AUGUSTA — A man who was rescued from an apartment fire in May has been charged with arson for allegedly setting the fire in an apparent suicide attempt.

David Malia, 59, confessed to setting the May 27 fire, according to an affidavit by Kenneth MacMaster, investigator for the fire marshal’s office.

The other residents of the apartment building at 11 Cedar Court, including two children, evacuated the building unharmed, but Malia was taken to MaineGeneral Medical Center, where he was treated for smoke inhalation.

MacMaster interviewed Malia at the hospital on June 11. Malia reportedly told MacMaster that he had stopped taking his medication two months before the fire and came to believe that people living in the building were injecting poison into the water to kill him, so he decided to kill himself by smoke inhalation.

After starting the fire, Malia sat on his bed and waited to die, not responding to the people he could hear trying to rescue him, the affidavit states.

Sabrina Moulton, the owner of the building, who lives on the third floor, smelled smoke about 5:30 a.m. and woke her boyfriend, Kevin Meserve, who went looking for the source of the smoke. It was clear it was coming from Malia’s apartment on the second floor. The affidavit didn’t identify Moulton and Meserve, but they were identified in a Kennebec Journal article the day of the fire.

Meserve pounded on walls and doors to wake the other tenants and tell them to evacuate, but Malia’s door was bolted shut, according to the affidavit. Meserve kicked in the door and was about to try to get Malia out, but a police officer told him to evacuate.

The affidavit says that two Gardiner firefighter-paramedics, who had responded as part of a mutual aid agreement, said Malia had an “oily smell,” and among the items they recovered from him was a lighter. While Malia was en route to the hospital, he said he started the fire with cardboard and oil, using the lighter to ignite it.

“Malia said that he (Malia) wanted to kill himself, and the fire did not get as big as he (Malia) would have liked,” the affidavit states.

MacMaster wrote that he found multiple points of origin for the fire in Malia’s living room: a bookcase, a couch and a desk and chair. He also found an aerosol container of WD-40 and an aerosol container of a paint primer in the room.

MacMaster wrote the fire endangered the lives of all the building’s occupants, made worse because most of them were sleeping when the fire started. One resident had to escape by jumping out a window and onto a roof because the one exit from his apartment was blocked by heavy smoke. In addition, MacMaster wrote, the firefighters and police officers who responded were subject to a significant risk of injury or death.

Arson is a class A crime, which means a conviction carries up to 30 years in prison and/or a $50,000 fine.

Susan McMillan — 621-5645

[email protected]

Twitter: @s_e_mcmillan


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