PARIS — An Oxford County jury on Wednesday found a Paris man guilty of trying to burn down his ex-girlfriend's house in Norway in December 2011 while she and her grandparents were asleep.
The jury of six men and six women found Andrew Freeman, 22, guilty of two charges of aggravated attempted murder, arson and burglary after little more than an hour of deliberation.
Assistant District Attorney Joseph O'Connor said he was pleased with the verdict. “He's a very dangerous individual,” O'Connor said, adding that Freeman had an extensive criminal record that couldn't be discussed at the trial but would be addressed at his sentencing in November.
O'Connor said that at the time of the fire last year, five young women had filed protection from abuse orders against Freeman, who had been convicted of stalking and trespassing.
“If he had been acquitted, I think we would have seen him again,” O'Connor said.
The attempted murder charges were considered aggravated because the act was premeditated and the fire could have killed multiple people. Aggravated attempted murder is punishable by up to life in prison. The arson charge is punishable by up to 30 years.
Freeman's sentence will follow a pre-sentencing investigation and is expected to happen in late November.
After “guilty” findings on the aggravated attempted murder charges, presiding Justice Donald Alexander asked the jurors if they believed, beyond a reasonable doubt, that Freeman had met the criteria for the charges. The jurors answered that they did.
Freeman is accused of starting two fires in the basement. One failed to ignite. The other woke up the girl's grandmother, Sandra McLeod. The family managed to extinguish the fire before it reached the ceiling rafters.
Freeman's attorney, Sarah Glynn, in her closing statement accused the state of making too many assumptions in its case and raised the idea that the 17-year-old girl, who had broken up with Freeman the day before the fire, might have staged the fire so he'd leave her alone and stop calling.
Glynn said there was no evidence that Freeman broke into the house, and that DNA evidence on a milk bottle and a lighter could be explained by Freeman's previous visits to the home.
O'Connor argued that the explanation that Freeman had started the fire was the only one possible. The girl wouldn't burn down the only home she's ever known and possibly kill her grandparents, O'Connor said. He pointed to Freeman's attempt to use a friend's saliva to fool a DNA test as evidence of Freeman's consciousness of guilt.
The McLeods were not present for the verdict.