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May 19, 2013

Man dies in house fire after 4 1/2-hour standoff in Saco

Troopers from the Maine State Police tactical team surrounded the home after Charles Scontras refused to come out.

By Edward D. Murphy emurphy@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

SACO - A man who was recently separated from his wife caused a 4½-hour standoff with police that ended Saturday night when he set their house on fire and died inside, police said.

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Firefighters put out the blaze set by Saco homeowner Charles Scontras during a standoff with police at his home Saturday. Neighboring homes were doused to keep the fire from spreading.

Carl D. Walsh/Staff Photographer

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Flames at 16 Hillview Ave. in Saco are visible between neighboring houses.

Carl D. Walsh/Staff Photographer

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Deputy Police Chief Jeffrey Holland identified the man as Charles Scontras, who was born in 1955 and had previously run a shoe repair shop on Main Street in Saco. State police spokesman Steve McCausland confirmed early Sunday morning that Scontras' body had been found in the rubble.

The incident began shortly before 2 p.m. when Scontras' estranged wife went to the couple's house at 16 Hillview Ave. to retrieve some belongings, Holland said.

Holland said the couple had been having problems and had recently separated. He said Scontras's wife had asked to be escorted to the house by a Saco police officer.

When the officer saw smoke coming from the house, he took the wife to a neighbor's house, Holland said.

Then the officer heard "at least one" shot fired, and the Maine State Police tactical team was called in, Holland said. More than a dozen state troopers surrounded the house.

Holland said police were unable to determine if Scontras was aiming at someone with the shot at the beginning of the standoff, but added, "There was an officer in that direction" where Scontras fired.

Holland said police had intermittent contact with Scontras on a cellphone, but that ended about 3:15 p.m. Holland said when he spoke with Scontras on the phone, he urged him to come out, but Scontras just hung up.

He said police also tried to contact Scontras using speakers on the tactical unit's armored van, but they got no response from inside the home.

When Scontras didn't reply, Holland said, police decided to wait him out. But shortly after 6 p.m. the smoke, which had been gone since earlier in the confrontation, reappeared. It was thick and black and billowed from the house. Flames soon followed.

Holland said police did not fire on the house and no one heard any shots from inside the house. Occasional crackling noises could be heard several hundred yards away, but Holland said that was from the fire and portions of the house falling, not from gunfire.

He said police believe Scontras had "several weapons" inside the house.

By 8 p.m., the house was nearly destroyed and flames could be seen in a small section of wall that was still standing. Saco firefighters poured water on the smoldering rubble and Holland said officials would not be able to begin searching the debris until the fire was out and had cooled.

Holland said firefighters doused adjacent houses to keep the blaze from spreading. The vinyl siding at 18 Hillview Ave. melted but there was no structural damage, he said.

Scontras may have set more than one fire, McCausland said Sunday morning.

Holland said Scontras' body had not been recovered, but because the house was surrounded, he was certain it was in the ruins of the structure.

Investigators from the State Fire Marshal's Office were on the scene by 8 p.m. to determine how the blaze started.

Members of the state police tactical team began leaving around sunset. They had arrived singly throughout the afternoon, dressed in camouflage gear, and residents watched them on the streets of the quiet suburban development, strapping on handguns, donning body armor and helmets and carrying rifles equipped with tripods and scopes.

Power, which had been cut by authorities shortly after the fire started, was still out in part of the neighborhood but neighbors were being allowed to return to their homes.

Scontras ran a shoe repair business on Main Street in Saco that had been started by his father, Holland said. He said the business closed a few years ago and he didn't know if or where Scontras had worked since.

Neighbors said Scontras seemed to largely keep to himself and none said they had talked to him or his wife recently.

Edward D. Murphy can be contacted at 791-6465 or at:

emurphy@pressherald.com

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Additional Photos

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Firefighters wait outside the home of Charles Scontras after Saturday’s standoff with police. Scontras was presumed dead inside but authorities had yet to locate his body.

Carl D. Walsh/Staff Photographer

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A member of the Maine State Police tactical unit joins dozens of state and local police officers in Saco during Saturday’s standoff.

John Patriquin/Staff Photographer

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John Patriquin/Staff Photographer A member of the Maine State Police tactical unit loads his weapon as he joins dozens of state and local police officers on Hillview Avenue in Saco during Saturday’s standoff with a man identified as Charles Scontras.

John Patriquin/Staff Photographer

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Saco Deputy Police Chief Jeffrey Holland gives a update as state and local police converge on Hillview Avenue in Saco on Saturday during a standoff.

John Patriquin/StaffPhotographer

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Members of the state police tactical unit join dozens of state and local police on Hillview Avenue in Saco during a standoff with a man in a house on this street beyond the house seen in background.

John Patriquin/Staff Photographer

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The scene on Hillview Avenue in Saco on Saturday afternoon.

Photo by Edward Murphy

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Firefighters block a section of Hillview Avenue in Saco on Saturday during a standoff.

John Patriquin/Staff Photographer

  


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