BINGHAM — Fire investigators believe evidence recovered near the scene of two fires in March point to a Bingham man who has been charged with arson.

Impressions taken from boots worn by Brandon Sherwood match footprints leading away from the Bingham town garage and a vacant ice cream shop, which were destroyed by fire March 23, according to a court affidavit.

Stewart Jacobs of the State Fire Marshal’s Office said in the affidavit that he followed a trail of footprints in the snow about 2:30 a.m., a few hours after the fires, and encountered Sherwood in an open field west of the town garage. Sherwood, 29, said he was looking for his dog, which he said had run off earlier in the night.

Sherwood told Jacobs the prints were his, according to the document. He also told investigators that he was not at the town garage or the ice cream shop that night. He denied any involvement in the fires.

Jacobs said in the court report that he had photographed the soles of Sherwood’s boots and later compared them to boot casts made by another investigator, and they appeared to match.

That information showed there was probable cause, or sufficient evidence, for Sherwood’s arrest on a class A arson charge. Details from the footwear impressions and comparisons have been submitted as evidence for analysis to the Maine State Police Crime Laboratory. The evidence is expected to be presented to a grand jury in June for possible indictment, according to District Attorney Maeghan Maloney.

Sherwood’s attorney, John Alsop, of Skowhegan, said findings from the crime laboratory have not been submitted yet as part of the evidence discovery process in the case.

The fire at the public works garage caused about $500,000 in damage to the garage and equipment stored there, including several large vehicles. A fire accelerant detection dog detected the presence of an ignitable liquid at both fire sites, according to the affidavit.

The charred remains of Sherwood’s dog, a pit bull called Phantom, later were found inside the burned garage.

Bingham First Selectman Steve Steward, who is in charge of public works, was unavailable for comment Friday; but the town’s tax collector, Billie Jo Judd, said in response to a reporter’s inquiry that the town has not started rebuilding the garage, because insurance paperwork has not been completed.

Sherwood remains held on $100,000 bail at the Somerset County Jail in East Madison.

Alsop said the investigation is still in the early stages and that he will need to see all the evidence against his client before he can comment on the findings by fire investigators.

“There seems to be a lack of a motive,” he said, “and there seems to be a possibility of other people. Some of the reports suggest there may be others involved.”

Alsop said Sherwood is held on such a high bail amount partly because of his previous criminal history.

“He’s charged with a class A crime, and he has a criminal record, and it’s not unusual in Somerset County for very high bails to be set in such matters,” he said.

Maloney agreed, adding that Sherwood could be a flight risk, given that he is facing up to 30 years in prison if convicted of arson.

Maloney said a person’s criminal history is factored into bail considerations and that each case is judged separately.

“There’s no typical ‘Class A equals this amount of bail,'” she said. “Every single case has to be evaluated. Every arson is committed differently.”

In 2003, Sherwood was convicted of five counts of burglary and four counts of theft. He was sentenced to three years in the state prison, with all but 57 days suspended, and three years’ probation. He also was ordered to pay $12,964 in restitution, according to court records. He later violated the conditions of his probation and was sentenced to serve an additional 92 days in jail.

In 2012, a judge ordered Sherwood to pay $50 per month for unpaid restitution from the thefts.

No new court dates have been scheduled in the arson case.

Doug Harlow — 612-2367

[email protected]

 

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