Woman charged with arson in fire that left 13 homeless

A Biddeford woman has been arrested on arson charges in an apartment fire that left 13 people homeless.

The Maine Fire Marshal’s Office arrested 28-year-old Nicole M. Howe Wednesday at a motel where she was staying with her mother.

Authorities say Howe started the Nov. 9 fire at 22 Cutts St. with newspaper on the porch of the apartment she shared with her mother. The fire, reported at 11 p.m., destroyed the 10-unit building. No one was hurt.

Howe was interviewed after the fire by WGME Channel 13. A story broadcast by the station quoted her saying she opened the front door and saw flames at the bottom of the stairs.

“Within a minute, the whole building had gone up,” she said. “I lost everything. I lost my cats. My car blew up.”


Maine court throws out Nader claim on 2004 ballot

A judge has dismissed a lawsuit filed by Ralph Nader accusing Democrats of conspiring to keep him off the ballot in the 2004 presidential race.

Washington County Superior Court Justice Kevin Cuddy on Tuesday granted a motion by the Maine Democratic Party, the Democratic National Committee and other groups and individuals to throw out the suit.

In his 2009 complaint, Nader contended that Democratic leaders used illegal and malicious tactics to try to keep him off the ballot in Maine and more than a dozen other states. Nader appeared on the 2004 presidential ballots in 34 states. George W. Bush won the election.


Opening ceremony Saturday at new Portland Skatepark

The new Portland Skatepark will open to the public at 10 a.m. Saturday.

The opening will be marked with a ceremony featuring free skateboarding lessons, music and refreshments until 2 p.m.

The park, at Dougherty Field on St. James Street, cost $325,000 to build and was funded with public and private money.

It is designed for all skill levels of skateboarders and bikers with features such as a skateable bench, transfer gap, A-frame pyramid, a skate dish, hubba ledge, steps, rails, rollers, euro gap, radial ledges and a quarter pipe. The park is designed to allow for continuous skating from one section to another.
The rain date is 10 a.m. Sunday.

Man pleads not guilty to attempted murder charge

A Brunswick man pleaded not guilty Wednesday to a charge of attempted murder.

Manessah Massaline, 40, is accused of stabbing another man and hitting him with a chair, breaking his jaw and shoulder. Massaline faces charges of attempted murder, elevated aggravated assault, criminal threatening with a weapon and aggravated criminal trespass.

The alleged attack happened in September. Police say Massaline was trying to collect a debt.

Massaline pleaded not guilty during a hearing in Cumberland County Superior Court.

Tune in for the lowdown on whoopie pie ‘Throwdown’

Cranberry Island Kitchen’s whoopie pie throwdown with Food Network star Bobby Flay will air at 9 p.m. Dec. 8, according to Carol Ford, an owner of the popular Portland bakery.

If you miss it the first time, the whoopie pie episode of “Throwdown! with Bobby Flay” will be repeated on Dec. 10 at midnight and Dec. 11 at 7 p.m.

Ford and her business partner, Karen Haase, went head-to-head with Flay in a throwdown filmed a few weeks ago at Grace Restaurant on Chestnut Street.

Flay, as usual, showed up unannounced. Ford said she and Haase suspected that the Food Network crew might actually be from Flay’s show, but didn’t know for sure until Flay walked onto the set.
“It turned out to be really fun and exciting,” Ford said.

Judges for the throwdown were Cristin Walsh, the pastry chef at Grace, and Kathleen Fleury, the food editor of Down East magazine.

The grapevine says that Cranberry Island Kitchen won the throwdown, but Ford would neither confirm nor deny that rumor.


Town asks CMP to delay installation of smart meters

Sanford has become the third Maine community to pass a resolution asking Central Maine Power Co. to hold off on installing smart meters.

The Town Council wants CMP to wait at least 90 days before installing more equipment, until the utility provides residents with more information.

Scarborough and Cape Elizabeth previously passed similar requests.

CMP is replacing all its electric meters with new wireless equipment meant to help manage electricity use and demand. But some residents have concerns, ranging from health impacts to privacy and security. CMP says the meters are safe and secure.

The Maine Public Utilities Commission also is reviewing a request from smart meter opponents to put the program on hold.


Chef, town plan to serve up another Thanksgiving meal

Chef Christopher Bassett of the Azure Cafe in Freeport will once again prepare a “Turkey Feast” for residents of Freeport and Pownal who have nowhere else to go on Thanksgiving.

The 7th Annual Thanksgiving Meal will be served at the Freeport Community Center, 53 Depot St., from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day.

The restaurant teams up each year with Freeport Community Services to put on the event, which last year drew 120 people to the community center. In addition, 416 people were served meals in their homes.

The meal is free, but for planning purposes those who would like to attend should call ahead with the number of people in their party. The number to call is 869-1005.


Coalition plans to ask feds to probe inmate’s death

Advocates for Maine prison inmates say they’ll ask the federal government to investigate the death of an inmate nearly a year ago.

Leaders of the Maine Prisoner Advocacy Coalition said Wednesday they’re preparing a request to the Office of Civil Rights of the Justice Department to investigate the death of 52-year-old Victor Valdez of Portland in November 2009.

At a State House news conference, coalition spokeswoman Judy Garvey said Valdez, who had kidney disease, was taken off dialysis and mistreated by prison staff before his death in the medical unit of the state prison in Warren. No autopsy was conducted.

An investigation by the Maine Attorney General’s Office has found no evidence to suggest that Valdez’s death was the result of foul play or otherwise suspicious.

House District 37 recount confirms win by Democrat

Maine election officials say a recount has upheld a Democrat’s Election Day win in the race for a seat in the Maine House of Representatives.

Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap said the recount for House District 37 confirmed Wednesday that Ralph Chapman of Brooksville was the winner. His Republican opponent, Madeleine Gay Leach of Castine, requested the recount after unofficial results indicated that she lost by a narrow margin.

The recount determined that 2,266 votes were cast for Chapman, 35 more than the number cast for Leach. It leaves Republicans with a 78-72 majority over Democrats in the House, where one independent was also elected.

Four candidate recounts have now been completed. Two candidate recounts and one on the statewide ballot question on casino gambling remain to be completed.


Conviction in fatal crash thrown out by high court

Maine’s highest court has thrown out the conviction last year of a Lincoln man for his role in a 2007 crash in Farmington that killed a co-worker.

The 5-2 decision by the Maine Supreme Judicial Court says the trial court judge erred in allowing the jury to resume deliberations shortly after it had acquitted Ryan Hurd on manslaughter and other charges.

Hurd, now 25, was convicted on a charge of aggravated drunken driving – accomplice liability.
The crash on Oct. 17, 2007, killed Terry Richardson Jr., 34, of Dover-Foxcroft.

The Sun Journal of Lewiston said the jury was discharged after issuing the not-guilty verdicts, but reconvened after jurors had seen Richardson’s family members cry when the not-guilty verdicts were read.


Police find mailer of bones to Japanese consulate

Police say they have found the man who mailed human remains from the Belfast post office to the Japanese consulate in New York claiming they belonged to Japanese servicemen killed during World War II.

Belfast police say the bones were sent by a vacationer from Wakefield, Mass., who found the bones on the South Pacific island of Palau.

The name of the man was not released. He is not facing charges.

New York Police Officer James Duffy told the Bangor Daily News the sender is a 55-year-old World War II buff who took the bones as a memento from the island.

Belfast Detective Bryan Cunningham said the man knew taking the bones was wrong.

The bones are being returned to the Japanese government.


Report: Navy falling short on modernizing shipyards

A new government report says the Navy has fallen short of funding for modernization work at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard and three other public shipyards.

Maine U.S. Sen. Susan Collins said the Government Accountability Office report examines the Navy’s backlog of modernization and restoration projects at the four public shipyards, including the Kittery facility.

The report says the Navy’s estimate of a $3 billion shortfall in modernization of the shipyards, including $513 million at Portsmouth Naval Shipyard alone, underestimates the actual backlog.

The report was requested by Collins, a Republican, and other members of Congress. Collins says the report confirms what’s been known for a long time.