Woman set fire that killed her, investigators conclude

The state Fire Marshal’s Office says a blaze at a home last month that killed a woman was intentionally set by the person who died.

The fire that killed Lynn Ring, 69, on Dec. 9 started in the garage and spread to the house. Ring’s husband, John Ring, 70, suffered burns on his hands but survived.

A spokesman for the state Department of Public Safety told WABI-TV that an investigation determined that the couple argued over their car, and Lynn Ring got angry and set the car on fire.

The garage and the car were destroyed.

Investigators say firefighters prevented the fire from causing significant damage to the home, which was two years old.


Mother of 13 denies trying to hire man to kill husband

A mother of 13 from Brownville has pleaded not guilty to trying to hire a man to kill her husband.

WLBZ-TV reported that Wendy Farley, 46, entered her plea Tuesday in Piscataquis County District Court in Dover-Foxcroft.

Farley was initially charged in September with criminal solicitation for murder for allegedly offering a friend between $3,000 and $10,000 to have her husband of 30 years killed. A grand jury indicted her on Monday.

Police say Farley wanted her husband’s death to look like a hunting accident. An affidavit says she told the friend she wanted to escape her husband’s strictness and needed her freedom.

Farley remains in jail pending trial.


Officials fail to find cause of fire that killed brothers

Investigators say the exact cause of a house fire that killed two brothers in this northern Maine town can’t be determined, but smoking can’t be ruled out.

Officials say Mark Beaton, 57, and his brother, Paul, 56, were killed early Tuesday in a fire at a Mark Beaton’s home. Eight other adults who were in the house escaped to safety.

The state Fire Marshal’s Office said most of the group had been drinking for several hours before the fire was discovered, and most were also smoking. The fire started in the living room near a couch.

Officials said there were no smoke detectors in the house, and that the victims died of smoke inhalation.


Drug agents arrest three in connection with meth lab

Drug agents have arrested three people in northern Maine in connection with a methamphetamine lab allegedly being run out of an apartment in Houlton.

The Maine Drug Enforcement Agency said it was alerted to the operation by people who reported strong odors of chemicals coming from the apartment and possible criminal activity.

WCSH-TV reported that drug agents on Tuesday night found chemicals, solvents, equipment and other materials used to make methamphetamine.

Police arrested three people on drug charges, including two who lived in the apartment. A toddler who also lived in the apartment has been taken into protective custody.

The Maine DEA said it raided 13 meth labs in 2012, with eight of those in Aroostook County.


Firefighter accused of filing false report about assault

A 22-year-old Gorham woman faces charges of filing a false report after initially telling police she was attacked by two unknown men in a pickup.

Police say Rachael Welsh, a Westbrook firefighter/paramedic, reported being assaulted and nearly abducted at 6:17 p.m. on Dec. 23. She was taken to the hospital to be treated for a minor cut and bruise, police said.

Investigators searched for men matching the description but also examined inconsistencies in Welsh’s story, said Detective Sgt. Dana Thompson. Police ultimately determined she had made up the story and on Dec. 26 issued her a summons to appear in court on a misdemeanor charge of filing a false report, he said.

“Given the panic this type of report could cause a neighborhood or community, we treat it very seriously,” Thompson said.

Police did not publicize the alleged attack because they were skeptical, though they investigated aggressively, Thompson said.

Police held off announcing the charge because they were completing their investigation and presenting the information to the District Attorney’s Office, Thompson said.

Welsh’s Facebook page says she has worked with the Westbrook Fire Department since 2011 and has been a member of the Gorham Fire Rescue Department since 2008.

Welsh is on paid administrative leave pending an internal inquiry, said a Westbrook human resources official, Liam Gallagher.


Man admits taking photos with girl to make child porn

A Portland man pleaded guilty Tuesday in U.S. District Court to sexual exploitation of a minor to make child pornography.

David Muise Jr., 26, of 141 Cumberland Ave. faces a sentence of 15 to 30 years in prison. His sentencing is scheduled for May 16.

Muise used his cellphone camera to take a series of pornographic pictures of himself with a sleeping 4-year-old girl on Aug. 26, 2011.

In 2012, he exchanged messages, files and photos over the Internet with Daniel Cobb, 37, of Rock Hill, S.C., according to court records.

After Muise’s arrest in October, Cobb was arrested in November at his home in South Carolina. Cobb faces the same charge as Muise and is accused of sending explicit pictures of his friend’s young daughters to Muise, according to court records.

Cobb pleaded not guilty in December but is scheduled to change his plea in federal court on Feb. 28.


Police arrest local man, 22, for taking another man’s car

A Portland man who allegedly demanded a man’s car keys and threatened to kill him if he went to the police faces charges of robbery.

Police say Abdiraham Haji-Hassan, 22, took the car keys of a 52-year-old Buxton man he knew as they visited a home on Valley Street on Tuesday.

Police say Haji-Hassan then took the man’s 2004 Pontiac Sunfire. The man reported the incident to police about 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, and about an hour later Officer Dan Hondo saw the silver car at Cumberland Avenue and High Street and stopped it, police said. Haji-Hassan was arrested on charges of robbery and driving with a suspended license.


Trash truck rolls onto its side on icy road, injuring driver

A Pine Tree Waste trash truck rolled over on icy roads in Windham on Wednesday morning, injuring the driver.

The truck rolled onto its side on Evans Ridge Road about 9:30 a.m., dispatchers said. The road was closed while emergency workers removed the driver and took him to the hospital and worked to right the truck.

The man’s injuries did not appear to be serious, dispatchers said.


County jails facing cuts over $560,000 shortfall

Maine’s county jails could run out of money before the end of June unless more than half a million in cuts are found.

The state predicts that fourth-quarter payments to Maine’s 15 county jails will fall short by about $560,000.

Mark Westrum, chairman of the Maine Board of Corrections, said a state curtailment of more than $160,000 is further squeezing the books.

The nine-member board began deciding how it will measure the needs of counties and widely different facilities.

Westrum said the Board of Corrections hopes to weigh all variables before it decides where to cut. Some decisions could come at its next meeting, scheduled for Feb. 19.

Randall Greenwood, chairman of the Androscoggin County Commission, told the Sun Journal his jail already runs a tight ship.


National secretaries of state choose city for 2015 meeting

Secretary of State Matt Dunlap says Portland has been chosen as the host site for the 2015 summer meeting of the National Association of Secretaries of State.

It will be the first time the conference is held in Maine since 2003, when it brought more than 400 people to the Portland area and generated an estimated $500,000 in economic activity for hotels, restaurants and other Maine businesses.

Portland was chosen for the 2015 meeting during the secretaries association’s annual winter meeting last weekend in Washington, D.C.

The conference will be held at the Holiday Inn by the Bay from July 17 to July 20, 2015. This year’s summer conference will be held in Anchorage, Alaska, and the 2014 summer conference will be held in Baltimore.


Maine DEP ends surcharge on gas, petroleum imports

The Maine Department of Environmental Protection has ended an surcharge on gasoline and other petroleum products, saving consumers an estimated $5.5 million this year.

The DEP said improved fiscal management allowed it to stop a 20-cent-per-barrel surcharge on gasoline imported into Maine and a 10-cent surcharge on other petroleum products including home heating oil.

The decision is supported by an independent board that oversees a fund administered by DEP for cleaning up oil discharges from storage tanks.

Funding comes from a 38-cent fee for each barrel of gasoline and a 19-cent fee on all other petroleum products. The extra surcharge that just ended has been in place for seven years to help bolster the fund.


Bills take alternate routes to stop east-west highway

Several bills have been introduced that reflect lawmakers’ concerns over the proposed east-west highway, a 230-mile route across Maine that would connect Canadian points. The highway would be operated privately and maintained with tolls.

The bills are being drafted so all of their details are not known. But the titles show one would take away the $300,000 state appropriation for a feasibility study on the massive project, and another would modify that appropriation.

Other bills would restrict the use of eminent domain to protect property owners along the proposed route, and one would create a special commission to oversee further study for an east-west highway.

The Sierra Club-Maine director, Glen Brand, said his group is committed to stopping the highway, and a good way is by legislative action this session.


Nonpartisan group to focus on economy, quality of life

Maine legislative Democrats and Republicans are finding some areas on which they can agree.

In a session that so far has highlighted differences more than areas of agreement, lawmakers from each party have formed a Measures of Growth Caucus. The nonpartisan group will focus on expanding the state’s economy and improving Mainers’ quality of life.

Republican Sen. Tom Saviello of Wilton, one of the founders, said an annual $55,000 “Measures of Growth” report to the Legislature that assesses Maine’s economy, communities and environment should be taken into account in the legislative process.

Democratic Rep. Terry Hayes of Buckfield, the other founder, said areas of agreement are more likely to be found when data is used to inform policy discussions, rather than ideology.


Man will serve two years for robbery of pharmacy

An Augusta man has been sentenced to two years in prison for robbing a Walmart pharmacy last year.

Jason Truman pleaded guilty Tuesday in Kennebec County Superior Court to the Nov. 26 robbery. A judge imposed a sentence negotiated between the district attorney’s office and Truman’s attorney.

The complete sentence was 10 years in prison, with all but two years suspended, and two years of probation. Truman, 33, also was ordered to pay as much as $1,000 restitution.

Truman told police he stole prescription painkillers to sell for money to pay the $700 deposit on an apartment for his sister.

The Kennebec Journal reported that he said he discarded two of three bottles of OxyContin he was given because they were more than he needed.


Cause of fire that destroyed old mill under investigation

A building that burned down this week was once home to the last manufacturer of wooden clothes pins in the U.S.

The Penley Mill was West Paris’ biggest employer from 1923 until it closed in 2002.

The building was destroyed in a fire that broke out early Tuesday morning. It took 50 firefighters from a dozen departments to control the flames.

The mill was leased by the owners of a fireworks store just yards away, but officials say there were no fireworks in the building.

Sgt. Joel Davis of the state Fire Marshal’s Office said that the building was in compliance with code regarding distance to nearby structures and that helped prevent flames from spreading to a fireworks storage building.

The cause remains under investigation.


Longfellow celebration runs Saturday through Feb. 27

The town plans a monthlong series of events in celebration of poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

The annual Longfellow Days celebration will start Saturday and run through Feb. 27, the 206th anniversary of Longfellow’s birth. Longfellow was born in Portland, attended Bowdoin College and went on to become one of America’s best-known poets.

During the month, there will be public poetry readings, lectures and discussions, a film screening and a service at the Bowdoin College chapel.

The event is a program of the Brunswick Downtown Association, with support from Bowdoin, the Maine Arts Commission, the Maine Writers and Publishers Alliance, the Alfred M. Senter Fund and the Association of Bowdoin Friends.