VASSALBORO (AP) – A man who chased an in-law around the house with an ax and then set the building on fire on Christmas Day 2005 has been found guilty of arson and attempted murder among other charges.

Kenneth Knox was found guilty Tuesday in Kennebec County Superior Court following a non-jury trial before Justice Nancy Mills. Knox was also found guilty of criminal threatening and aggravated cruelty to animals.

Sentencing is pending but Knox, who is 52, could face a sentence of up to 70 years. He has been held at the Riverview Psychiatric Center in Augusta.

Mills said she will order a forensic evaluation of Knox before holding a sentencing hearing. She ordered him held without bail in the meantime.

The charges stem from a series of incidents that began when Knox was cleaning his chain saw inside the house he shared with his brother-in-law and sister. Timothy Barrett, his sister’s husband, asked Knox to take the saw outside because of the gas and oil fumes.

Police said Knox became upset, grabbed a gasoline can and poured the contents on a computer and on Barrett and his sister, Joan Knox-Barrett, before dumping it on a wood-burning stove, which erupted in flames.

Knox-Barrett sustained second-degree burns in the fire, and three cats and a dog died.

Before the fire, Knox chased Barrett around the house with an ax, the court was told. That incident was the basis of the criminal threatening charge.

Knox’ attorney, Pamela Ames, said the fire was “tragic but accidental.”

“My client had a life stake in the house,” Ames said in her opening statement in the two-day trial. “He had no reason to burn his house down.”

The Vassalboro house that burned had been owned by the Knox’ parents.

Information from: Kennebec Journal,

AP-ES-06-20-07 1409EDT

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.