ELLSWORTH, Maine — A man who set fire to a homestead at a bird sanctuary three years ago has been sentenced to three years in prison after pleading guilty this week to multiple charges.
Christopher Kidder, 33, received an overall sentence of 10 years in prison with all but three years suspended for setting fire to the Cordelia Stanwood homestead at Birdsacre in Ellsworth on March 2, 2014. Kidder was sentenced Tuesday after pleading guilty in Hancock County Unified Criminal Court to felony charges of arson, aggravated assault and burglary.
Charges of aggravated criminal mischief, reckless conduct and assault were dismissed as part of a plea deal Kidder reached with the Hancock County district attorney’s office, according to court documents.
Kidder had been charged with assault and aggravated assault because of significant injuries suffered by Ellsworth firefighter Robert Dorr, who fell through a weakened floor in the building while helping to extinguish the flames. Dorr missed several months of work after the incident as he recovered from his injuries, state and city officials have said.
Kidder also was ordered Tuesday to serve six years of probation upon his release. He was not ordered to pay restitution to Birdsacre or to the Fire Department because the chances he would be able to make any significant payment toward repairing the extensive damage or for Dorr’s medical bills are extremely low, the court determined.
Kidder, who had reported the fire to police on the night of the blaze and told them he had come across it while walking by, was arrested more than a year later on charges that he broke into the building and intentionally set the fire.
The flames 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, had fire damage to the rear of the building and smoke and heat damage in the front, officials have said.
The house, which was uninsured, originally was built in the mid-1800s. It was restored in the 1950s and has been maintained as a seasonal museum since 1960, according to the sanctuary website. Many of Stanwood’s old belongings, including books and furniture, were destroyed in the flames.
There are a handful of other buildings on the 200-acre property, including a nature center with exhibits and several bird enclosures. None of the sanctuary’s birds or other buildings were harmed in the fire.
Before reaching a plea deal with prosecutors, Kidder had been seeking in court to suppress statements he had made to police, court documents indicate.
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.
Charged 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. 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 on file with the state Bureau of Identification.
Kidder, who has been held at Hancock County Jail in Ellsworth since his April 2015 arrest, is expected to receive credit for time served, according to his attorney, Robert Van Horn.