PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — The owner of an apartment house in Portland where six tenants died in the deadliest blaze in 40 years in Maine pleaded not guilty Friday to six counts of manslaughter.
A grand jury returned indictments against Gregory Nisbet after plea negotiations broke down earlier in July. In addition to manslaughter, Nisbet was charged with three misdemeanor code violations. Authorities said he didn't have working smoke detectors, clear stairwells and a second means of escape from an upstairs bedroom.
Nisbet entered his pleas in Superior Court in Portland.
Investigators said improperly disposed smoking materials on the porch started the fire and the house didn't have functioning smoke detectors. Nisbet's lawyer, Matthew Nichols, has said his client installed smoke detectors, but tenants disabled them. He said it might have been a code violation but didn't rise to the level of gross negligence.
The families of at least four of the victims have sued Nisbet.
Killed in the fire were Steven Summers, 29, of Rockland; Maelisha Jackson, 26, of Topsham; and Chris Conlee, 25, David Bragdon Jr., 27, Ashley Thomas, 29, and Nicole Finlay, 26, all of Portland.