Rumford pair face charges of arson

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PARIS – Two men who lived in the same building in Rumford were indicted Thursday on charges of setting fires in their apartments last month while they were inside.

The Oxford County grand jury charged Wilfred T. Merrill Jr., 42, of Cumberland Street, Rumford, and Michael J. Merrill, 28, now of 175 Roxbury Road, Mexico, with arson, a Class A felony.

The men are not related, Rumford police Sgt. James Bernard said late Friday afternoon.

Michael Merrill, who was summoned after being indicted, was also charged with failure to control or report a dangerous fire, which is a misdemeanor crime.

Wilfred Merrill, who could not post bail of either $8,000 cash or $100,000 worth of property after being arrested March 11, is still in Oxford County Jail in Paris.

According to a narrative in Wilfred Merrill’s court file by investigating Rumford Detective Lt. George Cayer, Wilfred Merrill “was highly intoxicated” when he allegedly set the fire on March 5 in his second-floor apartment.

The man, who was armed with a long fixed-blade hunting knife, allowed neighbors and firefighters to extinguish the fire, but kept police at bay because “he wanted the police to shoot him,” Cayer stated.

Police, however, eventually took Wilfred Merrill into protective custody without incident after the tense standoff of several minutes, he said.

He was arrested a week later after turning himself in at the police station after psychiatric treatment.

Cayer said Wilfred Merrill was previously convicted of assault for attacking a man in a wheel chair in 2002; with criminal threatening with a dangerous weapon for trying to stab his mother with a large kitchen knife in 1992; with assault for smashing a victim’s head through a glass window in 1984; and with two counts of aggravated assault for a fight in 1985 at Weston’s bar in Mexico, where he stabbed the bar owner and another man.

Regarding the case against Michael Merrill, Bernard stated in a narrative in the man’s court file that on March 16, Michael Merrill set fire to material in a large pot in his third-floor apartment.

The fire had been extinguished before police arrived, but Bernard said ashes from it were found on a wooden bureau and mattress, the floor and a window sill.

Arraignment dates for both in Oxford County Superior Court have yet to be set.

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