ALFRED — On Wednesday, a York County grand jury in Alfred indicted a Biddeford man for murder and arson in connection with a September fire in Biddeford.

Dylan Collins, 18, was indicted for two counts of arson and two counts of depraved indifference murder, all Class A felonies.

According to Maine Criminal Statute, Title 17-A, depraved indifference murder is defined as engaging in “conduct that manifests a depraved indifference to the value of human life, and that, in fact, causes the death of another human being.” It is equal to being charged with criminally negligent manslaughter, according to statute.

The sentence for murder is from 25 years to life in prison. For arson, the maximum sentence is 30 years in prison.

An indictment is not a finding of guilt, but a determination that enough evidence exists to commence prosecution.

Collins is charged with starting a fire at 35 Main St. on Sept. 18 that caused the deaths of Michael Moore, 23, and James Ford, 21.

The two men, who were roommates, died as a result of smoke inhalation, according to the Maine State Fire Marshal’s Office.

The Main Street fire started in the rear stairwell, according to investigators.

It appeared that some of the units in the three-story, 16-unit building didn’t have a second means of egress, as required by state law, said Fire Marshal Investigator Sgt. Joel Davis.

In addition, he said, the smoke detector in the third-floor attic, where firefighters found Moore and Ford sleeping, didn’t appear to be working.

Collins has a history of mental health problems, and his mother, Donna Pitcher, had called Biddeford Police multiple times both before and after the Main Street fire with concerns about his mental state.

The first call was on July 27. According to police transcripts, Pitcher said she found bomb-making material throughout her apartment and her son’s room as well as information on his computer about bomb-making and the Columbine High School massacre.

“She is afraid that he is crazy,” the transcript reads.

The Associated Press reported that Pitcher said Collins was committed to Southern Maine Health Care in Biddeford in July for a month-long psychological evaluation. She said the hospital released him on Aug. 28 after medical staff declined to seek a court order to have Collins committed to an Augusta psychiatric center.

Both Biddeford Police Chief Roger Beaupre and Jenna Mehnert, the executive director of National Alliance on Mental Illness in Maine, said getting help for those with mental illness without their consent is very difficult.

A spokeswoman for SMHC declined to comment on the case, and could not confirm whether Collins was admitted there in July, according to the AP.

Pitcher called Biddeford Dispatch again on Oct. 14 and 20 with concerns about her son.

The final police transcript describing a call from Pitcher regarding her son was on Nov. 5. The transcript doesn’t detail what she said to police. That day, police took Collins into custody at his job at Monkey Trunks in Saco and brought him to SMHC for observation.

Beaupre said he believes his department avoided a larger disaster by picking up Collins when they did.

On Nov. 7, Collins was arrested for the murder and brought to York County Jail in Alfred, where he has remained without bail, except for a short hospital stay.

On Nov. 20, he jumped off a second tier landing at the York County Jail in Alfred, according to Bill King, the chief deputy with the York County Sheriff Office.

King described the incident as “an apparent self-harm attempt.”

Collins was taken to Maine Medical Center in Portland and released the following day, according to a spokesman from the jail.

A call to Collins attorney was not returned prior to press time.

— Staff Writer Dina Mendros can be contacted at 282-1535, ext. 324 or [email protected]

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