If you are experiencing a mental health crisis, call the Maine Crisis Hotline at 888-568-1112.
Speaking on Thursday as he tore sheetrock from a kitchen wall in his fire-swept, two-story house, 61-year-old Timothy Jerome said the question of whether to resume their relationship has wracked him since Aza Jerome Vasylyk was arrested on an arson charge on Tuesday.
Held at the Hancock County Jail on $1,000 cash bail, the 56-year-old Vasylyk is accused of setting five separat e fires and stringing toilet paper along the floor throughout her home on Nov. 11 before disappearing into the woods in Bucksport and Orland.
“I stayed up all night trying to decide what I should do about bailing her out, whether it was a good idea, that kind of thing. I wound up with such a bad 50-50 that I actually called somebody in the police department last night and had a discussion with them about it,” Jerome said Thursday, his hands grimy with soot. “I haven’t come to a conclusion. I really don’t know.”
A former paper mill worker, construction contractor and convenience store assistant manager who works now as a clerk at a redemption center in Orland, Jerome met Vasylyk through an international dating website and corresponded with her online for 1½ years before they married in late 2013. Jerome’s first wife died in 2010 of lung disease after 36 years of marriage, he said.
Slim and blonde, and speaking with a Ukrainian accent so thick it convinces many people that she doesn’t speak English, Vasylyk cuts a striking figure, said Jerome. He described her as a talented oil painter and cook, and a down-to-earth, warm and friendly person who fascinates Jerome with her vast intelligence.
“I like archaeology, anthropology. I like different types of science, like the Big Bang Theory and engineering concepts,” Jerome said. “I mean, give me some [intellectual] meat, and you own me. And she does. She does that. She’s fantastic. You know, I’ve told her, and I’ve told other people, she’s brilliant to me, as far as I’m concerned. She’s a fantastic woman. Amazing.”
But that’s when she’s healthy, he said.
About half the time in their six-year marriage, Vasylyk has seemed paranoid and delusional. She has gone through dayslong episodes of deep depression during which she cries for hours. Other times, words pour from her in a nonstop stream up to 30 minutes at a time, Jerome said.
She has twice spent weeks in psychiatric hospitals in recent years — in Kyiv, during a visit to Ukraine about three years ago, and at Acadia Hospital in Bangor, Jerome said. A few weeks before the fire, Vasylyk abruptly left their home and bicycled to Glenburn, about 30 miles away, before returning, according to her arrest warrant affidavit.
Jerome also told police that Vasylyk had refused to take her medication, according to the affidavit.
Vasylyk’s attorney, Mary Gray, declined to comment on her client’s case after her first court appearance Wednesday. Attempts to contact her were not immediately successful Thursday.
Jerome said he still loves his wife but wants her to be safe. He doubts he will pay her bail, given that his house took heavy smoke and water damage, and moderate damage from the flames of the fire. He would feel much more like welcoming her back if he could be assured that she was safe to be around, he said.
“I’m very distraught about the fact that she can be released on bail, and now she’s expecting me to come up with $1,000, and we’re going to have to find some place to live because we can’t live in the house,” said Jerome, who had no fire insurance. “I don’t want to have her live with me in somebody else’s house. I don’t want to bring problems to other people because she’s a challenge.”