May 11, 2013

Two accused of setting third fire in Lewiston

By Edward D. Murphy
Staff Writer

and Matt Byrne
Staff Writer

Two men were arrested Friday and charged with setting a fire that burned vacant apartment buildings Monday, the most recent of three blazes that have displaced scores of residents and left the city on edge.

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Bryan Wood, left, and Brian Morin

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Firefighters spray water on the roof of a vacant apartment building on Bartlett Street in Lewiston on May 6, 2013 following a third major fire in eight days in the downtown area.

Tim Greenway/Staff Photographer

Additional Photos Below

Police said Bryan Wood, 23, and Brian Morin, 29, were arrested about 7 p.m. and each was charged with three counts of arson. Authorities made the announcement at a news conference late Friday at the Lewiston police station.

Wood lives at 131 Bartlett St., just a few doors down from the scene of Monday's fire, two vacant apartment buildings at 110 Bartlett St. Morin, police said, is a transient who had been staying with Wood recently.

Police and officials from the State Fire Marshal's Office declined to discuss a motive for the fire. They also declined to say how the blaze started.

About 200 people have been displaced by the three recent fires, the first of which was on April 29.

Brody Covey, a 12-year-old boy, was charged with arson in that fire. Police say he set the fire in a recently condemned nine-unit complex at 105-111 Blake St. The blaze destroyed three buildings on Blake, Bates and Pine streets and displaced 75 residents.

Another 12-year-old boy was charged with arson in the second fire, which burned four buildings and a garage between Bartlett and Pierce streets May 3. The Sun Journal identified the boy as Abdi Ibrahim, citing court papers filed by the fire marshal's office Friday.

Both youths are scheduled to be arraigned Monday at 8th District Court in Lewiston.

State Fire Marshal Joseph Thomas said both Wood and Morin are known to police and fire investigators. Lewiston Police Chief Michael Bussiere said both have records, but he declined to say what previous charges they had faced.

Thomas said the investigation of the third fire was more difficult than the first two because neither Wood nor Morin appeared to have any connection with the buildings that were burned.

He said police picked up tips on the street from officers with the Maine Drug Enforcement Agency, while fire investigators had technical help from federal Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives technicians.

Bussiere said Wood and Morin were interviewed by police at the city's central station earlier Friday but he would not say where they were arrested.

Wood and Morin were taken to the Androscoggin County Jail in Auburn.

Both are expected to make their first court appearances either Monday or Tuesday, said Stephen McCausland, spokesman for the Maine Department of Public Safety.

Morin was actually taken into custody shortly after Monday's blaze, but was released after seven hours.

In an interview Monday with the Press Herald, he said he was returning around 3 a.m. to an apartment where he was staying with friends when the fire broke out.

"(The police) asked why I did it, and what I used to set it," Morin said at the time.

He said he planned to take a polygraph test Tuesday and that it would show his innocence. "I'm not going to admit to something I didn't do," he said.

It wasn't immediately clear Friday if he took the polygraph as planned.

McCausland declined to say late Friday whether Wood and Morin had criminal records and whether Morin had taken a polygraph.

Bussiere said that he hopes the latest arrests will ease the fears of residents, many of whom have said they are afraid their buildings will be targeted next.

(Continued on page 2)

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Additional Photos

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This photo is of Brian Morin, 29, one of the suspects in Monday's fire in downtown Lewiston. It is a still image taken from a WGME video interview on Monday, May 6, 2013, hours after the fire.

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Firefighters battle a fire that destroyed multiple vacant apartment buildings on Bartlett Street in Lewiston on May 6, 2013.

Tim Greenway/Staff Photographer

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Lt. James Pelletier of the Lewiston Fire Dept. completes a vacant building inspection on Walnut Street Friday, May 10, 2013.

Gabe Souza/Staff Photographer

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A sign marks a building condemned at 47 Knox Street in Lewiston Friday, May 10, 2013.

Gabe Souza / Staff Photographer


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