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Four Lewiston Arson Suspects Make Court Appearances
05/13/2013   Reported By: Susan Sharon

It was a busy day in Lewiston District Court, where four arson suspects - two adults and two juveniles - all made separate appearances before Judge John Beliveau. The four are charged with a rash of fires that destroyed more than half a dozen apartment buildings in Lewiston in the past two weeks and left the community on edge. As Susan Sharon reports, a police affidavit also sheds new light on what may have been the motive for the most recent fire.

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Four Lewiston Arson Suspects Make Court Appearance Listen
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Lew fire 3 - Bartlett St. - photo, Susan Sharon.

Judge Beliveau set bail for 23-year-old Bryan Wood and his 29-year-old friend and former roommate Brian Morin at $350,000 cash, citing the seriousness of the crimes, the risk to the community and the two men's prior criminal records.

Both are charged with three counts of arson for fires that began at about 3:00 a.m. on May 6 at two vacant apartment buildings (right) on Bartlett Street. According to a police affidavit, Morin admitted that during the setting of the first fire he acted as a "look out" for Bryan Wood, whom he said used Butane lighter fluid to ignite a pair of couch cushions on a rear deck near some stairs.

Morin told police that he and Wood talked about burning the buildings because they were "sick and tired of all the abandoned buildings in the city that were not being repaired by the landlords."

"I think the court chose to send a message, after you've had so much arsons in such a short period of time here in Lewiston," says Steven Carey, an attorney for Bryan Wood.

Carey says he's not surprised by the high bail. He was hoping that his client, who does not have as extensive a criminal record as Brian Morin, would not be viewed in exactly the same light as his co-defendant. Carey says Wood is still in a state of shock, and he questions how much his client understands about the case against him.

"I think my client is of limited intellectual ability," he says, "and I'm afraid he may have been taken advantage of throughout all this process. I'm trying to figure that out."

Carey says he plans to ask for a competency exam for Wood. Meanwhile, two 12-year-old boys accused of starting two other separate fires that displaced dozens of residents also appeared in court with their parents. Neither the fires, nor the boys, are believed to be related.

Wearing an orange t-shirt and at one point staring at the ceiling, Abdi Ibrahim sat next to his parents, as a Somali interpreter explained the four arson charges against him. He answered "deny" when the judge asked him for his answer to them. Outside, Ibrahim's attorney Jeffrey Dolley spoke with reporters.

"What we want to do is we want to wait for all the evidence to come in, and we want to be able to look at it all, try to come up with an appropriate resolution for the case," he says. "So we're waiting for that to happen. And I think it's important to consider that this a child, this is a 12-year-old child, we're talking about. He doesn't have the maturity and wisdom of most people who go through this process, so we have to look at that as well."

Although juveniles, the boys' names have been revealed in open court. Because of the serious nature of the charges against the boys, prosecutors could seek to try them as adults. Speaking briefly with reporters, Assistant District Attorney Melanie Portas said that although a final decision has not been made she thinks it's unlikely because of the boys' ages and lack of criminal history.

Allan Lobozzo, an attorney for Brody Covey, agrees. He says his client, accused of starting a fire in the condemned Blake Street apartment building where he lived with his parents and four brothers and sisters, would be "highly unusual."

"Again, given that the child who is 12 years old with not so much as a behavioral problem in school, it would really be something that I would not be able to fathom," he says. "I don't think that decision is going to be forthcoming. I don't think they will bind him over."

Both boys remain in custody at the Long Creek Correctional Facility in South Portland.

File Photos: Susan Sharon

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