LEWISTON — Prosecutors decided Tuesday not to appeal a judge’s order to block from trial the confessions of a 13-year-old boy charged with three counts of arson in a fire last spring that destroyed three apartment buildings.

The downtown fire burned so fast and hot that it left little physical evidence for prosecutors to press their criminal case against the boy. Without a confession, prosecutors may be hard-pressed to persuade a jury of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

Although the Androscoggin County District Attorney’s Office strongly urged the Maine Attorney General’s Office to appeal the judge’s Oct. 15 pretrial order to the Maine Supreme Judicial Court, Maine Attorney General Janet Mills declined.

“This office does not dispute the seriousness of the alleged actions, however we believe that the interests of justice will be best served by referring the juvenile for intensive services by (the Department of Health and Human Services) while the state continues to review all the facts surrounding the devastating fire,” she said in a written release.

It remains to be seen whether District Attorney Norman Croteau will continue with his case against the boy. He said Tuesday evening he would review the remaining evidence with the assistant district attorney who is assigned to the case, then decide whether to move forward with the charges. 

Defense lawyer Allan Lobozzo called the news a “great, great outcome.” He said he was a “little surprised” by the prosecutors’ decision but “a lot relieved.”


He said the state has “zero” case against his client without his statements to link him to the fire.

“It couldn’t happen to a better young man,” Lobozzo said of Mills’ decision. “I realize this was a devastating event that affected dozens and dozens of people, but I still think, in the long run, this is justice.” 

Eighth District Court Judge Rick Lawrence ruled last month on a motion to suppress statements made to police by then-12-year-old Brody Covey during a May interview.

In that interview, Covey admitted to police he set a fire April 29 on the second-floor back porch at 105 Blake St., outside his family’s apartment.

Lawrence wrote in his order that Covey’s confession to the detective should be suppressed because he was in police custody but had not been read his rights at the time he made those statements.

The judge also ruled that Covey’s confession to his mother while in the police interview room following his interrogation by a detective is not admissible at trial because it likely wouldn’t have occurred had it not been for the initial, unconstitutional confession.


Lobozzo had argued in court that police neglected to read Covey his legal rights after he became a suspect during the interview, and that the boy didn’t understand the consequences of talking to police. Lobozzo also argued that any incriminating statements Covey made following his police interview should be viewed as “fruit of the poisonous tree.”

Lawrence agreed, writing: “The statements made by the juvenile to Mr. (Charles) Epps (Covey’s stepfather) and to his mother could not be obtained through a source that was wholly independent of the primary constitutional violation.”

Prosecutors likely have little physical evidence connecting Covey to the fires. The Blake Street building was destroyed. Fire investigators had to view the scene from a crane. The remains of the building were demolished within days of the fire.

On May 2, three days after fire consumed the Blake Street building along with two other buildings on Bates and Pine streets, leaving 75 people homeless, Lewiston police went to the Ramada Inn where the fire victims had been temporarily housed to talk to witnesses, including Covey and Epps.

Covey was driven to the police station in a police car and seated in a small, “fairly stark” concrete-block room alone with a detective for a videotaped interview. Less than 10 minutes into the interview, Detective Robert Morin asked Covey whether he started the fire. Covey at first denied it. Morin told Covey he “had a right to be angry; anyone would be angry being in there,” living in a condemned building. Covey then admitted to setting the fire.

Covey’s mother, Jessica Reilly, was called by police to come to the station after Covey confessed to Morin. In a conversation with her in the police interview room, Covey called the fire an accident. He told her he set the fire but changed details about how he had done it.


He was later released from a juvenile corrections center and transferred to a therapeutic residential foster home before the start of the school year.

Workers from the Maine Department of Health and Human Services removed Covey’s half-siblings from the Bartlett Street apartment of his mother and stepfather.

Less than one week after the Blake Street fire, three others were charged with setting two fires that burned more downtown apartment buildings.

Another then-12-year-old local boy was arrested and charged with four counts of arson for setting a fire that burned four buildings on Pierce and Bartlett streets. A court hearing to determine his competency to stand trial is scheduled for mid-November.

Two men were charged with arson in a fire that burned two vacant apartment buildings on Bartlett Street and an occupied apartment building on Horton Street. One of the men, Bryan Wood, was found not competent to stand trial and released. The other, Brian Morin, has been evaluated at the Riverview Psychiatric Center and has been placed on the court’s November/December trial list. His lawyer has filed a motion to suppress evidence and statements.

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