PARIS – A Rumford man pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of failure to control a dangerous fire, after a chambers conference on his competency with Justice Robert E. Crowley in Oxford County Superior Court Friday.

Michael Merrill, 28, of Mexico, was originally charged with arson. For the misdemeanor crime, he was given a one-year sentence, all of which was suspended, and a year of probation.

Merrill has been staying at Riverview Psychiatric Center in Augusta. His defense attorney, Ron Hoffman, said where he will be moved from the division section to the civil division, and from there officials will help him find subsidized housing in the Rumford area, something he voluntarily agreed to do.

According to a narrative by Rumford Police Sgt. James Bernard, he was called the evening of March 16 to Merrill’s third-floor apartment at 323 Cumberland St. in Rumford after an arson complaint.

The fire was extinguished by the time he arrived, the report states, but there were ashes on a wooden bureau, a mattress, the floor and the window sill. Residents had told Bernard that they were afraid for their safety with Merrill staying there.

Merrill told police he started the fire because, “It’s my place man. This is my home. I live here; I can do what I want.” He was taken to the Oxford County Jail, and later transferred to Riverview.

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