FARMINGTON — By the time Derek Castonguay found his truck during the early morning hours of Feb. 4, 2016, there were flames 20 feet high shooting out of it.
He’d lost everything: his electrician’s tools and supplies, his type 1 diabetes medicine, the truck itself. Nearly $20,000 gone, and Castonguay thought he knew who’d done it.
He had been seeing a woman on and off for a couple of months when strange things started happening. One night the two came home to find the woman’s car doors standing open with everything inside in disarray. Castonguay’s roommates’ cars were also broken into and someone had slashed some of the tires. In another instance, Castonguay found the oil drained from his truck.
One night, he came down the stairs in his home to find a man breaking in through the front door. It was Michael Davis.
“It was one hundred percent him,” Castonguay said. “I saw his eyes. He saw mine.”
Castonguay said he barely knew Davis except that the 21-year-old had repeatedly harassed the woman Castonguay was seeing.
In January, a grand jury indicted Davis on two counts of arson, a Class A felony, in connection with the torching of Castonguay’s truck. Davis faces up to 30 years in jail and $50,000 fines for each charge. His bail was set at $10,000 though he is not eligible for bail until he serves out his previous sentences.
On Tuesday, Davis stood in Farmington District Court in an orange prison jumpsuit, his head bowed and hands and feet shackled, and pleaded not guilty to the charges.
Court records list Christopher S. Berryment as Davis’ attorney; however, Berryment declined to comment, saying he did not currently represent Davis.
More than a year since the fire, Castonguay is still struggling to rebuild.
“Pretty much my whole life was in that truck,” Castonguay said. “So yeah, I’m hurtin’ right now.”
He also struggles to understand how Davis could target a stranger for such punishment, let alone a woman he had once been friends with. Castonguay said he has been sleeping better since Davis was arrested, but he worries Davis may come for him if he beats the charges. “You never know what’s going to happen when he gets out, and that’s the scariest part,” Castonguay said.
Davis and the woman had been close friends, the woman told police, but the relationship took a dark turn.
In August 2015, someone broke into the car and home of Joseph Gilbert. According to the statement Gilbert gave police, he woke to find two wheels on his Jeep deflated and a bag containing the woman’s belongings missing. Someone had removed a window screen from the home and stolen the woman’s phone from the bedroom where she and Gilbert were sleeping, as well as both their wallets. Months later, the woman called police after her garage was broken into and yet another phone stolen from her car. The next day, someone set fire to Castonguay’s truck.
“She’s reported him every time,” Castonguay said. “She knows it’s him, but the police can’t do anything without proof.”
It wasn’t until fire marshals and police searched Davis’ New Sharon home in February 2016 as part of the arson investigation that they apparently found that proof. In an affidavit, Maine State Trooper Reid Bond said police found Gilbert and the woman’s wallets in a shed behind Davis’ home. They found three cellphones wrapped in a woman’s blouse in a laundry basket inside the home. All three belonged to the woman. Davis had even texted the woman a Snapchat screenshot from one of the phones, “accusing her of being involved with other men,” according to a statement by Wilton Police Officer Chad Abbott.
When police confronted Davis, he denied any knowledge of the thefts, insisting the woman was “trying to set him up,” according to Bond’s statement.
“I informed Davis that I believed he had kept the white iPhone charged because it made him feel some sort of control over (the woman) and fulfilled his need to be with (the woman),” Bond wrote. “Davis denied this and stated that he didn’t know the phone was inside his home.”
Police issued Davis summonses for burglary and theft. The following day, they arrested him.
In September, Davis pleaded guilty to operating a vehicle without a license. With two prior convictions, the charge was elevated to a Class C crime, and Davis was sentenced to five years in prison with all but 18 months suspended. He also pleaded guilty to violating the conditions of his release for the earlier convictions.
In December, Davis pleaded guilty to multiple theft and burglary charges. He was sentenced to six years with all but 15 months suspended and three years probation. He told a court he is set to be released in November.
Kate McCormick — 861-9218