PARIS, Maine — A Paris man convicted of trying to murder his ex-girlfriend in December 2011 after she broke up with him was sentenced to 40 years in state prison Friday.
Andrew Freeman, 22, was convicted in September of two counts of aggravated attempted murder, arson and burglary.
In 2011, Freeman broke into the Norway home where his ex-girlfriend lived with her grandparents, waited until the family was asleep, then set two fires in the basement.
One fire failed to ignite and the other was extinguished before it could catch onto the rafters. In the basement, the family found “Die,” followed by the 17-year-old girl’s name, spray painted on the wall.
At the sentencing in Oxford County Superior Court, Assistant District Attorney Joseph O’Connor called Freeman, “the most potentially violent man I’ve ever met.”
O’Connor recounted his previous experiences with defendants in lesser crimes who went on to kill people, and said he saw a similar capacity for violence in Freeman.
He pointed to Freeman’s youth starting fires and receiving psychiatric treatment, as well as his history of ex-girlfriends getting protection orders against him and several cases of his violating those orders.
“I think he has the potential to be a serial killer,” O’Connor said. “He was very nearly a mass murderer.” O’Connor asked for 50 years, with all but 40 suspended, and four years of probation, which presiding judge Justice Donald Alexander agreed to.
More than a dozen of Freeman’s family and friends were present for his sentencing. They called him polite and sweet, never showing violent tendencies. They pointed to his troubled past and his slower mental development, and said he had been troubled but was never malicious.
The girl’s grandparents, Edgar and Sandra McLeod, also testified. They said Freeman had been a polite and nice boy, and they were shocked he’d been capable of starting the fire in their basement. “It’s unbelievable what a gentleman he was,” Sandra McLeod said.
McLeod said she hasn’t felt safe at home since the incident, even with a Rottweiler and a pistol. She said she feared what Freeman might do if released.
“If he’s not stopped, somebody is going to be dead,” she told the court.
Freeman’s attorney, Sarah Glynn, asked for a 12-year sentence, with all but four years suspended. She said Freeman wasn’t mature enough to understand his actions.
“He needs to learn the boundaries of his behavior,” Glynn said.
She said that while Freeman had problems as a young boy, he’d come a long way and did well when he had treatment. “I would ask the court to treat Andrew as an individual,” she said.
She pointed out that Freeman had no previous felony convictions.
Freeman’s mother said her son had always been troubled. “I knew 15 years ago we were going to be in this courtroom,” she said, tearfully, but she said she imagined he’d be the victim.
“You guys think he’s 22, but to me he’s still 12,” she said. She said her son was never able to fit in and would never live a normal life. She apologized to the McLeod family.
Freeman told the court he wasn’t a bad person, and has always helped anyone in need. “It feels amazing to help people out.” He said he’d made mistakes in the past, mentioning the protective orders he’d violated, but didn’t admit to setting the fire.
O’Connor said Freeman had intended to kill three people, and shouldn’t get a “discount” on his sentence because the family was lucky and heard the fire in the basement before it could spread.
Justice Alexander said Freeman seemed to be remorseless, and said he continued to deny his guilt even though “the evidence is overwhelming.” He called Freeman “almost pathologically insensitive to the consequences of his act.”
He said that while Freeman had no prior felony convictions, his past instances of becoming angry at ex-girlfriends was an aggravating factor, and called the attempt to burn down the house after a short relationship troubling.
“He was prepared to kill them,” the judge said.
Freeman was sentenced to 50 years with all but 40 suspended, with four years of probation and orders to get mental health counseling and supervision.