A Bucksport woman who walked away from her burning home last week and was missing for eight days has been charged with setting the fire to the home she shares with her husband, fire investigators said Wednesday.
Aza Jerome Vasylyk, 56, was charged with arson after she was discovered in Orland at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday. Her arrest came late Tuesday night after she was released from Northern Light Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor, where she had been evaluated, said Stephen McCausland, spokesman for the Maine Department of Public Safety.
A worker at the Craig Brook National Fish Hatchery found and detained her, Bucksport Deputy Police Chief David E. Winchester has said. The fish hatchery is 12 miles from her home on Town Farm Road in Bucksport.
Investigators with the Maine fire marshal’s office said the fire caused $50,000 in damage to the house and was set inside the home. A second fire was set in a shed on the property, McCausland said.
Vasylyk made her first appearance in court Wednesday afternoon, where bail was set for $1,000 cash or $20,000 surety. Justice Robert Murray set bail conditions of not possessing fire accelerants or incendiary devices such as matches or lighters, but did not prohibit Vasylyk from returning home or from having contact with her husband.
The hearing, during which Vasylyk wore a red jail jumpsuit and was shackled at the ankles, took longer than most because Murray and attorneys involved in the hearing had to speak to Vasylyk through a translator listening to the proceeding through speakerphone. During the proceeding, Vasylyk wore a medical facemask, presumably at the direction of hospital caregivers.
Mary Gray, whom Murray appointed as Vasylyk’s attorney, declined to comment on her client’s case after the hearing.
Vasylyk’s stepdaughter, Samantha Bishop, said Wednesday that she and her father, Timothy Jerome, learned of the arrest through news reports.
Their last word on Vasylyk’s status was that she was being evaluated at the hospital, said Bishop, whose family has endured a roller coaster of emotions since the fire on Nov. 11 — bewilderment at the fire and Vasylyk’s disappearance, and anger at social media rumors surrounding the event.
“Without going into great personal detail, my reaction is, this is why people should not speculate,” Bishop said Wednesday after news broke of her stepmother’s arrest.
Bishop said she believes the arrest changes little in her father’s relationship with his wife.
“He loves his wife, regardless of what’s been occurring. That’s why our focus was on finding her. It wasn’t anything else — simply to find her,” Bishop said.
Police arrested Jerome, 61, on the day of the fire on charges of refusing to submit and obstructing government administration.
Jerome ignored orders from police and firefighters to stay out of the house, and repeatedly tried to go back in once the fire was out, Winchester has said.
Her father had no criminal intent, Bishop said. Rather, he was distraught.
“He was looking for her,” Bishop said Tuesday night. “He wanted to see for himself if she was inside.”