ELLSWORTH, Maine — A homeless man with an extensive criminal history is facing several felony charges in connection with a fire last year that badly damaged the Cordelia Stanwood homestead at the Birdsacre bird sanctuary.
Charged in the fire, which also resulted in serious injuries to a firefighter who fell through the floor while fighting the March 2, 2014 blaze, is Christopher J. Kidder, according to Maine Department of Public Safety Spokesman Stephen McCausland.
Kidder, 31, was arrested by Waterville police on Saturday night after he contacted the state fire marshal’s office to turn himself in, McCausland said in a prepared statement issued Monday morning. He was taken to Kennebec County Jail.
Kidder and another juvenile were convicted in 2001 of causing $70,000 worth of damage by smashing the entire contents of two houses in Sullivan.
Kidder now is facing charges of arson, burglary, aggravated criminal mischief, reckless conduct and two counts of assault. All the charges stem from the Birdsacre fire and the resulting injuries to firefighter Robert Dorr, who was out of work for several months following the incident, McCausland said.
The fire caused significant damage to the former home of Cordelia J. Stanwood, after whom the sanctuary is named. The house, which is located a few feet from Route 3, suffered fire damage to the rear of the building and smoke and heat damage in the front, officials have said.
The house, originally built in the mid-1800s, was restored in the 1950s and has been maintained as a seasonal museum since 1960, according to the sanctuary website.
It was not insured, due to the presence of old heating stoves in the building, and contained many of Stanwood’s old belongings, including books and furniture, much of which was destroyed.
Prior to the fire, Stanwood’s written field notes had been digitized and saved elsewhere while the glass plate negatives of her photos had been placed in storage off-site, a sanctuary official has said.
Kidder’s arrest was authorized by the local district attorney’s office following an extensive investigation by the fire marshal’s office with assistance from the Ellsworth police and fire departments, according to McCausland.
Kidder, who grew up in Sullivan, has an extensive criminal record dating back to when he was 10 years old, according to court documents filed in a previous criminal case.
As a juvenile, Kidder had been given suspended sentences to the Maine Youth Center in South Portland and to the Northern Maine Juvenile Detention Facility in Charleston for charges ranging from theft to failing to report a dangerous fire to aggravated criminal mischief, a judge wrote in a 2001 decision ordering Kidder to be tried as an adult in a vandalism case.
The judge’s order was the result of an incident in April 2001, about two weeks before Kidder turned 18 years old, when he and another teenage boy broke into and and caused $70,000 in damage to two neighboring houses on Quarry Road in Sullivan. Both houses were owned by a couple who were out of state at the time.
“The vandals totally damaged both homes, leaving nothing undamaged except the wood frames of the structures,” state police indicated in a press release at the time. “Every pane of glass was destroyed; every item of furniture was broken and in some cases thrown through the windows to the outside.”
Tried as an adult in that case, Kidder pleaded guilty to charges of burglary and aggravated criminal mischief and was sentenced to serve three years in prison. When asked why he did it, Kidder told his attorney that he “likes the sound of breaking glass,” a prosecutor said.
In 2007, Kidder was sent back to serve another three years behind bars after he pleaded guilty to charges stemming from an incident in which he stole a car, led police on a chase through Ellsworth, and then crashed the vehicle into a utility pole on Route 3. He was not injured in the crash.
He also has convictions for thefts in Bucksport, Ellsworth, Livermore Falls, and Portland, according to a copy of his criminal history record obtained Monday from the state Bureau of Identification.