Jury out in arson trial of former state trooper
ALFRED, Maine (AP) - Jury deliberations resume Tuesday in the
trial of a former state trooper accused of burning down his
Kennebunk restaurant for insurance money.
Stephen Emerson IV, of Arundel, is accused of setting fire to
the Hole in the Wall restaurant on Nov. 1, 1999, in an effort to
escape heavy debt.
Assistant Attorney General William Baghdoyan has maintained
throughout the trial that Emerson had the motive, means and
opportunity to set the blaze, which endangered the life of a tenant
who lived in the building, Adam Reid.
In Monday's closing arguments, defense lawyer Gene Libby called
the state's investigation of the fire "unprofessional and
inconclusive."
A major issue throughout the trial in York County Superior Court
has been whether the restaurant's cellar door was open or closed at
the time the fire started.
One fire marshal determined that the door was slightly ajar,
which would have caused the blaze to burn slowly. But another
investigator found that the door was more than two feet open, in
which case the fire would have spread more quickly.
The disagreement could be important because a prosecution
witness placed Emerson at the restaurant around 6:15 p.m. on the
day of the fire.
Prosecutors contend that Emerson started a slow-burning fire at
around 6 p.m., but Emerson denies being anywhere near the
restaurant after 2:30 p.m.
While Libby acknowledged that Emerson has heavy debts, he
attacked the prosecution's motive theory, saying a $40,000
insurance policy would not have come close to erasing those debts.
Libby also told jurors that the fire's cause was most likely
accidental. The restaurant's cellar had a 50-year old electrical
system and two large fuel tanks.

(Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press