Fire in July gutted the 40-year-old business

Belfast man charged with arson of his Goose River Grocery

Fri, 03/27/2015 - 4:00pm

    BELFAST — Information uncovered during the investigation into a fire that gutted Goose River Grocery in Belfast last summer has led to the arrest Friday of the owner on charges he allegedly intentionally set the fire.

    Kyle J. Skinner, 35, of Belfast, was arrested and charged with arson, class A, theft by deception, class B, and insurance deception, class C. If convicted, he faces up to 30 years in prison and a $50,000 fine on the arson charge alone.

    According to Belfast Police Chief Michael McFadden in a press release Friday afternoon, the investigation into the July 15 fire on Swan Lake Avenue was conducted by Belfast Detective Bryan Cunningham and Maine State Fire Marshal Stewart Jacobs. They were assisted by a number of individuals from federal and state agencies, including Jeffrey Cosgrove of the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms, Heidi Jordan, a special investigator with the National Insurance Crime Bureau and Mark Soucie, an analyst with the Maine State Police Computer Crimes Unit.

    McFadden said the two deception charges stem from information uncovered during the arson investigation.

    "With the assistance of forensic financial auditors from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and the National Insurance Crime Bureau investigators, Skinner is alleged to have filed a false claim for damaged embroidery equipment and attempted to sell a piece of heavy equipment to another claiming that there was no lien on that equipment," said McFadden in the release.

    He said that the investigation continues and further charges are expected to be brought at a later date.

    The fire at the small grocery store was reported around 9 p.m. that Tuesday night. The store had closed at around 8:30 p.m., and no one was in the building at the time of the call. By the time firefighters got there, Belfast Fire Chief Jim Richards said he believed the fire had been burning for a while.

    "A lot of heat had built up by the time we got there," said Richards the morning after the fire last summer. He also said flames were coming from one window, but otherwise the fire was contained to the interior of the building. He described the damage inside from heat and smoke as "intense."

    In an interview July 25, Skinner said he did not own the property, but had a purchase and sale agreement and had been finalizing details in advance of the deal's closing. He also said he and his wife had recently repainted the exterior of the building, added a take-out window, built new counters inside the store and made changes to the kitchen.

    He also said he had converted a back room of the store to sell firearms, for which he had received the necessary federal license.

    "Last week, both my wife and I were sick to our stomachs over it," said Skinner on July 25, about the fire. "Here we are trying to do these things to promote the business, and then this happens."

    Skinner was transported to Waldo County Jail Friday, and his bail has been set at $200,000 cash.

    Related stories:

    Fire Marshal's Office: Goose River Grocery fire was arson (Aug. 7, 2014)

    Goose River Grocery's barbecue plans on, despite fire (July 25, 2014)

    Belfast's Goose River Grocery gutted in Tuesday night fire (July 16, 2014)

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