LEWISTON — An Auburn man pleaded not guilty Friday and his attorney said he would be pursuing an insanity defense stemming from a fire in his kitchen.

Mark Ambrose, 41, of 52 Hampshire St., appeared in 8th District Court where he denied a charge of arson. The felony is punishable by up to 30 years in prison.

He also faces a misdemeanor charge of burning without a permit.

Ambrose was arrested on a charge of arson on Jan. 6 at his home. Police said he lit a fire in the middle of his kitchen and tried to start a grass fire with Christmas wrapping paper outside his home shortly after midnight.

He told police he was also burning newspaper obituary articles about friends and family because he didn’t want them anymore.

He is scheduled for trial before a judge at the end of the month. He is being held at Androscoggin County Jail pending a hearing on a motion to revoke his probation on a prior conviction.

Police said Ambrose attempted to burn some old newspaper clippings in a plastic bucket in his kitchen, causing the bucket and linoleum floor to burn in three places.

Witnesses reported he was “outside with a sword acting crazy,” according to a police report in court records.

There was no damage to the apartment house and evacuation was not required, police said, but Ambrose’s actions were deemed reckless and threatened lives and property.

Ambrose was on probation at the time of his arrest.

He has a criminal history in Androscoggin and Oxford counties, according to court records. In 2007, Ambrose was sentenced to 11 months in jail for plotting to have his ex-girlfriend and her husband murdered.

His record also includes unrelated convictions on charges of criminal threatening with a dangerous weapon, theft and assault.

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