Arson suspect arraigned in court
Published: Friday, September 20, 2013
Updated: Friday, September 20, 2013 02:09
A former firefighter, accused of setting five fires in the downtown Durham-area in February, was officially read his charges during his arraignment on Tuesday, Sept. 17 in the 7th Circuit Court in Dover.
Peterborough, N.H., resident Gregory Potter, 22, is facing nine charges – an additional criminal mischief charge was added since his arrest – for the five fires he is accused of setting: five charges of arson, three charges of criminal mischief and one falsifying physical evidence charge.
The arraignment, originally set for 10:45 a.m., was postponed to 1 p.m. due to availability of one of the attorneys.
“The case will now be moved to a Superior Court and the case will be presented to a grand jury for indictment,” Deputy Chief Rene Kelley of the Durham Police Department said.
During the arraignment, Potter could not enter a plea due to the case including felony charges. Any plea will have to be given in the Superior Court.
As of yet, Potter has not posted his cash bail of $100,000 and is now awaiting trial. If he were to post bail, the court gave restrictions on his movements. He would not be able to come to Durham or UNH, would have to wear a GPS anklet and would have a curfew.
While Potter is not a student at UNH, he was, according to Kelley, “visiting friends” in town at the time of the fires. He was also a firefighter in his hometown until he was relieved of his duties following the fires.
“At the time of the fires he was a call firefighter for the Peterborough Fire Department,” Kelley said.
He was not, however, involved with the Durham Fire Department, according to both Chief Corey Landry and Assistant Chief Jason Cleary of the Durham Fire Department.
“No, he was not,” Cleary said. “Not to my knowledge.”
The Durham firefighters, while no longer investigating the arsons, might be called in to testify, according to Landry.
The five arsons occurred in locations around Durham: 15 Main St. at 1:06 a.m., 6 Main St. at 1:45 a.m., 19 Main St. at 2:30 a.m., 20 Main St. at 2:48 a.m. and 4 Smith Park Ln. at 3:30 a.m. No one was injured in the fires.
Three cars were damaged during the Smith Park Lane fire, a 2003 Nissan Maxima, 1999 Volkswagon Golf and, the source of the added criminal mischief charge, a Ford Explorer.
Potter is also accused of deleting six photos from his cellphone, leading to a falsifying physical evidence charge.
While Kelley could not “really comment on evidence” that linked the five fires, he would say that “it was pretty evident to us after the fires were reported that there was arson.”
Landry agreed that arson was the apparent cause for at least four out of the five fires at the time.
“We investigate every fire,” Landry said. “Early on we determined it to be arson. ... We eliminate all natural causes and once you eliminate all natural causes it’s arson.”
While there are a few arsons a year in Durham, this is the largest Landry has seen in town. It is also the first multiple-fire arson he has seen here. He did explain, however, that arson has a broad definition and can be anything from “a burning paper on a board in a dorm” to this case.
Potter’s probable cause hearing has been scheduled for Thursday, Sept. 26 at 10 a.m. Until then, or until he posts bail, he will remain in the Strafford County House of Corrections.