An Aroostook County woman was found not criminally responsible by reason of insanity after a fire at her apartment last year killed her boyfriend and displaced their neighbors.

Superior Court Justice Stephen Nelson committed Susan Kochanowski to the custody of state health officials during a plea hearing on May 22 based on testimony from a psychiatrist with the State Forensic Service.

Kochanowski, 35, had already entered an Alford plea to one count of manslaughter for the death of her boyfriend, 30-year-old Jason Donahue. In an Alford plea, a defendant does not admit guilt, but acknowledges there is enough evidence that a judge or jury could find them guilty.

There’s no set time when Kochanowski might be discharged from state custody.

Prosecutors said at a bail hearing in November that she intentionally set fire to her apartment in Caribou on January 25, 2023, and there was no way she wouldn’t have known it would result in someone’s death.

Kochanowski and Donahue were living together in the basement apartment, according to a probable cause affidavit from Maine State Police.


Her lawyers Adam Swanson and Ben Everett argued that the state’s only evidence against their client came from inconsistent statements she gave police while under heavy medication.

Police had responded to a fire at a three-story apartment building on Water Street early that morning, Detective Hunter Cotton wrote in the affidavit. After the fire was out, they found a man dead in the rubble. He was identified as Donahue two days later using DNA testing, and his death was ruled a homicide, the affidavit states.

The fire also displaced Kochanowski’s neighbors, including her ex-husband and child, who lived in the same building.

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. According to the affidavit, 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, but she often mumbled and her statements did not make sense, detectives wrote. At one point she admitted to starting a fire in a trash can after a man named “Curtis” burned her with a cigarette. 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 both admitted to and denied setting the fire, according to Cotton’s affidavit, and was inconsistent about acknowledging Donahue had died. Cotton wrote that Kochanowski’s family had also described her long struggles with mental illness, including hallucinations.

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