Phillips couple charged in arson, theft case


FARMINGTON — Two Phillips residents are accused of destroying a house in June 2010 and of collecting more than $10,000 in insurance money, according to court documents.

Joseph T. Smith, 65, and his girlfriend, Sheila A. Abbott, 56, were indicted on felony charges of arson and theft by insurance deception, according to court documents.

Each is accused of starting, causing or maintaining a fire or explosion on his/her property or the property of another with the intent of collecting insurance money for the loss caused by the fire or explosion.

Each also is accused of committing theft by obtaining or exercising control over U.S. currency, property of Allstate Insurance Co., of a value of more than $10,000, as a result of insurance deception and with the intent to deprive the insurance company of the property.

An arson conviction carries a sentence of up to 30 years in prison and a fine of up to $20,000. A conviction on the theft charge is punishable by up to 10 years in prison and up to a $10,000 fine.

Phillips fire Chief James Gould has said that Joseph Smith came home from camp on June 4, 2010, to discover that his home at 87 Number 6 Road along the Sandy River in Phillips had burned.

State fire investigators were called to try to determine what happened, Gould said, but there was nothing left except the metal roof and a couple of chimneys. The fire burned all of the trees around the house, he said.

Gould believes the cause will be undetermined.

Smith and his girlfriend had left the house, which is about 6 miles from town and about 4 miles off Route 4, at about 5 or 5:30 p.m. on June 3 to go to camp, Gould said.

When he returned home to feed the wild mallard ducks at 9 or 9:30 a.m. June 4, Gould said, Smith found the house was gone. No one had noticed smoke or flames, Gould said.

The house was so far off the road and with the smoke from the Canadian forest fire and the cloudiness on the evening of June 3, it would have been difficult to see, he said.

Smith and Abbott are expected to appear in Franklin County Superior Court on Friday, June 24.

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