August 24, 2012

Fire-setting grandma pleads guilty to six arson counts

By Ann S. Kim akim@mainetoday.com
Staff Writer

PORTLAND — Carol Field, the grandmother from Standish who was charged with setting a string of fires in southern Maine, including one that badly damaged a church in Raymond, pleaded guilty Thursday to six counts of arson.

click image to enlarge

Carol Field, 66, of Standish, listens to J.P. DeGrinney, her court-appointed attorney, before pleading guilty to six counts of arson Thursday in Cumberland County Unified Criminal Court.

Gabe Souza/Staff Photographer

Field, 66, faced five counts of arson in Cumberland County and another five in York County. She admitted to setting fires last year at Raymond Hill Baptist Church, in a building at Randall Orchards in Standish, in some grass in Standish, in a barn and an abandoned house in Limerick, and at a garage in Limington.

In court Thursday, a prosecutor from each county described the circumstances of the six fires, along with the evidence each would have presented had the case gone to trial.

The information would have included the use of a dog that detected the presence of ignitable liquid, tests that showed gasoline in soil samples, testimony from witnesses who saw Field's car, data from a GPS tracking device that authorities placed on her Chevrolet Cavalier, and statements that Field made to investigators.

Field told investigators that she set 18 fires in all -- and gave a reason, said Cumberland County Assistant District Attorney Angela Cannon.

"She stated all her life she cared for everyone else and nobody cared about her or paid attention to her," Cannon said.

J.P. DeGrinney, Field's court-appointed attorney, questioned the validity of Field's confession to all 18 fires. He said she was subjected to a prolonged interview in which her answers may not have been voluntary. The suppression of her statements would have been the subject of a hearing next week.

After her arrest, Field went to the state-run Riverview Psychiatric Center in Augusta for evaluation and treatment. Although she suffers from anxiety and depression, she was essentially given a clean bill of heath in terms of criminal responsibility, Superior Court Justice Roland Cole said during the proceeding.

Field is a former nurse who worked most recently at a sandwich shop. Her prior criminal history includes convictions for shoplifting groceries, furnishing liquor to a minor and impersonating a police officer, more than 30 years ago.

Field did not speak at any length during the hearing. She answered clearly in response to procedural questions from Cole, and as she said "guilty" to each of the six counts.

Field was not sentenced Thursday. Lawyers in the case outlined the agreed-upon sentence in court.

The combination of consecutive and concurrent penalties and suspended sentences would bring a total of four years in prison.

Field would likely be incarcerated for two years, given the time she has served since her arrest and the good-time deductions she could earn in the future, DeGrinney estimated.

Arson carries a maximum penalty of 30 years, but the sentences are typically less when no one is injured.

Staff Writer Ann S. Kim can be contacted at 791-6383 or at:

akim@pressherald.com

Twitter: AnnKimPPH

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