Ryan R. Tondreau

AUGUSTA — An Augusta man pleaded guilty to arson Wednesday for setting fire to his friend’s car in Hallowell following an argument in March.

Ryan R. Tondreau, 39, won’t be sentenced until after an evaluation of his mental health can be completed.

Tondreau, according to Kennebec County Deputy District Attorney Frayla Tarpinian, went to his friend’s Hallowell residence around 1 a.m. on March 2, and the friend, who said Tondreau seemed to be under the influence of alcohol, let him in. The two argued and the friend asked Tondreau to leave, and then physically removed him from the residence. Tondreau told the man he would contact the man’s girlfriend and set his car on fire.

Tondreau, Tarpinian said, then did contact the friend’s girlfriend and “his car, moments later, was on fire.”

An investigator from the Office of the State Fire Marshal interviewed Tondreau, who admitted he started the blaze because he was angry. No accelerants were used, but evidence indicated Tondreau had inserted a cloth in the gas cap of the car and lit it on fire. The car was a total loss.

A clearly emotional Tondreau said Wednesday in court at the Capital Judicial Center that he’d been friends with the owner of the car for 23 years and he regretted the incident.

Tondreau’s attorney, Brad Grant, said his client feels terrible about what he did and the only issue to be argued in court is what his sentence should be.

“This has never been about whether he did this offense,” Grant said.

A mental health evaluation of Tondreau after his arrest concluded he was mentally responsible for the incident, despite his mental health issues. Grant noted, in court, that Tondreau was transferred to MaineGeneral Medical Center shortly after his arrest due to concerns about his mental health, and he was later sent to Riverview Psychiatric Center for about two months.

His case was handled by Justice Michaela Murphy, via Kennebec County’s relatively new mental health docket, a monthly court schedule to help people with mental illness and accused of a crime navigate the justice system.

Murphy told Tondreau Wednesday she found him to be of sound mind and body, and she accepted his guilty plea.

Grant said the mental health court has been a godsend. After a mental health evaluation of Tondreau, which Murphy said would be to consider recommendations for treatment and assess his risk of re-offending, Grant said the parties involved in the case would likely get together to try to come to agreement on a sentence. Sentencing was scheduled for Nov. 13.

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