An Aroostook County woman facing murder and arson charges has been accused of setting her apartment on fire, killing her boyfriend.

A judge heard arguments Wednesday about whether Susan Kochanowski, 35, should be granted bail. Her attorneys say the state’s case is based solely on inconsistent and incoherent statements Kochanowski made in the hospital after the fire.

Kochanowski is accused of setting fire to the Caribou apartment she and Jason Donahue, 30, lived in. He was found in the rubble after the early-morning fire on Jan. 25. She was indicted on April 13 and pleaded not guilty on May 12, according to court records.

Superior Court Justice Stephen Nelson is reconsidering bail after a Harnish hearing on Wednesday afternoon where attorneys debated the strength of a police affidavit for Kochanowski’s arrest.

Prosecutors say Kochanowski intentionally set fire to her basement apartment to kill Donahue, or that she set the fire knowing it would result in someone’s death. The fire destroyed much of the three-story building. Other residents, including her ex-husband and daughter, who lived in an apartment upstairs, escaped.

But her attorneys say the only evidence prosecutors have that Kochanowski set the fire are her own inconsistent statements to police while she was hospitalized and medicated, having just escaped the fire and while experiencing hypothermia.


Kochanowski also has a history of mental illness, her attorneys said. Her family told police that she struggled with mental illnesses, the police affidavit states. Her ex-husband said he believed Donahue was drugging Kochanowski and that she was having hallucinations.

Police were called to a fire at the three-story apartment building on Water Street shortly after 2 a.m. on Jan. 25, Detective Hunter Cotton wrote in the affidavit he filed a few days later.

Neighbors told police they saw a woman jump out of her basement apartment window. She was later identified as Kochanowski and taken to Cary Medical Center, where she was treated and medicated. Nurses told police she was hypothermic and speaking “gibberish” about men coming down from her ceiling to attack and sexually assault her.

Police spoke with Kochanowski several times at the hospital, despite her condition. The affidavit states multiple times that she was mumbling and not making sense. When officers were able to understand what she was saying, they said, she admitted to starting a fire in a trash can after a man named “Curtis” burned her with a cigarette. But she later denied setting the fire.

Her family was aware that she was at one point talking to a man online named Curtis, who lived in another state, but they said it wasn’t likely the two had ever met in person or that he was in her apartment that night, the document states.

She acknowledged in one conversation with police that Donahue was dead, according to the affidavit. But at other times, she didn’t seem to understand that – she asked several times to speak with him and ex-husband Stephen Bonner.


Kochanowski’s attorneys said Wednesday this means she likely didn’t mean to kill him.

“She had no idea that Jason was even deceased at the time,” Ben Everett told Nelson. He referenced police interviews with Bonner, who said he thought the couple’s relationship was fine, and statements from Kochanowski’s father, who said she loved Donahue and that he took care of her.

“Are these words manifests of intent to commit murder?” Everett asked.

But Assistant Attorney General Leane Zainea said there’s no way Kochanowski wasn’t aware that setting a fire would result in the death of others.

“They both had to escape the blaze that she ignited,” she said.

Police found Donahue’s body in what was once their bedroom after removing large debris from the collapsed roof and upper floors. The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner determined on Jan. 27  that Donahue, who required DNA testing to be identified, had died by smoke inhalation but bore no other signs of injury. They ruled his death a homicide.

Kochanowski’s lawyers said she wants to be out on bail while waiting for trial so she can spend more time with her daughter. They said that since her arrest, she’s back on medication and in a stable situation.

But Zainea said Kochanowski has no ties to Aroostook County or the Caribou area other than her ex-husband and daughter. Zainea said she had grave concerns about any situation in which Kochanowski would live with them and that Nelson should not release Kochanowski from state custody without a clear plan for where she will live.

Her defense attorneys didn’t have any suggestions of where she could live other than her own apartment or with a custodian.

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