Richard Charest, left, stands next to his client, Brian Morin, who pleaded guilty to three counts of arson Friday morning in Androscoggin County Superior Court in Auburn. Morin will be sentenced in August. (Amber Waterman/Sun Journal)

AUBURN — Brian Morin pleaded not guilty Tuesday to two charges of arson from a fire that destroyed two vacant apartment buildings on Bartlett Street and damaged on third, occupied building on Horton Street on May 6.

Morin, 30, of 35 Jefferson St. in Lewiston was arrested in May and has been held at the Androscoggin County Jail on $350,000 cash bail. He was indicted by a grand jury with arson on July 10; the cash bail was continued following his plea.

Additional conditions of his bail include being subject to random searches, no use or possession of illegal drugs or alcohol, no use or possession of incendiary devices, including lighters, and no contact with Tara Brown or his co-defendant in this case, Bryan Wood, 23, of Bartlett Street.

According to a police affidavit, Morin said he and Wood stood on a street corner and talked about setting the buildings on fire. He said he and Wood walked to the rear of the building and, “Wood pulled from his coat pocket a can of Butane lighter fluid that Morin recognized as similar to the one he was missing from his bedroom closet.”

Morin said Wood stood on the back porch of the building and sprayed the lighter fluid onto something that was black. Wood lit the lighter fluid, then went to the second building, Morin said.

Morin said he took a cushion from a couch at the rear of the second building and put it on the deck at the stairs that led to the ground. He said Wood sprayed lighter fluid on the cushion and lit it using a black Butane lighter that belonged to Wood’s girlfriend. Morin said Wood threw a second cushion on the first one.

The two then left.

Wood’s girlfriend told police that Wood had told her that Morin had set the fire. She said Wood had been with Morin shortly before the fire started, then noticed it from his apartment window at 131 Bartlett St. shortly after he returned home.

Wood told a fire investigator that he saw Morin coming out of the side entrance to 114 Bartlett St. “right before the fire started.”

A witness told police that he looked out his window after hearing “crackling and popping noises” and saw flames and smoke appear to come from 114 Bartlett St., according to the affidavit. He said he thought he smelled kerosene coming from outside. About 15 to 20 minutes before the fire, he saw a man fitting Wood’s description riding a bike in circles on Bartlett Street.

The fires were set at the end of a series of arson fires in the downtown between April 29 and May 3 that destroyed dozens of apartments and displaced more than 200 people.

Morin’s previous criminal record includes a 2002 conviction for unlawful sexual contact.


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