AUGUSTA — A Clinton man, charged with arson in connection with a pickup truck blaze at Blanchard’s Towing in Clinton, pleaded guilty Tuesday to a lesser charge of aggravated criminal mischief.

Brandon M. Dunton, 18, was sentenced to an initial 90 days behind bars, with the remainder of the three-year term suspended while he spends two years on probation. The hearing took place Tuesday at the Capital Judicial Center.

He initially denied setting the fire, but later he told investigators he was “upset because his bicycle was having mechanical troubles and that people he was doing odd jobs for were not paying him.”

The offense occurred Feb. 13 on the property of Chris Blanchard, who owns Blanchard’s Towing at 935 Main St.

An affidavit by Jeremy Damren, an investigator with the Office of the State Fire Marshal, says the Clinton Fire Department extinguished the fire in the 2001 Ford F250 pickup truck that Blanchard had purchased for $2,500 as a “parts/junk” truck.

Blanchard said he had removed the battery from the pickup in December 2017, so there was no electrical source to start a fire, Damren wrote.

Several people told investigators that Dunton had been in the area the day of the fire.

On March 6, Dunton told another fire marshal that “he was driving his bicycle from Clinton and decided to burn a truck to the rear of Blanchard’s,” Damren wrote.

Dunton said he knew it was a junk truck and that he snapped off lower branches of pine trees and found a container of used oil near the garage, placing both inside the pickup cab and dripping oil on the branches, according to the affidavit. Dunton said he used his lighter to start the fire, according to Damren.

Betty Adams — 621-5631

[email protected]

Twitter: @betadams

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