Wednesday, June 19, 2013
By Doug Harlow email@example.com
SKOWHEGAN — A Palmyra couple pleaded not guilty in court Friday to a felony charge of arson in connection with a fire that badly damaged their home more than five years ago.
Carissa Jo Turner
Trevor Louis Turner, 41, and Carissa Jo Turner, 38, both of 19 Libby Hill Road, are charged with setting the fire on Sept. 17, 2007, to collect the insurance.
They each were arraigned separately Friday by video from the Somerset County Jail in East Madison.
Meanwhile, authorities were still not saying Friday what led to the charges more than five years later.
Attorney John Martin of Skowhegan, who represented Carissa Jo Turner, said Friday afternoon that the state Fire Marshal’s Office recently received new information on the case, which otherwise had become a cold-case arson.
“The Fire Marshal at some point or another came into some new information, which prompted them to ask more questions,” he said. “As I understand it, there was some talk with the defendants, so they decided to go forward with the charge.”
The Turners were arrested Wednesday on a warrant after the Somerset County grand jury handed up indictmenst. Arson is a class A felony, punishable by up to 30 years in prison, a maximum $50,000 in fines and four years probation.
Trevor Turner was represented in court Friday by Newport attorney William Logan. Turner hired Logan. He was not appointed by the court.
Carissa Turner was represented by Martin, who was the court-appointed lawyer available Friday. Martin said later that Carissa Turner will file for a court-appointed lawyer if the case goes to trial.
As a condition of release, the judge ordered the couple not to possess any incendiary device, including matches and cigarette lighters.
Fire was reported at the Turners’ two-story, gambrel-roof home on Libby Hill Road in Palmyra about 1 p.m. Sept. 17, 2007. No one was home when the fire was reported. Flames were pouring through the walls and windows when firefighters arrived.
Edward Archer, the investigator in charge of the case for the State Fire Marshal’s Office, would not say this week what led to the charges 5 1/2 years after the fire or how evidence leading to the arrest and indictment was gathered.
District Attorney Maeghan Maloney said Thursday that details of the investigation will not be discussed until the couple goes to trial. She said it was a difficult case to investigate, but that the Turners cooperated fully with the investigation.
Logan did not immediately return a call for comment on the case Friday.
The Morning Sentinel reported at the time of the fire that Trevor Turner had left two of his four dogs inside the house. Someone had freed the dogs and started removing bicycles, motorcycles and other equipment from a nearby shed when Turner arrived.
The family had lived in the home for 13 years. The couple’s children, then ages 6 and 11, were at school at the time, according to the newspaper report.
Trevor Turner said at the time that he was unsure how the fire started, but he recalled a problem with a circuit breaker in recent weeks.
“Whenever it rained a little bit, it would always trip,” he said.
Bail was set Friday for each by District Court Judge Patrick Ende at $30,000 in property or $3,000 cash. An intake worker at the jail said the couple had not yet made bail by 3 p.m. Friday.
A court hearing on the case has been scheduled for April 17. A trial date has not been set.
Doug Harlow — 612-2367