The state fire marshal’s office is still investigating the case of an artist’s life-size donkey sculpture that was set ablaze in the yard of a Bowdoinham home early on Sept. 19. Darcie Moore / The Times Record

BOWDOINHAM — The investigation continues into the arson that destroyed a life-size donkey sculpture late on the night of Sept. 18 in Bowdoinham.

The donkey was created by Richmond artist Doug Chess, who devoted two years to planning and carving the symbol of the Democratic party.

Chess said he’d only finished the donkey a week before it was set on fire. The donkey was parked at the home of Theresa Turgeon, who awoke to find the sculpture in flames.

Thursday, Sgt. Joel Davis of the state fire marshal’s office said investigators have collected evidence. No charges have been issued. The Sagadahoc County Sheriff’s Office is helping with the investigation.

While local Democrats decried the crime as politically driven, Davis said he can’t confirm whether that is the case.

“The thing we want to stress is we don’t have any information that this is politically motivated, or not at this point,” Davis said Wednesday. “We are still investigating all possibilities.”


Fire should never be used to make political statements, Davis said. The area is in a drought, meaning the fire could have spread. Had it been set closer to a home, people could have been hurt, he said.

Maine State Historian Earle Shettleworth, said he is not aware of any similar cases of vandalism or arson in the state’s history involving a political symbol or invoked during a heated election year.

In the 1850s, a secretive, xenophobic political party called the Know-Nothings — more formally known as the American Party — were targeting Irish Catholics. Shettleworth said one night in 1854 the group burned a Catholic church in Bath. In Ellsworth, a priest was tarred and feathered during this time. Though political, it was not related to elections.

“Every election cycle there’s always a fair number of reports of vandalism to political signs and this, in one regard is very similar,” Sagadahoc County Sheriff Joel Merry said. “But in other regards, this is much more serious when you go into someone’s front yard and literally set something on fire in the middle of the night. … There’s a real intent there to do damage, send a message, whatever the case may be, and it’s something that we do take seriously and that’s why we are investing a significant amount of time into this.”

If anyone has any information or saw anything unusual around the time of the arson, Davis asks that they contact the state fire marshal’s office at (207) 624-7076.

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