FARMINGTON — The final two defendants convicted in a string of burglaries and arsons in Franklin County last summer were sentenced Tuesday in a four-hour hearing that featured emotional statements from the victims of the arsons as well as the defendants.

D’Kota Rowe, 21, of Wilton, and Einer Bonilla, 22, formerly of Nebraska, appeared before Judge William Stokes for their final court appearance in a nearly year-long saga of indictments and court appearances in connection with the three convenience store burglaries and the Wilton and Carthage arsons.

The owner of one of the homes that was burned by the men made a plea before they were sentenced to them to turn their lives around that had most of the court in tears and prompting Bonilla to give an impassioned apology.

“This is your second chance. Make the best of it, and I’ll be proud of you. I will,” said Andrea Casey, who owned the Carthage camp that was burned by the men.

Rowe, who was found guilty last month as an accomplice for his role in the arsons following a three-day trial in April, was sentenced to 12 years in prison with all but three years suspended on four felony counts of arson that were consolidated into two counts for the purpose of sentencing. He also was sentenced to four years of probation following his release.

Rowe also pleaded guilty Tuesday to three counts of burglary and two counts of theft for his role in the convenience store break-ins on June 30 and July 1 in New Vineyard, Weld and Jay. Stokes sentenced Rowe to 27 months for the burglary charges and six months for the theft charges, all to run concurrently with the arson sentence.

In court Tuesday, Bonilla pleaded guilty to two felony counts of arson, for which he was sentenced to serve a 12-year sentence with all but 27 months suspended and four years of probation.

Bonilla had pleaded guilty to three felony counts of burglary and two felony counts of theft in April, though he was not sentenced for the charges until Tuesday. Stokes sentenced Bailey to serve a three-year sentence on these charges to run concurrently with the arson sentence.

The differences in the sentences of the four men have to do with the amount of time they had been held on the charges prior to sentencing, but also for the differing roles they each played in the arsons, Stokes said Tuesday.

The other two men involved in the arsons and burglaries, Devon Pease, 23, of Jay, and Duane Bailey, 26, of Carver, Massachusetts, were sentenced last month.

‘I HOLD THE BIGGEST GRUDGE’

On the night of June 27, under the influence of an amount of drugs and alcohol that Stokes called “extraordinary and frightening,” the four men planned to set fire to a home on Main Street in Wilton, but a barking dog at that home scared them away. They then set fire to a neighboring mobile home on Sewall Street.

After the Sewall Street fire, Pease was dropped off, and the three remaining men, with Rowe as the driver, traveled along the back roads of Franklin County, ending up in Carthage, where they randomly set fire to Andrea and Gene Casey’s log cabin-style camp on Winter Hill Road.

Both homes were vacant at the times of the fires.

In the days following the arsons, the four men broke into Our Village Market in New Vineyard, Schoolhouse Variety in Weld and My Dad’s Place in Jay, stealing alcohol and tobacco products that were later found by police behind Rowe’s home in Wilton.

Carthage camp owner Casey, with her husband, Gene, standing next to her, described Tuesday the struggles her family has faced in the wake of losing the 15 years’ worth of family memories and artifacts in the fire.

“I hold the biggest grudge on you guys right now,” Casey, of Mexico, said. “You go prove to me that you’ve changed yourselves and I might be able to forgive you.”

Through tears, she looked at the men who had a hand in burning down her family camp and its memories, and told them that she hopes they are able to call her one day after their release when they have turned their lives around and have a family to tell her they have changed. She told them to make the best of their second chance and she’d be proud of them.

Kandi Ward, of Roxbury, who owned the Sewall Street mobile home, attended but didn’t speak.

When it was his turn to speak, Bonilla crumpled the piece of paper with the statement he’d prepared and said instead said he was going to speak from the heart.

“I’ve never had to apologize for anything I have done before,” said Bonilla, who had ended his parole on a robbery charge in Nebraska just weeks before coming to Maine in June.

“What I did to this family was wrong. Even though I did not put down the gasoline or light the match, I feel as thought I did. … I am sorry.”

Rowe also apologized to the families.

Casey’s statements of hope for the redemption of the young defendants lingered over the court proceedings as the attorneys made their cases for the sentencing of their clients and Stokes sentenced the men.

“That was probably one of the most eloquent victim statements I have ever heard, Mrs. Casey. For you to say that … you hope that they will make something of their lives so you can be proud of them. I don’t know if I can find a better definition of forgiveness,” Stokes said.

‘YOU DON’T WANT TO SPEND YOUR LIFE IN A PRISON CELL’

The sentences were almost a meeting point between what Assistant District Attorney Joshua Robbins had recommended and what the defendants’ attorneys had sought.

Robbins recommended a 12-year sentence with all but four years suspended for Bonilla. Bonilla’s attorney, Thomas Carey, asked for a 12-year sentence with all but two years suspended.

Robbins recommended the same sentence for Rowe, and his attorney, Christopher Berryment, asked for an eight-year sentence with all but 18 months suspended.

As a mitigating factor Bonilla and Rowe’s sentencing, Stokes took into consideration Bailey’s trial testimony in which he took responsibility for setting the fire at the Wilton home and at least pouring the gasoline at the Carthage camp. Given his level of intoxication on the night of the arsons, Bailey could not recall who lit the Carthage fire.

Stokes also had established through Rowe’s trial that Rowe’s primary involvement was that of an accomplice acting as the driver that evening.

It is unclear what Bonilla’s role in setting the fires was, though he was outside the vehicle when Bailey set the fires.

“We will never know what happened that night,” Stokes said.

Stokes took into consideration the seriousness of the fact that neither Rowe or Bonilla, however, did anything to stop the crime spree. Stokes also took their ages into consideration, he said.

He told Bonilla that he hopes he seeks treatment for the drug problem that he has had since he was 12, as was disclosed by Carey on Tuesday in court. Given Bonilla’s criminal record, Stokes warned him about the importance of turning his life around.

“You don’t want to spend your life in a prison cell,” Stokes said. “You are well spoken. … I believe you have the capacity to further your education … and become a better person.”

In sentencing Rowe, Stokes also took into consideration his lack of a criminal record. Rowe is afraid of going to prison, his attorney said, fearing that Bonilla and Bailey will “have it out for him.”

Rowe’s mother, Theresa Rowe, and wife, Hannah Rowe, were present Tuesday and told the court that the behavior Rowe was being sentenced for was out of character with his “teddy bear” personality.

Stokes told Rowe to appreciate his family and that they will be the key to making it through his time in prison.

“Mr. Rowe, I understand you are afraid,” Stokes said. “You have a supportive family. … Lean on them and rely on them when the going gets tough.”

Lauren Abbate — 861-9252

[email protected]

Twitter: @Lauren_M_Abbate


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