Police say 2012 arson tied to fishing dispute

Posted June 20, 2014, at 1:21 p.m.
Last modified June 20, 2014, at 6:50 p.m.

WALDOBORO, Maine — Three Midcoast men were arrested Friday and charged in connection with a June 2012 fire that destroyed a boathouse and a lobster boat inside.

The fire was the result of a dispute over fishing territory, according to law enforcement officials.

Charged Friday were James “Jamie” R. Simmons, 39, of Friendship; Frederick A. Campbell, 30, of Friendship; and Jeffrey Luce, 36, of Whitefield, according to court records filed in Wiscasset District Court.

Luce already was incarcerated at Two Bridges Regional Correctional Facility in Wiscasset on charges related to stealing batteries, according to an affidavit filed in court.

Simmons and Campbell were arrested without incident in Rockland and transported by Fire Marshal investigators to the Two Bridges Jail, according to a news release from Maine Public Safety spokesman Stephen McCausland.

Bail for Simmons and Campbell was set at $50,000 each.

The fire occurred on the night of June 21, 2012, at 3600 Friendship Road in Waldoboro. The fire destroyed a large Quonset hut boathouse owned by Donald Simmons, a lobster fisherman who is not related to James Simmons.

Stored inside the boathouse was a 36-foot Wayne Beal fiberglass lobster boat owned by Danny Reed Jr. of Friendship. Reed is paraplegic and had planned to go tuna fishing upon his release from a health care facility, according to court documents.

The fishing boat, valued at $150,000, had been paid off but was not insured, according to police. The building was valued at about $50,000.

The affidavit filed by Kenneth MacMaster of the Maine Fire Marshal’s Office states that James Simmons was an immediate suspect in the arson investigation because of an ongoing, escalating feud with Donald Simmons.

Hundreds of lobster traps belonging to both men had been cut. James Simmons also had been charged with criminal threatening with a dangerous weapon for shooting a rifle in the direction of Donald Simmons at Wallace’s Lobster Wharf in Friendship on Dec. 4, 2011.

James Simmons was convicted and sentenced in September 2012 to 364 days in jail with all but 45 days suspended for reduced charges of criminal threatening and reckless conduct.

The defense claimed that James Simmons suspected Donald Simmons of trap cutting but Donald Simmons denied that accusation, according to court testimony in September 2012.

On June 10, 2012, two workshops on James Simmons’ property on Salt Pond Road were burned. He estimated the losses at $150,000 for the two buildings that were both insured. The fire marshal’s office determined that the fires had been set but no one has been charged in connection with that case.

Less than two weeks later, the fire at the Donald Simmons boathouse occurred.

James Simmons refused to talk with investigators about the boathouse fire and referred them to his attorney, Steven Peterson.

Fire Marshal investigators and officers with the Maine Marine Patrol conducted dozens of interviews, served a number of search warrants and collected evidence during the past two years.

Also assisting in the investigation were members of the Maine State Police, Knox County Sheriff’s Office, Waldoboro Fire Department, Friendship Fire Department, Waldoboro Police Department, Rockland Police Department, Maine Drug Enforcement Agency, Maine Warden Service and the FBI.

The big break in the case occurred in May following the arrest of Luce for stealing batteries. Luce had been a former sternman, along with Campbell, for James Simmons.

Luce said that when the fires occurred at James Simmons’ buildings, James Simmons was angry and suspected two people who had ties to Donald Simmons, the affidavit states.

On the evening of June 21, 2012, Luce was visiting with James Simmons and then the two went for a ride and stopped at Campbell’s residence. James Simmons and Campbell had been drinking heavily, Luce told investigators.

Luce said Campbell suggested they retaliate against Donald Simmons and all three agreed, according to the affidavit. Campbell got some kerosene and they drove to Donald Simmons’ place. Campbell was dropped off at the end of the driveway and Luce and James Simmons returned to James Simmons’ home.

Luce said that some kerosene was spilled in the car and James Simmons asked him to take the vehicle to his home in Whitefield to clean it. A floor mat soaked with kerosene and Campbell’s sweatshirt were disposed of in woods behind the Whitefield home.

Those items were recovered last month by investigators and tested positive for an accelerant. The vehicle they used the night of the fire had been sold but police tracked it down and found that the discarded floor mat fit the vehicle.

Last week, officials with the Fire Marshal’s Office and Maine Marine Patrol presented the case to the Lincoln County District Attorney’s Office, which authorized the three arrests.

J.W. Oliver of the Lincoln County News contributed to this report.

 

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