ALFRED — Dylan Collins could be sentenced to 50 years in prison for the deaths of two men in a 2014 Biddeford apartment house fire that he set in anger after seeing his ex-girlfriend kiss another man.

Collins, 20, changed his plea from not guilty Tuesday morning in York County Superior Court. He entered a plea of guilty to one count of arson and two counts of murder for setting the fire in the Main Street apartment house that killed Michael Moore, 23, and James Ford, 21, who lived on the third floor of the building.

Assistant Attorney General John Alsop said that if a plea deal is accepted by a judge, Collins will be sentenced to 25 years for each murder and another 25 years on the arson charge. All the sentences will run consecutively, Alsop said, but the arson sentence will be suspended and Collins will be on probation for the maximum of four years once he’s released.

Sentencing is set for Feb. 27.

The girl who was the target of the fire, who was 16 at the time, lived in the building with her family and had broken up with Collins in early 2014. Alsop said Collins was walking by the apartment house on Sept. 17, 2014, and saw the girl kiss another man.

The next night, Alsop told the court, Collins returned with rubbing alcohol and a lighter and set a fire in the main stairwell of the building, knowing that it was the only way out of the building. The girl, who is not being identified by the Press Herald because she is a victim, and her family were rescued by firefighters who helped them climb out a window of their apartment and down a ladder.

Firefighters were also able to get Ford and Moore out of the building, but Moore died shortly afterward at a hospital and Ford died a month later. Alsop said both men died from the effects of breathing chemicals in the smoke created by the fire.

Police were initially unable to determine who had caused the fire, but Collins’ mother, Donna Pitcher, called police in November 2014 after Collins left his cellphone in her car. The phone contained what Alsop referred to as a “manifesto” in which Collins admitted setting the fire, called the deaths “collateral damage” and vowed to engage in a shootout with police if they tried to arrest him. At the time he was taken into custody, Collins had a shotgun and 60 rounds of ammunition in a duffel bag, Alsop said.

Collins grew up with developmental delays and behavioral problems, according to Pitcher, who had her son committed to Southern Maine Health Center in Biddeford for a mental health evaluation the summer before he set the fire. She was unable to get authorities to agree to have him committed to a state psychiatric facility in Augusta.

Collins’ lawyer, Amy Fairfield, said Collins still suffers from mental illness and is getting treatment while in prison, but she said the help he is receiving is minimal.

Collins tried to commit suicide in the York County Jail in November 2014 by jumping from a stairwell. Pitcher said at the time that Collins had multiple facial and skull fractures.

Fairfield sought to have Collins’ confession to police after his arrest thrown out, but a judge previously ruled that it would have been admitted if the case went to trial, Alsop said Tuesday.

In court on Tuesday, Collins’ hair – which had been long, straight and black at the time of his arrest – was sandy-colored and cut short. He wore a blue blazer that was too large for him and his hands and feet were shackled. He answered Justice Lance Walker’s questions in a clear voice, saying he understood the implications of changing his plea to guilty and was doing so of his own free will.

After Alsop recited the state’s case against Collins, Fairfield told the judge that she wanted it noted that Collins had expressed remorse to police who questioned him about the blaze. Walker said that should be pointed out in sentencing, but noted it for the record on Tuesday.

Edward D. Murphy can be contacted at 791-6465 or at:

[email protected]

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