Police gathering evidence in downtown Milo arson

By Diana Bowley, BDN Staff
Bangor Daily News, Monday, September 29, 2008

MILO, Maine — No arrest has been made in the arson earlier this month that destroyed five downtown buildings and heavily damaged a sixth building.

The fire that demolished the Milo Flower Shop, the former movie theater, the Spot Game Room, Milo True Value Hardware store, Hobnobbers Pub, and apartments above the businesses and also damaged the Milo House of Pizza, was ruled arson by the State Fire Marshal’s Office. The fire started in the back of Hobnobbers Pub and is believed to be connected to a break-in at the business.

“There’s a lot of physical evidence in this case that has not been analyzed and has to be taken down to the crime lab and analyzed properly,” Piscataquis County District Attorney R. Christopher Almy said this week.

While some residents claim they know who started the fire and are upset that no arrest has been made, Almy said it is very easy to accuse people for crimes but it’s another thing to prove it beyond a reasonable doubt in court.

“We’re not going to go out and shoot from the hip; we’re going to make sure that we have a case before we start accusing people of crimes that can be punished by up to 40 years in prison,” Almy said. “It’s understandable that people in Milo are upset but arresting somebody on flimsy evidence is not going to solve the problem. Our responsibility is to make sure we have a solid case before we charge somebody.”

While the investigation continues, business owners and apartment dwellers whose lives were disrupted by the fire are in a holding pattern. No cleanup has begun because the business owners are still working with their insurance companies, according to Milo Town Manager Jeff Gahagan. It also is unknown how the two uninsured property owners plan to proceed, he said this week.

“I’m going to be meeting individually with the property owners in the very near future to see what their intentions are as far as rebuilding or not,” Gahagan said. He said he did not have a total estimate of damage yet.

The information gleaned from these meetings will help the town proceed with its downtown revitalization efforts. A public hearing on the revitalization will be held at 6 p.m. Monday, Sept. 29, in the town hall.