Dylan Collins, in an online diary found by authorities after he was charged with setting a deadly apartment house fire in Biddeford in 2014, referred to the two men who died in the blaze as “collateral damage.”

The 20-year-old pleaded guilty to murder and arson this month, and at his sentencing hearing Monday, relatives and friends of the two victims told a judge that the two men, friends since childhood, were much more than that.

Michael Moore, 23, and James Ford, 21, grew up across the street from each other.

“They were like peas in a pod,” said Paul DeHetre, a family friend who knew the two for years, going back to when he dated Moore’s mother, who died a few months before her son perished in the fire. DeHetre said he kept up with the two men, especially Moore, making a point of visiting Moore during his regular visits back to Maine after he moved to New Hampshire.

He told Moore to call him if he ever needed anything. But he said Moore was proudly independent and never picked up the phone to ask for anything.

Another friend of the two men, Douglas Walters, said the pair were both creative. Ford had invented a role-playing game that he hoped might be turned into a video game. Walters and Moore were working on a novel.

“Even the term ‘best friends’ falls short,” Walters said of how close he felt to the pair. “I can only say I lost two brothers. The unfairness of their deaths haunts me every hour of every day,” he said, adding that the game materials and book drafts were both destroyed in the fire.

Collins will serve two consecutive 25-year sentences on the murder charges. The two men lived on the upper floor of the 12-unit Main Street building, which Collins set on fire because he was upset about seeing a former girlfriend kissing someone else. He told police he intended to scare her with the fire. The former girlfriend, her family and the other tenants of the building all escaped the blaze.

Collins was sentenced to another 25 years for arson, also to be served consecutively, but that sentence was suspended under a plea deal with prosecutors and Collins’ lawyer. Collins will be on probation for the maximum of four years once he is released, and will be subject to psychiatric and substance abuse evaluations.

Collins wrote a brief statement that was read by his lawyer.

“I am so very, very sorry for what happened,” it read in part.

York County Superior Court Justice Lance Walker said the callousness of the crime, along with diary entries that indicated Collins planned to engage in a shootout with police if they tried to arrest him, suggested the need for a stiff sentence. Collins was ultimately arrested without incident, despite possessing a duffel bag containing a rifle and ammunition at the time of his arrest.

Collins’ history of mental illness might have suggested there was some leeway for leniency, Walker said, but that was offset because Collins “willfully” let his problems go untreated.

The only mitigating factor the judge cited in Collins’ favor was the fact that he changed his plea to guilty, sparing everyone the trauma of a trial.

Walker ultimately accepted the sentence worked out between prosecutors and Collins’ lawyer.

After the fire, Collins’ mother told the Portland Press Herald that her son had had behavioral problems since he was a child and the problems seemed to worsen in the months leading up to the fire.

Relatives and friends said Monday that their lives have been devastated by Ford’s and Moore’s deaths, but they mostly ignored Collins in their statements before the court.

James Ford, whose son died in the fire, did say that Collins did not appear particularly remorseful about the men’s deaths. Ford looked over at Collins, sitting at a table with two lawyers, after he finished his statement, but Collins did not return his glance.

Walters told the judge that he visited with Ford and Moore at least once a week, and chided himself for not being with them on the night the fire broke out. “I should have been there,” he said.

DeHetre said he would often spend a few minutes visiting with Moore on Saturday mornings at Shaw’s supermarket, where Moore stocked the produce section. A supervisor told DeHetre that Moore would always take the biggest box of produce to stock, he said.

DeHetre said Moore cared for his mother, who was bedridden with diabetes and neck and back injuries from a car crash. The two butted heads, he said, and eventually Moore decided to move out. But even then, he didn’t abandon her.

DeHetre said he talked to a landlord he knew who had an apartment for rent and vouched for Moore, but Moore instead found the place on Main Street, just a few hundred feet from his mother’s apartment. Despite their occasionally rocky relationship, Moore still planned to be there if his mother needed him, DeHetre said.

Justine DiPietro, Ford’s sister, and Tonya Dalbo, Moore’s sister, gave their victim impact statements together, holding hands as they walked up to the lectern.

Both talked about their last contact with their brothers and the holes left in their lives by their deaths.

“I have a daughter who will never know her uncle,” DiPietro said.

Dalbo said the death of her brother “hurts me every day of my life.”

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

[email protected]

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