2017-02-14 / Front Page

State upholds conviction of Kennebunkport arsonist

Staff Writer

PORTLAND — The Maine Supreme Judicial Court  has confirmed a York County Superior 2016 ruling that Karl Maine of Kennebunkport was guilty of arson in relation to a fire at Jake’s Diner in Limington 2014.

Maine was sent to jail in April 2016, with a 16-year sentence, with all but eight years suspended and four years of probation. He was convicted of arson earlier that year. 

Maine operated and leased the diner from Aaron Sleeper, according to court documents.

Surveillance video from nearby Sleeper’s Supermarket showed Maine leaving the restaurant on Feb. 12, 2014, and smoke billowing from a rear storage room less than three minutes later, according to court records.

The building that housed the restaurant was destroyed. It was valued at $142,000, according to court records.

Fire investigators say Maine started the fire to get out of about $7,000 of debt from the business.

According to court documents, Maine was behind in rent by one month and owed Sleeper for more than $500 of groceries purchased at the grocery store Sleeper owned. Maine also owed money to several utilities, including more than $1,000 for propane deliveries and more than $900 for electrical service.

Maine appealed the superior court ruling to the supreme court, which after review confirmed earlier this month there was sufficient evidence to find Maine guilty of arson.

In his appeal, Maine said there was not sufficient evidence presented to prove he without a doubt intentionally set the fire.

He asserted that the court had abused its discretion by not excluding testimony from an investigator with the Maine State Fire Marshal’s Office and an insurance investigator stating that their conclusions had no scientific basis.

The state court concluded both investigators' opinions were reliable.

Maine also stated the court abused its discretion by allowing a friend of his to testify that the friend had spoken to Maine about starting fires with water heaters. 

“Based on Shaw’s testimony, the jury could have made limited inferences that Maine had been discussing methods of causing fires in buildings, and had the intent to burn down the diner to rid himself of his financial problems,” concluded the state appeals court.

Staff Writer Liz Gotthelf can be contacted at 282-1535, ext. 325 or egotthelf@journaltribune.com.

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