FARMINGTON — An arson fire allegedly planned by three men in June for a Wilton house in which eight adults and five children lived could have been catastrophic, Sgt. Ken Grimes, of the Office of the State Fire Marshal, said Tuesday.

Meanwhile, owners of a camp and a mobile home — strangers to the men who allegedly burned the buildings down — said the emotional toll of those fires has staggered them.

Grimes, with other law enforcement personnel, state fire officials and owners of the burned properies spoke at a news conference Tuesday in Farmington to talk about the arrest of the trio on charges they intentionally burned down a Wilton mobile home and a Carthage camp and conspired to burn a house in Wilton.

Officials at the 11 a.m. news conference included Grimes; State Fire Marshal Inspector Ken MacMaster; Franklin County Sheriff Scott Nichols; Lt. David St. Laurent, of the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office; and Franklin County Assistant District Attorney Josh Robbins.

Also at the conference were the owners of the homes that burned — Andrea and Gene Casey Sr., of Mexico, who owned the Carthage camp; and Kandi Ward, of Roxbury, who owned the Wilton mobile home.

D’Kota R. Rowe, 20, of Wilton; Duane A. Bailey, 27, of Carver, Massachusetts; and Devon J. Pease, 22, of Jay, were arrested Friday on charges of arson and conspiracy to commit arson. The three are charged in setting the June 27 fire on Sewall Street in Wilton. Rowe and Bailey also are charged with setting a fire that night on Winter Hill Road in Carthage. They also are charged with conspiring to burn down a house on Main Street in Wilton.

According to an affidavit written by MacMaster, the three planned to set the Main Street house on fire on June 27, hoping it would cause the owner to run outside so they could beat him up. Bailey and Rowe had an ongoing feud with the owner, the affidavit said.

They couldn’t get close enough to the house because of barking dogs in the yard and motion sensor lights, so they set fire to the nearby vacant mobile home on Sewall Street instead. They told police that they hoped the intended target home also would catch fire. That didn’t happen; only the vacant home burned.

Grimes said the Carthage fire was a random act by Bailey and Rowe.

That random decision robbed the Caseys of a precious memory.

Andrea Casey cried as she told reporters Tuesday that the family kept a continuing diary of events from the family’s visits to the camp over the past 15 years in a book in the log cabin-style house. It chronicled children and grandchildren, nieces and nephews and the days of their vacation lives.

The book burned in the fire.

She recalled her feelings in June when their son called to say the camp was gone.

“When they say you’re never supposed to go into a burning building — I would have run in and grabbed that book because that was the most precious, precious thing. Those guys took that away from us” she said. “There was a log book in the camp from day one. My granddaughter grew up down there learning how to drive a four-wheeler. Everything was documented in that book.”

The camp was insured and they plan to rebuild, but they said it will never be the same.

While Grimes said the attempted arson fire on Main Street in Wilton could have been “a horrific, catastrophic situation” because of the number of people inside at the time — eight adults and five children — the fire that consumed the nearby mobile home also could have had tragic results, owner Ward, of Roxbury, said.

Ward said the double-wide trailer had been vacant off and on for two years and a rear window had been jimmied, allowing access inside. She said juveniles sometimes enter the house through that window and one could have been sleeping there the night the place was torched.

“The latch to the window was broken,” Ward said. “There was a 5-gallon bucket overturned by the window where they have gotten in. Somebody could have been in there — probably kids.”

Rowe and Bailey were charged Friday with four counts of class A arson and one count of class B conspiracy to commit arson. Pease is charged with two counts of arson for the Wilton fire and with one count of conspiracy to burn another house in Wilton. He is not a suspect in the Carthage fire.

Grimes said reports of street gang connections of Bailey and Einer Bonilla, who was arrested with Rowe and Bailey in July in relation to a series of burglaries, were not substantiated.

Bonilla is named by Rowe in the affidavit as being a partner in the arson crimes, but he has not been charged. Grimes said the investigation involving Bonilla is inomplete, but he is a suspect in the Sewall Street fire and the attempted arson on Main Street in Wilton.

Charges against Bonilla could come later, he said.

Franklin County Sheriff Scott Nichols told reporters Tuesday that the rapport his department has with inmates at the county jail in Farmington helped the arson investigation, which followed a tip given to authorities by an inmate.

He said the fact that the Franklin County jail is open at all is part of that help network. The jail for the past five years had been a 72-hour holding center for inmates being moved to other jails or prison after 2008 jail consolidation legislation in Maine.

It reopened as a full functional county jail in April.

“I want to highlight the value of the county jails in this state,” Nichols said. “If it wasn’t for the rapport that my investigators have with inmates and the work they do inside the jail system itself, a lot of this information would never have come forward and we would not have been able to share it with the fire marshal’s office.”

Doug Harlow — 612-2367

[email protected]

Twitter: @Doug_Harlow

 

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