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Ex-firefighter on trial for arson

Melissa Proulx, Staff Writer

The trial for Gregory Potter, a former Peterborough firefighter who allegedly committed a series of arson in 2013, has entered its fourth week, with many key figures giving their testimony.
With the jury sworn in on Monday, Jan. 5, a handful of people have already testified against Potter, including University of New Hampshire seniors Alyssa Holland and Allison Moloney, and junior Jessica Harding.
According to an article in Foster’s Daily Democrat, Potter allegedly set fire to a mattress in an apartment at 15 Main St. in the early hours of the morning on Saturday, Feb. 2, 2013. Officials had noticed a red 2008 Subaru registered to Potter in a nearby parking lot to where the fire was set.
The Durham Fire Department responded to two more calls that night. The first was at 2:48 a.m, where an outside trash fire, which reached an occupied building nearby, was set at 20 Main St.
The second came at 3:30 a.m., when the Durham Fire Department responded to a structure fire that destroyed an apartment and barn attached to a single-family farmhouse at 4 Smith Park Lane.
This fire destroyed the apartment and barn, with the people inside “barely escaping with their lives”, according to officials. Three vehicles were also destroyed or damaged as a result.
Tod Bicknell, Ann Chamberlin and Arthur Klaeson were the three people who lived at the Smith Park Lane property. Klaeson owned the property, with Bicknell working as a caretaker at the time and staying in the barn with his girlfriend, Chamberlin. All three testified during the trial in mid-January.
Later on, two more fires at 6 and 19 Main St. were reported to police, where the lattice work on the porches were allegedly set on fire. It is not known at what time those reports came in.
All of these locations housed UNH students, according to Foster’s.
Witnesses in the area of these fires had reported seeing “a tall, skinny, ‘and very drunk’ man who pretended to have a British accent” at 4 Main St., the night of the fires, according to Foster’s. Allegedly, Potter was attending a party at the apartment, but reportedly left after 10 to 15 minutes.
Security footage from the nearby Irving gas station showed a man who looked like Potter entering the location at 12:50 a.m. and purchasing a cigarette lighter from the store.
Potter, who was interviewed by the Durham Police Department the next day, told officials that he had been in town visiting a friend, had been at the party when the fires were set, and was in bed sometime between 2:00 and 2:30 a.m.
Besides this, evidence against Potter includes a towel with burn marks found near 19 Main St. This towel contained the DNA evidence for both Potter and William Skantze, the friend that Potter was staying with at the time.
Prosecutors had also planned to use deleted photos from Potter’s cell phones. However, Judge Steven Houran ruled that the photos had been obtained illegally by the police and could not be used before the testimony began.
As of Wednesday, testimony will still continue and the jurors had not been asked to reach a verdict.
Information for this article came from reports in Foster’s Daily Democrat by Kimberly Haas and Benji Rosen.

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