire that destroyed three apartment buildings and left 75 people homeless. Starting at the Blake Street building, the fire quickly spread to two buildings on Bates and Pine streets.
Morin pressed Covey, saying he understood why the boy would want to destroy the building that the city had condemned.
Police had first interviewed the boy the day of the fire at the Blake Street Towers, where occupants of the burned-out buildings gathered to receive emergency services.
Covey first said he was watching the movie “The Hulk” on TV while sitting on his mother’s bed. A friend was lying on the bed listening to music through headphones.
Covey told Morin he heard a crackling sound, then a popping sound coming from the kitchen and left the movie to investigate.
He said he saw the fire coming from the back porch through a smoky kitchen, then told his friend, whose nickname is Blaze. Blaze looked in the kitchen and the two fled the apartment and the building.
Covey told Morin he didn’t really know how it happened and shook his head when asked if he set it.
Morin said Covey had changed his story since the day of the fire. The detective told the boy that nobody deserved to live in that building, which Morin called “disgusting.”
“It just makes sense to me that you did it,” Morin told Covey.
Covey protested, initially denying the charge.
“I’m actually kind of glad that it burned down,” he then admitted, “but I’m pretty sure I didn’t do it.”
Covey later agreed with Morin’s conclusion and said he did it because, “I was just getting tired of living there.”
He said he lit a pile of clothes on the back porch, off the apartment’s kitchen. He later added that he poured some gasoline on the clothes after Morin suggested an accelerant might have been used. Covey first said the gasoline can was empty, but later agreed with Morin that there was some in the can.
Covey told Morin he believed something else, such as a rumored Molotov cocktail, had contributed to the cause.
“The clothes wouldn’t have really went up like that,” Covey told Morin. When pressed again, Covey said he’d poured “a little bit” of gasoline left in the can on the porch and clothes before lighting them with a lighter he found in his pocket.
Later, Covey was alone in the room with Reilly, his mother. When pressed for a reason, Covey told her the fire was an accident. Reilly said he should tell that to police. Covey said police led him into a confession.
When Morin later recounted for Reilly the manner in which Covey started the fire, Reilly asked her son whether that was what he did.
Reilly told Morin the gasoline cans were empty.
“There was nothing in them,” she said.
She told Covey he needed counseling. She said the fire was probably her fault because she had been ignoring Covey.
Covey then told her he poured rubbing alcohol on a cardboard box next to some toys on their back porch.
When Morin returned to the interview room, Reilly told Covey to tell the detective what he’d told her.
Covey repeated what he’d told Reilly, then told Morin that he’d put the cardboard box next to a shed on the porch.
When Morin reappeared again, he read Covey his Miranda rights.
Covey and Reilly sat in the courtroom watching themselves on large screens from the videotaped interview.
Covey, who wore a red T-shirt and black shorts Monday, has been held at the Long Creek Youth Development Center in South Portland. A detention hearing is scheduled for Friday, when the suppression hearing is expected to conclude.
Also in 8th District Court on Monday was Abdi Ibrahim, 13, who was charged less than a week after Covey with four counts of arson in connection with a fire that burned four apartment buildings and a garage on Pierce and Bartlett streets.
Ibrahim’s detention hearing was continued to Wednesday after “new information” has been reviewed, Judge Lawrence said.