AUGUSTA — Two men pleaded guilty Wednesday to arson charges in separate hearings at the Capital Judicial Center.

Jason E. Tibbetts, 33, of Lewiston and formerly of Winthrop, pleaded guilty to arson and terrorizing. He says he used his lighter to set curtains ablaze Aug. 11, 2016, in his mother’s Winthrop home after they argued over money there.

“I was losing my home at the time,” Tibbetts said in court. “Things were escalating rather quickly.”

Tibbetts said had he asked his mother to pay back some money he had lent her because he and his family were being evicted from their home.

Tibbetts told Justice Robert Mullen on Wednesday that he meant just to scare his mother and that she followed him around, putting the blazes out.

According to the prosecutor, Assistant District Attorney Michael Madigan, Tibbetts’ mother called 911 and a dispatcher could hear smoke alarms going off in the background. Madigan said that when firefighters arrived, the alarms had quieted and the fires were out, but they could see the singe marks on the curtains.

Tibbetts was sentenced to eight years in prison, with 15 months of that to be served and the remainder suspended, and four years’ probation.

In the other case, Joseph P. Manganella, 35, of Augusta and formerly of Windsor, pleaded guilty to arson in connection with a fire that destroyed a camper trailer July 5, 2016, in Gardiner. Eric and Kristie Baker and their three children, ages 7, 5, and 8 months at the time, lived there as well. The Bakers were building a cabin on the property.

The Bakers were not at home at the time of the fire, and Manganella freed the Bakers’ dog prior to setting the blaze, according to documents filed in the court. Witnesses reported seeing a man — later identified as Manganella — walking away from the fire.

Manganella formerly had worked for the Bakers in their roofing company.

The fire apparently was set to cover up the theft of tools.

Manganella is to be sentenced Jan. 27 at the Capital Judicial Center.

Under an agreement supported by defense attorney Lisa Whittier and the prosecutor, Francis Griffin, the sentence would be capped at eight years, with some years to be suspended, and three years’ probation.

Betty Adams — 621-5631

[email protected]

Twitter: @betadams


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