PARIS — A Paris man charged with trying to kill his ex-girlfriend by burning down her grandparents' Norway home tried to use a friend's saliva to “outsmart” a DNA test, according to testimony Monday in Oxford County Superior Court.
Andrew J. Freeman, 22, faces two charges of aggravated attempted murder, arson and burglary for a Dec. 5, 2011, fire.
Assistant District Attorney Joseph O'Connor said on the opening day of the trial that Freeman set the fire after his girlfriend, the homeowners' granddaughter, broke up with him.
Freeman is accused of breaking into the home of Edgar McLeod and his wife, Sandra McLeod, at 684 Round-The-Pond Road, setting two fires and leaving while the McLeods and their granddaughter were asleep.
Freeman's attorney, Sarah Glynn, said investigators made a lot of “assumptions” in connecting Freeman to the fire. She said Freeman's case will hinge on the evidence.
The girl, her grandparents, police and Freeman's friends and family members testified Monday before the jury.
Investigator Daniel Young from the state Fire Marshal's Office investigated the fire and determined it was an arson. He showed pictures of the basement, which included graffiti reading “bye” and telling the girl to “die.” He showed photos of two separate fires. One was a box spring, which didn't fully ignite. The other was a table, which caught fire.
The flames had spread to the paper covering on insulation and Edgar McLeod extinguished the flames.
Two of Freeman's friends testified that shortly after the fire, Freeman tried to use a friend's saliva to “outsmart” a DNA swab test. Both testified they were at Freeman's former apartment on High Street in Paris when Freeman rushed them into the bathroom to get some saliva to put into his mouth to fool the DNA test, they said.
The 17-year-old girl, who lives with her grandparents, testified that she dated Freeman for about a month and stopped on Dec. 4, 2011. She said she was afraid to break up with Freeman, and asked her grandfather to bring her by the home of Sgt. Hartley “Skip” Mowatt of the Paris Police Department to tell him about her concerns. Mowatt is the school resource officer at Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School, where she was a student at the time.
Mowatt testified that he advised the girl to tell the Norway Police Department, and said that if the man stopped by her house to call the police.
According to Sandra McLeod, Freeman stopped at the house that night before her granddaughter came home, asking to speak with her. McLeod said Freeman was crying. She told him he had to leave, and eventually he did. Freeman knocked on the door again a few minutes after the girl and Edgar McLeod returned home.
Again, they told Freeman to leave, and Sandra McLeod offered Freeman a ride because he didn't have a car and was dressed in shorts and a sweatshirt. Freeman asked to go to the home of his aunt and uncle less than half a mile away, McLeod said.
At about 5 a.m. the next morning, Sandra McLeod said she woke to a sound in the cellar she thought was the furnace. She looked down the cellar steps, saw flames and awoke her husband and granddaughter.
Using pots and pans of water from the sink, Edgar McLeod managed to put out the fire. They called 911.
Freeman's aunt and uncle testified that around 6 a.m. that morning Freeman showed up at their home. Freeman's aunt, Rhonda Maher, said she got out of the shower and found him in the dining room.
“He wasn't there when I went to get in the shower,” Maher testified. She said Freeman told them he'd just helped a friend move in the area, and couldn't get a ride back into town afterward. A few days later, they found a long, “aim and flame” lighter outside their house.
The McLeods said it looked like one of the three lighters, which they use to light their gas stove, that went missing from their kitchen the night of the fire.
During cross-examination of the girl, attorney Glynn asked if Freeman had taken the lighter when he was over for Thanksgiving a week earlier, when the two took a walk so that the girl could smoke a cigarette. The girl said that she had her own lighter and they wouldn't have taken one from the kitchen.
Another lighter was found in the burned box spring. Also found in the McLeods' cellar were an empty quart of milk, a box of doughnuts and a bottle of chocolate syrup the family said had been upstairs in the kitchen the night before.
Investigator Daniel Young testified that the evidence had been sent to a lab for testing. His testimony is set to continue Tuesday morning.