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Escalation of dispute with neighbor leads to arson charge for local man

LACONIA — An investigation into a report of a restraining order violation has led to arson charges against a local man.

Justin M. DeWolfe, 30, of 15 Lyford St., allegedly started a fire to the exterior of his neighbor's house on June 1, 2013, in retaliation for some bullying between teenaged girls. DeWolfe is being held on $25,000 cash bail following his arraignment yesterday.

Affidavits obtained yesterday from the 4th Circuit Court, Laconia Division, supporting the arson charge against DeWolfe said that police and fire officials were called to 16 Lyford St. at 11:34 p.m. on June 1 for a report of a suspicious fire.

A number of shingles on the outside of the house were charred. Firefighters extinguished what they described as a small fire near the porch. Assistant Fire Chief Kirk Beattie said yesterday that firefighters stayed long enough to make sure the fire was out and turned the scene over to police. He said they removed a couple of shingles from the house.

Officials determined there were 10 people in the building on the night of the fire.

Paperwork said the primary resident of the home told police the family had been having some problems with a neighbor over allegedly bullying between some teenaged girls.

At the time, the victim told police she thought it could have been the girls who started the fire.

Fast-forward to Nov. 2 and police responded to 15 Lyford St. for a call for an assault.

DeWolfe was charged with one count of simple assault and freed on personal recognizance bail by a bail commissioner with the order to stay away from the victim.

DeWolfe allegedly violated the temporary no-contact order — that became a final order on Nov. 19 — seven times.

Complaints and affidavits said DeWolfe repeatedly contacted the victim — who had moved to another address — by calling her, text-messaging her, and at one point allegedly drawing his hand across his throat and mouthing the words, "You're dead."

During the course of the breach of bail investigations, DeWolfe's former girlfriend told police that he was the one who lit fire at 16 Lyford St. on June 1.

Police said they interviewed two juveniles associated with DeWolfe as well as his former girlfriend and all of them said he had admitted to using charcoal lighter fluid and a lighter to start the June 1 fire.

The three said he told them he did it because he was "tired of people treating them 'like (explicative).'"

City Prosecutor James Sawyer argued yesterday that DeWolfe should be held on $20,000 cash-only bail for the arson charge, and $5,000 cash-only bail for the seven breaches of bail violations.

He said DeWolfe was dangerous and appeared to acting out of anger when he allegedly set the neighbor's house on fire as well as in the tone of his communications to his ex-girlfriend.

At one point, Sawyer said, DeWolfe was allegedly impersonating a police officer and contacting the ex-girlfriend.

"He can't control himself," said Sawyer, adding that DeWolfe gets angry at school children things.

DeWolfe's attorney, Justin Littlefield, argued that his client should be freed on $1,000 cash or $10,000 corporate surety. He said the arson happened in June but only came to light recently and in the wake of a custody battle between DeWolfe and the woman who told police about the arson.

"This encourages healthy skepticism," said Littlefield as DeWolfe, who was appearing by video, began nodding in agreement. At least four people supporting DeWolfe were in court for his arraignment.

Judge James Carroll determined there was probable cause for the arrest and agreed to Sawyer's request for a total of $25,000 cash.

 
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