Jury to resume deliberating Friday in arson trial of ex-Prentiss man

By Judy Harrison, BDN Staff
Posted Aug. 01, 2013, at 7:46 a.m.

BANGOR, Maine — Jurors in the trial of a former Prentiss Township man accused of torching a state fire marshal’s car, setting three other fires and committing eight other crimes will resume deliberations Friday.

The jury of five men and seven women deliberated for four hours Thursday before leaving the Penobscot Judicial Center shortly after 5 p.m.

John A. Weckerly, 54, of Bangor is accused of committing a series of crimes between May 2010 and August 2011, including set fire to a state fire marshal’s car, when he lived in a cabin without electricity or running water near a logging operation.

Weckerly, who is free on bail, was indicted by a Penobscot County grand jury in April 2012 on a dozen charges — four counts of arson, five counts of criminal mischief and one count each of aggravated criminal mischief, burglary and theft by unauthorized taking.

After deliberating for about three hours Thursday following four full days of hearing from witnesses, the jury asked for a readback of the testimony of dog handling experts.

A Maine State Police dog named Zorro, handled by Trooper Barry Meserve, was used to track Weckerly’s scent from the fire marshal’s burned-out car to the defendant’s residence, according to Penobscot County District Attorney R. Christopher Almy. The defense called its own expert witness, Sol Oven, owner of New England K-9 School for Dogs in Hopkinton, Mass., who criticized the methods used in tracking the suspect.

Jurors will hear a readback of testimony by Meserve and Oven at 8 a.m. Friday.

Almy said in his closing statement that Weckerly repeatedly called police about the noise made by the logging operation. When that did not get the firm to cease operations, he vandalized a skidder, the prosecutor told the jury. The defendant also vandalized the camps of neighbors, Almy said.

The path of evidence leads to Weckerly, who set four fires, vandalized property and committed other crimes in an unsuccessful attempt to drive loggers from property adjacent to his own in Prentiss Township, Almy told the jury Thursday.

Defense attorney Kirk Bloomer of Bangor said the evidence did not connect Weckerly to the crimes. He told jurors there was enough reasonable doubt to find the defendant not guilty on all counts.

The attorneys made those closing arguments at the end of a four-day trial at the Penobscot Judicial Center. The trial began July 25 before Superior Court Justice William Anderson. Testimony was presented each subsequent day except for Tuesday when a scheduling conflict caused the trial to take a day off.

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, the prosecutor said last week.

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.

In dismissing jurors Thursday night, Anderson said that he would not address the jury’s “potential inability to reach a verdict” mentioned in one of two notes sent to him.

If the jury were unable to reach a verdict, the judge could declare a mistrial. A new trial date with a different jury would be set later this year or early next year.

If convicted, Weckerly faces up to 30 years in prison on the arson charges alone.

http://bangordailynews.com/2013/08/01/news/bangor/jury-to-decide-thursday-if-ex-prentiss-man-torched-fire-marshals-car-set-other-blazes/ printed on July 26, 2014