AUGUSTA – A Manchester man pleaded guilty Wednesday to committing arson and burglary in a vacant home in Manchester last fall.

Jeremy J. Judkins, 30, apologized in Kennebec County Superior Court for setting the fire in the basement of 274 Prescott Road on Sept. 26.

“I was on a lot of drugs that day and I wasn’t thinking straight,” he told Justice Nancy Mills. “I’m glad I’ve been incarcerated as long as I have because I had time to get clean.”

Judkins was arrested a day after the fire and has been in jail ever since. He wore a two-piece orange jail uniform and his ankles were shackled as he sat in court Wednesday next to his attorney, Charles T. Ferris.

The prosecutor, Assistant District Attorney Deborah Bertos, said Judkins set the fire to cover up a burglary at the home.

She said he and his girlfriend, Nicole L. Pierce, 24, of Augusta, had gone into the home looking for money. It was unoccupied, she said, because the owner, Oliver Cromwell, had moved several months earlier into an assisted-living facility.

Judkins lived nearby at 494 Prescott Road.

Bertos said Edward H. Hastings IV of the State Fire Marshal’s Office determined that the fire was deliberately set in the basement. Bertos said Judkins put newspaper in a pile of wood and set it on fire.

“He wanted to commit suicide and later changed his mind,” Bertos told Mills.

The fire burned in the basement, and smoke damaged the upstairs, she said.

Pierce pleaded guilty March 4 to burglarizing Cromwell’s house. She was sentenced to three years in jail, with all but 30 days suspended and two years’ probation.

Bertos said Judkins was not ordered to make restitution because the home was scheduled to be sold and the deal went through with no reduction in price.

After accepting Judkins’ guilty pleas, Mills said he will be sentenced later.

Mills told Judkins that the maximum sentence for arson is 30 years in prison, $50,000 in fines and four years’ probation. The maximum sentence for the burglary is 10 years in prison, $20,000 in fines and three years’ probation.


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