Trial begins for man charged with torching fire marshal’s car in Prentiss Township

John A. Weckerly (left) stands on July 25, 2013, at the Penobscot County Judicial Center with his attorney Kirk Bloomer on the first day of his trial. Weckerly has been charged with 12 crimes, including four arsons, one that destroyed a fire marshal's car.
John A. Weckerly (left) stands on July 25, 2013, at the Penobscot County Judicial Center with his attorney Kirk Bloomer on the first day of his trial. Weckerly has been charged with 12 crimes, including four arsons, one that destroyed a fire marshal's car.
Posted July 25, 2013, at 4:20 p.m.
Last modified July 25, 2013, at 5:43 p.m.
John A. Weckerly, who is charged with 12 crimes, including four arsons, sits at the defense table at the Penobscot Judicial Center on July 25, 2013 while his attoreny, Kirk Bloomer, discusses an item with Penobscot County District Attorney R. Christopher Almy, on right.
John A. Weckerly, who is charged with 12 crimes, including four arsons, sits at the defense table at the Penobscot Judicial Center on July 25, 2013 while his attoreny, Kirk Bloomer, discusses an item with Penobscot County District Attorney R. Christopher Almy, on right. Buy Photo

BANGOR, Maine — Police investigating a string of arson, burglary and criminal mischief crimes in Prentiss Township two years ago that ended with the torching of a state fire marshal’s car followed a path of evidence that led them to John A. Weckerly, the prosecutor said Thursday at Weckerly’s trial.

“At the end of this case there is going to be literally a path of evidence that leads right to the defendant’s guilt,” Penobscot County District Attorney R. Christopher Almy said, pointing at Weckerly, who sat at the defendant’s table wearing jeans and a gray T-shirt at the Penobscot Judicial Center.

Weckerly, 54, who moved from Prentiss and now lives in Bangor, is facing 12 charges — four counts of arson, five counts of criminal mischief and one count each of aggravated criminal mischief, burglary and theft by unauthorized taking. The crimes were committed between May 2010 and August 2011.

Kirk Bloomer, Weckerly’s defense attorney, said he believes that the state “will not present any physical evidence linked to Mr. Weckerly.”

“You’re going to see evidence that a lot of bad things happened in this general area, mischief to houses, camps, spray painting on signs, damage to property, damage to a state car during the investigation,” he said during his opening statements. “There is no doubt these things happened, and they did, but what the problem is: What evidence links to Mr. Weckerly?”

Weckerly was arrested without incident and charged with arson early on Aug. 3, 2011, after a state police dog followed a scent from the destroyed car of Fire Marshal Sgt. Timothy York — who was on a midnight detail investigating three previous arsons in the area — to Weckerly’s home about half a mile away.

“It was torched,” Almy said of the car.

The car had been set ablaze with a flammable liquid, and a bucket of gasoline was found on the roadway leading to Weckerly’s home. Gloves covered with gasoline were found hanging in his shed, the prosecutor said.

Almy said Weckerly “is a person who really wants to have solitude in his life,” which is one reason why he chose to live on a secluded lot in Prentiss Township. “He’s also a person who hates noise. He can’t stand it.”

The prosecutor said Weckerly called police to complain about the noise made by loggers, and shortly thereafter $4,000 in damage was done to a piece of logging equipment parked near his home. When the owner moved his logging equipment to the nearby property of Lynda and George Gamache, the equipment was damaged again and so was their property.

“After the logging company stops working there, there is a lull,” Almy said of the crime spree. “In August [2010], the bush hoggers the town of Prentiss use started. As soon as that started, more damage was done.”

Buildings and camps suffered broken windows and were tagged with graffiti, and on Nov. 16, 2010, the first of four local set fires was started, Almy said. The other arsons occurred in 2011 on July 3, July 20 and Aug. 3, the last of which involved the fire marshal’s car.

Weckerly, who had previously called the Penobscot County Sheriff’s Office and Maine State Police with his complaints, triggered the nighttime detail when he called investigator Ed Archer of the state fire marshal’s office to renew his complaint about the logging company making too much noise near his property, according to court documents.

“Investigator Archer advised that each of the fires occurred shortly after John Weckerly complained to law enforcement authorities about the logging operation and was unsuccessful in his attempts to stop the woods operations,” a report filed when Weckerly was arrested states.

Archer was the first person to take the stand at the trial when he testified that an aerial map, which Bloomer objected to being shown without first being entered as evidence, was in fact a true and accurate picture of the area around Weckerly’s home. The map had 12 different areas marked for the jury.

Weckerly was indicted by the Penobscot County grand jury for the other 11 crimes in April 2012.

The trial is expected to run into late next week, Superior Court Justice William Anderson told the jury of nine women and six men, including three alternates. Anderson also said because of the complexity of the case, he is allowing the jury to take notes, which will be destroyed after the trial.

nricker:

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