A local woman was arrested in connection with a 2018 fire at her home that displaced three families, including several children and a baby. She is being held at Knox County Jail in Rockland with bail set at $5,000 cash.

Melissa Keller, 36, now of Montville, was charged Tuesday, Jan. 12, with arson and attempting to deceive her insurance company. Unrelated to the fire, she was also charged with forgery, two counts of negotiating a worthless instrument, and perjury.

The fire broke out around 3 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 8, 2018, at 234 Hunter Road in Unity. Senior Investigator Jeremy Damren of the State Fire Marshal’s Office said in a court affidavit that Unity Fire Chief Blaine Parsons had requested the office’s investigative resources that day.

Keller owns the two-family house with her ex-husband, Ricky Bagley, and rents the right side of the home to her brother-in-law, Dylan Keller. The basement is also rented to a couple who were not home at the time of the fire.

Parsons told Damren that Keller had taken her four children to Bangor that evening to meet husband Derek Keller, whom she had married in 2017, at his work and to get something to eat. She later returned home to Unity and put the children to bed. At some point in the evening, Parsons said, Keller returned to Bangor and caught her husband with another woman.

According to court documents, Keller told Derek he was going to see ”recklessness” in her behavior that evening.  Keller told investigators that she went to bed after 2 a.m. that night and was awoken by her son who was coughing in the next room. She said she did not hear smoke detectors going off. She opened her bedroom door and was met by a “poof” of smoke, she said. Then she got her children out of the house, along with her dogs.

She told investigators the fire was coming from the area of the dishwasher and extended up the wall in the kitchen. She also said she was approximately eight months behind on the mortgage, but denied setting fire to the house.

Keller’s husband Derek said they were having trouble in their relationship. He said he had planned on moving out that day. The dishwasher, he said, they had found on the side of the road in Freedom three months prior to the fire. Melissa fixed it and it worked fine, he added.  He had returned to the fire scene later in the day to see what he could salvage. Looking at the wall in his and Melissa’s bedroom, he noticed two photos had been taken down: one was of him and his grandfather when he was young and the other was him in a basketball uniform.  Derek said he began to break down when Keller disappeared from the room and came back with one of the photographs he had been looking for. The picture was not stained at all, he said.

The couple had talked about burning down the house, Derek said. In the previous couple of months, she had suggested it several times, he said, but no plans had ever been made. Some details that were discussed included the idea of igniting rags on the furnace or lighting the insulation in the walls on fire in the basement, Derek said.