LEWISTON — A judge has declared that one of three juveniles charged with felony murder and arson stemming from a September fire is not competent to go forward with criminal proceedings.

Three teenagers — two 13-year-olds and a 14-year-old — were charged initially with arson, but the felony murder charge was added in October.

If convicted as adults, each of those charges would be punishable by up to 30 years in prison.

A felony murder charge can be brought when a death occurs during the commission of a felony crime.

Firefighters battle a blaze Sept. 11 at 226 Blake St. in Lewiston. Seventy-year-old Felicien Betu died trying to escape the building. One of the teens charged “is not competent to proceed in this matter,” according to a district court judge. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal file

The 10-unit building at 226 Blake St. was evacuated during the Sept. 11 fire, but Felicien Betu, 70, was trapped on the top floor, officials said. He died from his injuries after he jumped from a window to escape the flames.

Nearly 30 people were burned out of their apartments.

Last week, a judge in 8th District Court in Lewiston issued a finding that the 14-year-old local boy charged in the case “is not competent to proceed in this matter.”

Active-retired Judge Keith A. Powers went on to say in court documents that the boy “does not have a rational as well as factual understanding of the proceedings and he does not have a sufficient present ability to consult with legal counsel with a reasonable degree of rational understanding.”

Moreover, Powers wrote that “there is not a substantial probability that the juvenile will become competent in the foreseeable future.”

The judge ordered a court clerk to schedule a hearing at which the judge is expected to decide whether to order the commissioner at the Department of Health and Human Services to evaluate the appropriateness of providing mental health and behavioral support services to the juvenile or the judge could order the juvenile into the custody of the commissioner for purposes of placement and treatment.

At the end of that hearing, the court would dismiss the charging petition against the boy, as directed by state law.

A judge has ordered the names of the three juveniles sealed, according to the Office of the Attorney General.

The teenagers were taken into custody two days after the Saturday fire and brought to Long Creek Youth Development Center in South Portland.

The fire, reported at 4:44 p.m., heavily damaged the third and fourth floors of the four-story apartment building and displaced 27 people, officials said.

No other tenant was injured in the blaze, according to Maine Department of Public Safety spokeswoman Shannon Moss.

Emergency response personnel had been making attempts to reach Betu when he jumped, according to Moss.

Lewiston Schools Superintendent Jake Langlais said Betu had been enrolled as an adult education student.

The city and American Red Cross helped to house the displaced tenants.

“It will take some time to recover. Our community is strong and out of these tragedies we see greatness,” Langlais said at the time.

Related Headlines

Comments are not available on this story.

filed under: