January 19, 2019
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Alleged arsonist says victim asked him to start fire

Penobscot County Sheriff's Office | BDN
Penobscot County Sheriff's Office | BDN
Fred Roberts

A Corinth man accused of trying to kill his longtime companion by setting fire to their home believed the victim asked him to start it, an investigator said.

Fred Roberts, 65, is charged with attempted murder and arson, both Class A crimes. He made his first court appearance before a judge Friday afternoon by video conference from the Penobscot County Jail.

Roberts allegedly said that Barbara King had told him to burn the house down because of health problems and she didn’t want “to go through another heart operation.” He told fire marshal John Wardwell that he decided to start the fire when he got up Wednesday, and used gasoline on the couch, carpet and on the stairs, according to the affidavit.

“He stated that he opened a window downstairs for a draft,” the affidavit said. “He stated that he thought the smoke would get Barbara. He stated she would never know what happened. He stated that he wanted the smoke to get into Barbara’s bedroom, you’ve got to be humane.”

King, 70, jumped out a second-story window when she could not get down the stairs, her attorney, Christopher Largay of Bangor, told District Court Judge Gregory Campbell. She suffered a broken neck, fractured vertebrae and broken ribs in the fall.

“She is at Eastern Maine Medical Center and has a long road to recovery,” Largay said.

Roberts, who remained Friday at the jail unable to post $200,000 cash bail, at times referred to himself in the third person, the affidavit said. He also told investigators with the Office of the State Fire Marshal that he was Fred Robinson, his twin brother.

Roberts was picked up not far from the home by a plow driver who took him back to the burning house, the court document said. Roberts was carrying a duffle bag.

Maine State Trooper Brian Bean, who responded to the scene, spoke with Roberts about the fire. Bean told fire marshals that Roberts “was acting as if he had multiple personalities.”

The fire, reported about 6 a.m. Wednesday, destroyed the house, located at 788 Hudson Road, according to authorities.

Roberts’ attorney, Christopher Whalley of Ellsworth in court Wednesday said that his client could not afford such a high bail. The lawyer told the judge that Roberts had been “acting erratically” in the days leading up to the fire.

Roberts was not asked to enter pleas Wednesday because he has not yet been indicted by the Penobscot County grand jury. The grand jury next convenes Feb. 28. Roberts is next due in court on March 12.

If convicted, Roberts faces up to 30 years in prison and a fine of up to $50,000 on the charges.

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