December 18, 2017
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Accused mill arsonist asks to go to psychiatric hospital

By Judy Harrison, BDN Staff
Updated:
Penobscot County Sheriff's Office | BDN
Penobscot County Sheriff's Office | BDN
David Parsons

The Lincoln man accused of setting fires Wednesday at the shuttered Lincoln mill allegedly asked a judge Friday to be sent to a psychiatric hospital.

The night of the fires, David Parsons, 59, allegedly told EMTs who were taking him to a local hospital for chest pain that “they were the biggest flames he had ever seen.” Parsons also said he videotaped the blaze and played “music to it — ‘burn motherf***er burn,’” the court affidavit said.

When Sgt. Glenn Graef went to the hospital and spoke with Parsons, “the front of Parsons’ hair on his head and also his beard had been burned, his hands were blackened and he smelled of smoke,” according to the affidavit.

The document also said that before the mill fire the Maine Forest Service had been investigating five “wildland fires” set between Lincoln and Enfield on or near the railroad tracks leading to the mill.

Parsons made his first court appearance Friday afternoon before District Court Judge John Lucy at the Penobscot Judicial Center by videoconference from the Penobscot County Jail. He is charged with two counts of arson, a Class A crime.

The defense attorney handling Parsons’ case Friday said that the accused arsonist wanted to be moved from the jail to Acadia Hospital, a psychiatric facility, for treatment of a bipolar disorder.

The judge instead kept Parsons in jail and set bail at at $20,000 cash. Conditions include not being at the former Lincoln Paper and Tissue LLC site and not possessing incendiary devices.

Parsons has admitted starting Wednesday’s fires, according to the affidavit, signed by Investigator John Wardwell of the Office of the State Fire Marshal. Parsons said that had worked at the mill for about 20 years but was fired in 2012, three years before the mill shut down.

Fire investigators first questioned Parsons on Thursday morning after they learned from Lincoln police that fire department personnel had taken a man to Penobscot Valley Hospital with chest pains who talked about the fire in the ambulance.

During that interview, Graef seized Parsons’ jacket, which had burn holes in it, and a lighter leash with a black Hollywood Casino lighter attached to it, the affidavit said.

Later that day, Parsons came to the Lincoln Public Safety Office and agreed to be interviewed by Wardwell. During that interview, Parsons allegedly said that he used a book of matches to set the fire at the mill’s scale building in the truck slips. He admitted starting the second fire by using a lighter to ignite time cards he found in a file cabinet drawer in an office attached to the warehouse. He also described setting a third fire that investigators had been unaware of.

Parsons told Wardwell that “as a kid he used to hurt animals and start fires,” the affidavit said.

“I asked Parsons if the excitement for him was sexual,” Wardwell wrote. “He stated that it was not. I asked him if the excitement was from seeing something start really small and then turn into a large raging fire. Parsons told me yes, that was the best way he had ever heard it described.”

Parsons, who has no criminal history, was not asked to enter a plea Friday as he has not yet been indicted. The Penobscot County grand jury is scheduled to meet Nov. 29.

Deputy District Attorney Alice Clifford asked that bail be set at $25,000 cash. She called Wednesday’s fires “very dangerous” and “a threat to public safety.”

Clifford said that Parsons confessed to setting three fires at the mill where he used to work. One of the fires burned itself out, she said.

[ Massive fire burns former Lincoln paper mill]

Bangor attorney Michael Hockenbury, who served as defense attorney of the day Friday, said Parsons had only worked odd jobs recently and could raise no more than $5,000 for bail. Hockenbury said that Parsons wanted to be moved from the jail to Acadia Hospital for treatment for bipolar disorder.

Terence Harrigan, the Bangor attorney appointed to represent Parsons as the case moves forward, may seek a court order for a mental health evaluation once he becomes familiar with the case.

Parsons was arrested Thursday and charged with three counts of arson, but the district attorney’s office decided to drop the third count.

The fire at the 387-acre Lincoln Paper and Tissue LLC site burned for more than three hours. Firefighters from 10 towns and the Maine Forest Service doused flames that destroyed a 300-foot-long warehouse and gutted a scale shed. The third fire, started in a sludge/waste treatment area, never got going.

Parsons is next due in court Jan. 2.

If convicted, Parsons faces up to 30 years in prison and a fine of up to $50,000. He also could be ordered to pay restitution to mill owners.

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