A Somerset County jury found Neil T. Maclean, 64, guilty Monday of attempted murder and arson. Maclean was arrested in October 2022 after he tried to set fire to his apartment at 36 High St. in Skowhegan, shown above. At the time, he was reportedly suffering from mental health issues, and told investigators he was trying to kill himself, his wife and others. Jake Freudberg/Morning Sentinel

SKOWHEGAN — A Somerset County jury has convicted a 64-year-old Skowhegan man who was on trial for attempted murder and arson for attempting to set fire to his apartment in 2022.

Neil T. Maclean was found guilty Monday on one count of attempted murder and two counts of arson.

The jury deliberated for about an hour, following a full day of testimony at the Somerset County Superior Courthouse in Skowhegan, just steps from the residence on High Street where the Oct. 30, 2022, fire occurred.

Neil T. Maclean Somerset County Jail photo

Maclean, who was indicted in February 2023, told investigators after the fire that he was trying to kill himself, his wife, and others at the 36 High St. apartment building, according to testimony during Monday’s trial.

Timothy Snyder, the first assistant district attorney for Somerset County, said in his opening statement Monday the case was about “heartlessness.”

Skowhegan police officers and firefighters responded to the building after 4 a.m. on Oct. 30, 2022, for a report of a fire, according to testimony.


Former Skowhegan police Sgt. Jacob Pierce said he and another officer, Alex Burns, arrived first at the scene, entered Maclean’s apartment and located Maclean and his wife.

His wife evacuated the apartment, but Neil Maclean did not move and had to be dragged out, the officers said.

Maclean told Pierce he had set the fire with matches and said, “I did a good one this time,” according to testimony.

Maclean’s wife also told officers then that her husband had set the fire.

The officers’ accounts were supported by body camera footage that prosecutors played for the jury.

According to an audio recording played in court, Maclean told Jeremy Damren, a senior investigator with the Office of State Fire Marshal, that he had used a match to set fire to clothing on his bed. That was consistent with Damren’s investigation into the cause of the fire, which was ruled intentional, he said.


Damren interviewed Maclean a few hours after the fire, while Maclean was being treated in the hospital.

Maclean said he was trying to kill himself, his wife and the other residents of the building, according to the recording and Damren’s testimony. At the time Maclean set the fire, his wife was sleeping in another room in the apartment.

Maclean reported to Damren he had had “a lot” to drink the night of the fire. Damren and a Skowhegan firefighter each testified there were many beer cans in Maclean’s bedroom.

Nobody was injured in the fire, though there was damage to parts of the building, investigators said.

Maclean’s defense team did not contest he had set the fire. Instead, the defense focused on Maclean’s mental health.

Maclean’s wife testified her husband had been sick for two weeks before the fire, with “something going on in his brain.” Neil Maclean had said he wanted to kill himself, according to wife.


On the witness stand, Neil Maclean testified he was depressed and wanted to commit suicide at the time of the incident. His intention was not to kill others when setting the fire, he said.

“The only person that he wanted to harm was himself,” defense lawyer Kayla Alves, who joined with lawyer Steve Smith in representing Maclean, said in her opening statement. “And he wanted to do it in the most painful way possible: By setting himself on fire.”

Snyder, the prosecutor, said in his closing argument that mental health problems, in this case, do not excuse Maclean’s crimes.

“It is very sad any time a person is depressed or suicidal, and it’s sad in this case, also,” Snyder said. “At the same time, being depressed and drinking heavily is no excuse for trying to harm another person or for lighting an apartment building on fire. Those actions were dangerous and selfish, and they were criminal.”

Maclean is being held at the Somerset County Jail in Madison.

District Court Judge Andrew Benson, who oversaw the trial, and lawyers on both sides agreed a sentencing hearing will likely be scheduled for July.

Ahead of the trial, Maclean turned down a plea agreement offered by prosecutors that would have dismissed the attempted murder charge. The sentence offered in the deal was nine years in prison, with all but six suspended, and four years of probation.

All three counts are Class A offenses, the most severe crime classification in Maine, aside from murder. In general, Class A convictions carry a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison.

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