Trial begins for man facing arson, attempted murder charges

Staff Writer
Published: 12/11/2019 10:29:37 PM

GREENFIELD — Philip Paquette-Guilette, 25, homeless of Greenfield, was in Franklin County Superior Court on Wednesday for a bench trial on charges of arson of a home and three counts of attempted murder.

After information was presented, Judge Jane Mulqueen scheduled a decision on the case for Thursday.

Assistant District Attorney Matthew Thomas brought forward four witnesses — two Greenfield police officers, a state trooper and an employee from Clinical & Support Options (CSO) of Greenfield.

According to Greenfield Police, a fire was reported March 27, 2018, at around 3 a.m., on the exterior of a house on Bouker Street, near two 120-gallon propane tanks. The fire damaged the vinyl siding, plywood sheathing and sub-framing of the house. Three residents were inside the house at the time of the fire.

Greenfield Police Detective John Clark said he arrived on scene at around 4 a.m.

“The west side of the house had extensive burning in the area of two propane tanks,” Clark said. “The fire had gone up the side of the house, and there was significant damage to the side of the house and the propane tanks.”

Clark said he also interviewed the three residents of the house. He requested assistance from the state Fire Marshal’s Office after he was told by firefighters on scene that they smelled gasoline.

Massachusetts State Trooper Marc Reidy also took the stand. In addition to his fire investigation responsibilities with the Fire Marshal’s Office, Reidy is an accelerant K-9 handler. The dog assigned to him is a 5-year-old black Labrador, named Star, who’s trained to locate accelerant.

“I was concerned about what started the fire,” Reidy said. “There were no heat sources that could cause a fire. There were no accidental heat sources outside that home such as electrical or smoking, something of that nature. I didn’t find anything consistent with that, but shortly thereafter, doing my initial assessment I detected an odor of gasoline in the area, so we had her deploy to the side of the house.”

He said typically when Star is deployed, she goes around the yard and sits down when she locates an object with traces of accelerant. After giving his dog a command, she’ll point down at the items with her nose.

“She found three different samples,” he said. “The three areas she alerted to were a piece of cloth between the two propane tanks, a cap to a plastic bottle and the remnants of a plastic bottle.”

Reidy submitted them to the State Police crime lab for analysis, which came back positive for gasoline residue.

On April 3, 2018, at 2:37 p.m., Clark received a voicemail from Paquette-Guilette, which was played in the courtroom.

“Thank you for encouraging me to stabilize myself emotionally and psychologically,” Paquette-Guilette said in the voicemail. “I’m sorry for the damage I caused in the department as well as ... I blatantly lied a couple of times in that interview. I’m going to apologize more formally in an apology letter. I’m also not quite sure what my punishment is going to be. I intend on saving money and going to the house, and apologize more formally and pay for damages. I don’t know how to go about assessing the damages.”

Attorney Nora Allard, who represented Paquette-Guilette, argued he committed the crimes, but “was not criminally responsible.”

“He has had two evaluations from two different doctors, which have been submitted today,” Allard said. “He has a life-long history of mental illness. ... At the beginning of March 2018, he was sent to Taravista Behavioral Health for suicidal ideation and other mental health issues. Prior to that, he had been a patient of CSO for years.”

Allard also quoted from the reports of Reidy and Greenfield Police Sgt. Dan McCarthy, saying the fire started most likely from an accelerant and pieces of a blanket — “similar if not the same blankets from Baystate Franklin Medical Center.”

Since June 18, 2018, Paquette-Guilette has been incarcerated at the Franklin County House of Correction, Allard said. While there, he became a patient with the state Department of Mental Health for the first time.

“When he was reevaluated. The doctor found he lacked the capacity to appreciate the wrongfulness of his actions,” Allard said. “We suggest he is not guilty because ... he wasn’t stable until about two months ago.”

Reach Melina Bourdeau at or 413-772-0261, ext. 263.

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