July 23, 2019
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Portland landlord pleads not guilty in fire that killed 6

PORTLAND, Maine — The owner of a Portland home that burned in November, killing six people, pleaded not guilty Friday at the Cumberland County Courthouse to six counts of manslaughter and four counts of violation of the life safety code, according to Penobscot County District Attorney Stephanie Anderson.

Gregory Nisbet, 49, of Portland was indicted on July 9 by the Cumberland County grand jury, according to a previously published report.

Nisbet was released on personal recognizance bail, Anderson said Friday in an email.

A trial date has not been set.

Portland firefighters responded just after 7 a.m. Saturday, Nov. 1, 2014, to a report of a fire at the two-unit building at 20-24 Noyes St. The bodies of tenants David Bragdon Jr., 27; Ashley Thomas, 29; and Nicole Finlay, 26; as well as visitors to the building Christopher Conlee, 25, of Portland; and Maelisha Jackson, 23, of Topsham were found in the building.

A sixth victim, 29-year-old Rockland man Steven Summers, leaped from the upper floors of the 94-year-old building to escape. He was hospitalized with severe burns but succumbed to his injuries three days later.

The fire was Maine’s deadliest in nearly four decades.

Investigators determined that the cause of the fire was improperly disposed smoking materials on the porch. They also said the smoke detectors in the house did not work.

According to the Associated Press, Nisbet’s lawyer, Matt Nichols, has said that his client installed smoke detectors but tenants disabled them.

Civil lawsuits over the fire have been filed against Nisbet, according to previously published reports.

The Noyes Street fire spurred scrutiny of the city’s fire code inspection process, in part because of multiple complaints lodged over the years by neighbors alleging dangerous buildups of trash and combustibles on the property and the addition of third-floor living space in what was supposed to be a two-unit building.

Talks about a potential plea deal between Anderson and Nisbet’s attorney had been going on since January but broke down in June, the district attorney’s office said when the indictment was made public.

If convicted, Nesbit faces up to 30 years in prison and a fine of up to $50,000 on the manslaughter count alone.

BDN writers Stephen Betts, Darren Fishell and Beth Brogan contributed to this report.



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