May 13, 2013

Motive for Lewiston fire emerges

By Matt Byrne
Staff Writer

and Scott Dolan
Staff Writer

LEWISTON — The two men charged with setting fire to two vacant apartment buildings last week told police they did it because they were "sick and tired" of seeing dozens of vacant and condemned buildings in downtown Lewiston, according to a court document.

click image to enlarge

Brian Morin looks toward co-defendant Bryan Wood, (not pictured) as the two Lewiston men were arraigned Monday, May 13, 2013, in Lewiston District Court on three charges each of arson.

Gabe Souza / Staff Photographer

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Bryan Wood of Lewiston holds his head in his hands before being arraigned on three counts of arson Monday in Lewiston District Court.

Gabe Souza/Staff Photographer

Additional Photos Below

Brian Morin, 29, who is homeless, and Bryan Wood, 23, of Lewiston, were arraigned Monday in Lewiston District Court. Bail for each man was set at $350,000 cash.

Separate hearings were held in juvenile court for two 12-year-old boys charged with arson in two earlier fires in downtown Lewiston.

Brody Covey, who lived at 109 Blake St. until the building burned on April 29 in a fire that spread to two buildings on Bates and Pine streets, faces three counts of arson.

Abdi Ibrahim, whose last known address is 287 Bates St., is charged with four counts of arson. Authorities say he started a fire on May 3 in a garage behind 149 Bartlett St. that spread to four adjacent apartment buildings.

Both boys denied the charges against them.

In the days before Morin and Wood allegedly set the most recent fires, on May 6, Morin was staying at Wood's apartment.

"While standing on the street corner, Wood and Morin talked about and then agreed to set the apartment buildings on fire," Daniel Young, a senior investigator with the state Fire Marshal's Office, wrote in an affidavit. "Brian Morin told us that he and Bryan Wood talked about burning the buildings because they were sick and tired of all the abandoned buildings in the city that were not being repaired by the landlords."

In a police interview detailed in the affidavit, Morin told investigators that he served as "lookout" while Wood used butane to start a fire at the rear of 118 Bartlett St. Both men used the butane to douse a cushion from a discarded couch to start the fire that destroyed 114 Bartlett St.

Wood was originally interviewed as a witness to the fire, even approaching a police officer to volunteer information, and blamed the blaze on Morin.

The affidavit also said Wood rode his bicycle to a corner store to buy batteries for his police scanner while the fire raged.

Judge John Beliveau, who set bail for the men $100,000 higher than the amounts requested by Assistant District Attorney Neil McLean, cited the seriousness of the charges, the property damage done by the fires and the apparent disregard for human life the two men showed. He also pointed to the community's fear that more vacant buildings would be set ablaze.

"There is great fear in the community," Beliveau said. "Maybe rightfully so."

The three fires in a span of eight days destroyed nine buildings in downtown Lewiston and displaced more than 180 residents.

Morin and Wood have extensive criminal records.

Morin pleaded guilty in 2002 to unlawful sexual conduct stemming from a rape allegation.

Wood has been found in violation of his conditions of release four times. He was charged in an arson in Portland in 2008 in which a truck was set on fire. The charges were dropped when Wood was found mentally incompetent to stand trial.

His court-appointed attorney in the current arson case, Steven Carey, said Wood's mental competency is under court review in another case. Carey asked that the outcome of that ruling be taken into account.

"I'm afraid he doesn't fully understand some of those conditions" of release, Carey said.

(Continued on page 2)

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Additional Photos

click image to enlarge

Judge John Beliveau holds a copy of an affidavit from defendant Brian Morin during Moran's arraignment Monday in Lewiston District Court on three counts of arson.

Gabe Souza/Staff Photographer

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Bryan Wood and his attorney Steven Carey listen to Assistant District Attorney Neil McLean during Wood's arraignment Monday in Lewiston District Court on three counts of arson.

Gabe Souza/Staff Photographer


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