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Winthrop woman charged with setting fire that destroyed three-unit Potsdam apartment building

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POTSDAM - A former SUNY Canton student from Winthrop was charged Wednesday with setting a fire on Oct. 25 that destroyed the 28 Pierrepont Ave. apartment building she lived in with nine other students from SUNY Potsdam and SUNY Canton.

Potsdam Village Police charged Brandi Lee Saumier, 21, of 1071 Buckton Road, Winthrop, with a felony count of second-degree arson Tuesday afternoon.

Saumier said she in court that she was a major in health care management at SUNY Canton but has withdrawn from school since the alleged incident.

In a statement to police, Ms. Saumier, who had received care at Claxton-Hepburn Medical Center, Ogdensburg, following the incident, admitted to starting the fire at 1:30 a.m. with no intentions of hurting anyone.

Ms. Saumier was arraigned by Potsdam Acting Village Justice Margaret Garner and sent to the St. Lawrence County Correctional Facility with bail set at $5,000 cash or $10,000 bond at the recommendation of Assistant District Attorney James Monroe. She is represented by attorney Peter A. Dumas, Malone.

Mr. Dumas waived Saumier’s right to a preliminary hearing and told Judge Gardner that this was Ms. Saumier’s first run in with the law and has no criminal history.

“She was hospitalized and came in voluntarily today,” Mr. Dumas said. “She has no record, though this is quite a way to start it off.”

Police allege Saumier set a fire in a bedroom in her first-floor apartment knowing that at least two other people, Mackaly L. Simpson, 20, and Adam G. Barnes, 21, were in the downstair’s apartment and recognizing that several other residents of the three-unit apartment house were also likely at home.

A fourth roommate, Quinn G. Patraw, 21, was also in Ms. Saumier’s apartment. Other residents of the apartment at home at the time of the fire were Marc I. Dean, 22, John R. Remington, 22, Kylie M. Stenger, 24, Christopher G. Natke, 23, and Daniel J. Johnson, 21. A visiting friend of Mr. Dean, Raymond R. Cummings, 22, of Hudson Falls, was also in the apartment at the time. Stephen Auyer, whose age was not available, a 10th resident of the apartment, was not at home at the time of the fire.

Ms. Saumier said she felt mistreated by “everyone and everything,” according to court documents. She said she hadn’t been sleeping or eating well and on the night of the fire, she had woken up with a desire to get rid of her belongings.

“I lit a roll (from paper towels) on fire and threw it in the middle of the room,” Saumier said in a statement to police.

Once the fire began to burn, Saumier said she left the house without saying anything to Ms. Simpson and Mr. Barnes, and went to McDonald’s on Market Street in the village, where she called family members who picked her up and took her to the police station at 4 a.m.

“I didn’t think about home. I didn’t even know if I wanted my stuff to burn,” Saumier said in her statement. “No one else was in my room when I set the fire. No one else knew I set the fire.”

Mr. Barnes told police in a statement that he and Ms. Simpson had smelled something burning, looked through the apartment and when they approached Ms. Saumier’s bedroom door, felt heat emitting from it.

“At that time I opened the door and a large, thick cloud of black smoke came out from the bedroom,” Mr. Barnes said, adding that he, Ms. Simpson and Mr. Patraw exited the apartment. After calling 911 Barnes said he and Simpson went to alert their neighbors.

Mr. Dean was in his upstairs apartment and said he and Mr. Cummings smelled smoke, began searching the apartment about 1 a.m. and then heard a knock at his door.

“It was the neighbors from downstairs. They said we might want to get out of the house, that their roommate lit the house on fire,” Mr. Dean recalled.

Mr. Dean said downstair’s neighbors told him that one of their roommates had been “acting weird” during the week and set a roommate’s clothing on fire in her room.

Firefighters fought the fire from 1:40 to 4 a.m. Potsdam Fire Chief Timothy L. Jerome said they had trouble putting the fire out right away as village hydrants were being flushed and the water pressure was weak. The structure of the building also created difficulties.

Mr. Dumas said although he spoke briefly with Saumier prior to arraignment, he didn’t know the severity of the charges against her.

“I’ll be petitioning the court to consider her mental wellbeing,” Mr. Dumas said after Ms. Saumier was led from court by Potsdam Police for processing. “I plan on turning over every stone to get her the help that she needs.”

Saumier is scheduled to return to Potsdam Village Court on Nov. 15.

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