June 22, 2018
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Boy accused of arson in massive Lewiston fire likely to challenge competency to stand trial

Russ Dillingham | Sun Journal
Russ Dillingham | Sun Journal
Lewiston fire Capt. Richard Cailler is first on scene at a major fire on Pierce and Bartlett streets in Lewiston earlier this year.
By Chris Williams, Sun Journal

LEWISTON, Maine — A 13-year-old boy charged with arson in a fire that destroyed four downtown apartment buildings and displaced roughly 100 people this past spring is expected to challenge his competency to stand trial.

Prosecutors filed a motion in July to determine the boy’s competency, which appears to be in question. A hearing is expected mid-November or later.

Assistant District Attorney Melanie Portas also had filed a motion to amend the court’s order for a diagnostic evaluation of the boy to include “the juvenile’s emotional attitude and pattern of living” in addition to mental health problems, substance abuse and immaturity.

Defense attorney Jeffrey Dolley opposed that motion, arguing that prosecutors are seeking the information to help them decide whether to try to bind over the boy to Androscoggin County Superior Court where he would be tried as an adult.

Dolley argued that the boy can’t be forced to give the state information that could jeopardize his freedom.

The legal criteria the court must consider for bind-over includes the nature and seriousness of the offense, characteristics of the juvenile, prior criminal record, emotional condition, age and the safety of the community. The court also must look at the rehabilitative services the youth center has to offer the juvenile.

Dolley filed a motion to suppress statements the boy made to law enforcement interviewers in the days after the fire that destroyed or damaged three buildings on Pierce Street and two buildings on Bartlett Street.

A report by Christopher Sanford, an investigator at the state fire marshal’s office, said the boy confessed to setting a fire at the back of a three-bay garage behind an apartment building at 149 Bartlett St. on the night of May 2.

After reportedly denying he was involved, the boy later said he started the fire alone by lighting a cigarette and paper with a lighter using gasoline as an accelerant.

He was interviewed at Lewiston Police Department with his mother, who was assisted by an interpreter over the phone. He waived his Miranda rights, including his right to remain silent, according to Sanford’s report.

The boy described the inside of the garage for Sanford and a Lewiston police detective, who said his description of the interior and its contents matched that given by investigators during their examination of the scene.

The boy said two other juveniles were with him at the time, but he was the one who started the fire. He drew a diagram of the scene for them.

The other two boys were questioned later. They said they had gone to the garage with the boy after school, but waited outside or just inside the door while the boy went to the back of the garage.

One of the boys said he could see the suspect sitting at the far end, smoke coming from his mouth and hand. About half an hour later, the three boys left, one of the boys said.

Investigators used a dog trained to sniff out the scent of liquid accelerant. The dog, Shasta, detected accelerant on the boy’s shoes, which were collected by police as evidence before his interview at the police station.

No accelerant was detected on the shoes of the other two boys, according to Sanford’s report.

Ibrahim’s juvenile probation officer said he authorized police to hold the boy for violating conditions of his probation for an earlier robbery. He was taken to the Long Creek Youth Development Center in South Portland, but he later wasreleased to an undisclosed residential setting.

Dolley wrote in his motion that any statements made by the boy were not voluntary. “Any Miranda warnings that may have been given were not provided in a manner that would be adequate for the juvenile, under his circumstances, to enable him to freely and voluntarily waive his Miranda rights,” Dolley wrote.

Another local 13-year-old boy charged with three counts of arson in a fire that burned three apartment buildings less than a week earlier is awaiting a court decision on a motion his attorney filed to suppress his confession.


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