Auburn man pleads not guilty to burning down home, attacking wife and deputy

Michael Callahan (right) appears in Androscoggin County Superior Court with his attorney Jim Howaniec in March 2013.
Daryn Slover | Sun Journal
Michael Callahan (right) appears in Androscoggin County Superior Court with his attorney Jim Howaniec in March 2013.
Posted Aug. 14, 2013, at 7:07 a.m.

AUBURN, Maine — Michael Callahan, who is charged with burning down his family’s home in Minot last May, pleaded not guilty to multiple felony charges of arson and aggravated assault Tuesday in Androscoggin County Superior Court.

Callahan, 44, of Auburn is facing three counts of arson, one count of aggravated assault, two counts of reckless conduct and one count of violating conditions of his release.

If convicted, he faces the possibility of several decades in state prison.

Prosecutors believe Callahan burned down his family’s home, tried to burn his estranged wife’s mobile home in Mechanic Falls, rammed her minivan as she drove it, and tried to run down a sheriff’s deputy — all on May 24.

The home in Mechanic Falls was damaged and the home in Minot was destroyed.

According to an affidavit of Detective John R. Hainey of the Maine State Police, on May 24 Hainey responded to Greenwood Mountain Road in Hebron where Androscoggin County deputies and state troopers had stopped Callahan, who was driving a Chevrolet Avalanche and was suspected in an arson at his home on Verrill Road in Minot.

After Callahan was stopped, Hainey drove to Mechanic Falls to meet with Lt. Paul Harrison of the Mechanic Falls Police Department who was investigating an incident involving Callahan and his wife, Laurie, earlier that day.

Laurie Callahan works at Elm Street School and, after leaving the school parking lot, saw her husband’s car behind her and pulled into the parking lot of Our Lady of Ransom Church. There, police believe her husband drove up behind her and struck her car, a Ford Freestyle, spinning it around.

According to a witness, Callahan circled back and rammed his truck into his wife’s minivan two more times, damaging the right side.

Then, according to the same witness, Callahan got out of his truck and walked toward the Ford, and his wife jumped out of her car and fled.

She was later transported to the hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.

Callahan is also charged with reckless conduct after attempting to ram Androscoggin County Deputy Denis Sampson’s cruiser on Goodwin Road in Minot after he left the church parking lot and before he was stopped by police in Hebron.

In December 2012, Callahan was involved in a police standoff at the family’s former Minot home after he threatened his wife and their children there.

Four days before Christmas, the Callahan family was at home when Callahan and his 16-year-old daughter began to argue, according to Laurie Callahan.

Michael Callahan was being investigated by the state, accused of abusing his 12-year-old son. Callahan became “agitated” while talking to his daughter that night.

“He wouldn’t stop nagging her,” Laurie Callahan said.

Then his daughter called 911 and Laurie gathered the children and fled their house.

Michael Callahan held police at bay that night for more than six hours. He fired nearly 100 rounds from inside the house. He fired a high-powered rifle and a machine gun in the direction of police, who had surrounded his house, according to a report from the Maine Attorney General’s Office. Police later discovered an arsenal at the Minot home that included 22 handguns, 26 rifles and six shotguns.

He has pleaded not guilty to all charges in connection with that incident.

In the arson case, Callahan is believed to have purchased gasoline containers from a hardware store in Auburn, a self-igniting torch in Minot and then filled the gas containers at a station in Mechanic Falls before going to his wife’s home and then on to the family home in Minot.

As a condition of $10,000 cash bail issued for the December 2012 standoff, he was prohibited from having any contact with his family and barred from being on their property.

Callahan had undergone a mental evaluation after the December incident, but another was ordered after the fires.

Callahan is being represented by Lewiston attorney Jim Howaniec. He has been held at the Androscoggin County Jail on $500,000 bail since his arrest on May 24.

Callahan and his wife are in the process of divorcing.

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