December 11, 2012

Foreclosure, and a fire: odd circumstances in suspected Windham arson

Donato Corsetti, found wrapped in duct tape and rescued from the fire, had recently lost the building to foreclosure.

By David Hench dhench@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

WINDHAM — A man who was found wrapped in duct tape in a burning apartment building in Windham last week had recently lost the building to foreclosure, a process that had concluded the day before the fire when the property sold at auction.

click image to enlarge

In this Monday, Dec. 10 photo, a three-unit Windham apartment building on Gray Road that was damaged by fire on Friday.

Shawn Patrick Ouellette / Staff Photographer

click image to enlarge

In this Monday, Dec. 10 photo, a three-unit Windham apartment building on Gray Road that was damaged by fire on Friday.

Shawn Patrick Ouellette / Staff Photographer

Donato Corsetti, who owns Corsetti's Market, which is next door to the burned building on Gray Road, was taken to Maine Medical Center with minor injuries after the fire broke out in the three-unit apartment building at 1 p.m. Friday.

A female worker at the market, who was making a sandwich, heard a commotion and saw Corsetti in the first-floor window of the building's center unit and went to his aid, said State Fire Marshal Joe Thomas. At first the woman thought Corsetti might have a medical condition because he would appear in the window and then disappear, then be back, Thomas said.

Investigators eventually learned that Corsetti was bound in duct tape when the worker found him and helped him escape, Thomas said.

Sgt. Joel Davis, a senior investigator with the office, said that does not necessarily mean somebody tied up Corsetti.

"Sometimes people can get tangled up in things when they're trying to escape," Davis said. Investigators have had initial interviews with Corsetti but want to probe deeper as they try to determine what happened. Davis would not divulge what Corsetti said to investigators.

The investigators determined the fire was arson based on where it started and its spread, though Davis would not say what kind of materials might have been used to start the fire.

The fire spread fast and, even though firefighters arrived quickly, caused extensive damage to the center unit as well as water and smoke damage to the other two, Davis said. One of the other units was occupied, though nobody else was injured, authorities said.

Davis did say the apartment building had sold at a foreclosure auction on Thursday, the day before the fire. It was not clear who purchased the property but Davis said that because of how long it can take deeds to transfer, Corsetti may actually still have had insurance on the property.

"We haven't ruled out anybody," Davis said. "Obviously, as we do in any case, we focus on anybody who has been in the building, anybody close to the fire."

Court records show that Green Tree Servicing foreclosed on Corsetti for failure to pay $430,000 in loan principal, interest and fees.

The foreclosure was approved in August and Corsetti had 90 days to pay the loan in full or he would lose his interest in the property and it would be sold at auction, the court records said.

At different points, Corsetti represented himself in that and in another foreclosure proceeding that involved 27 Abby Road in North Windham and a debt of $318,750, a case which was ultimately dismissed. It was not clear whether the two debts were related.

Corsetti has had previous run-ins with fire.

A 1998 fire destroyed the market -- at the corner of Route 202 (Gray Road) and Windham Center Road -- which was rebuilt.

A 2007 fire badly damaged a home owned by the Corsetti family at the corner of Route 202 and Windham Center Road. Investigators said the fire started with electrical wiring in the basement. Smoke detectors woke the family and everyone got out safely, according to press reports at the time.

The previous fires were either deemed accidental or of undetermined origin, Davis said.

A woman answering the telephone at Corsetti's home said he would have no comment about Friday's fire.

Thomas expected the investigation would take some time.

Staff Writer David Hench can be contacted at 791-6327 or at:

dhench@pressherald.com

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