AUGUSTA — A Winthrop man has pleaded guilty to misdemeanor criminal charges resulting from a fire at one of his Augusta apartment buildings Memorial Day weekend that proved fatal for a tenant.

However, building owner Ryan Chamberland will be able to withdraw those pleas and have the charges dismissed if he successfully complies with conditions of a yearlong deferred disposition.

“So long as Mr. Chamberland does what he’s supposed to do, the charges will be dismissed,” his attorney, Walter McKee, said Friday.

Chamberland, 42, pleaded guilty in Augusta District Court on Dec. 19 to one count of failure to provide adequate means of egress and nine counts of failure to provide adequate secondary means of escape for occupants of the building at 26 Pleasant St..

Tenant John Murray, 62, was pulled through the window of his first floor apartment by Michael Murphy, who was passing by on his way to work and heard Murray screaming for help.

Murray, who suffered burns and significant smoke inhalation, died June 6 in Maine Medical Center in Portland.

“The very unfortunate death of Mr. Murray was not caused by the deficiencies, according to the investigators,” said Assistant District Attorney Kristin Murray-James. She added that his first floor apartment had two means of egress.

Two days before the fire, Murray called the city to request an inspection to address safety concerns he had about his unit. Investigators said the fire began in Murray’s unit and was related to a stove or toaster oven.

The fire appeared to be confined to the front of the building, and that portion was later torn down. The remainder is being rebuilt.

The charges were brought by investigator Kenneth MacMaster of the Office of the State Fire Marshal.

Additional civil violations charging improper installation of smoke detectors and failure to provide functioning smoke detectors in Unit 8 were dismissed in exchange for the pleas to the other charges.

Conditions of the deferred disposition include a pledge to abide by the requirements of the Life Safety Code and the notice that sets out deficiencies and corrections issued by the fire marshal’s office.

“None of those alleged violations had anything to do with the death of the occupant,” McKee echoed. “It was only upon the fire marshal’s inspection of the building in connection with the fire that they found the deficiencies.”

Betty Adams can be contacted at 621-5631 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: @betadams


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