The fire broke out in Brian Aldo Baldie and Ron Pelletier’s small house in Canaan, Maine on September 21. They weren’t home at the time, but their seven cats and dogs were, and they all perished in the blaze.
“Why would somebody break into somebody’s house, take a little bit of money, a little bit of jewelry and then set the house on fire with the animals in there?” 63-year-old Baldie tells the Portland Press Herald. “It doesn’t make any sense. It would have to be a hate crime.”
Police ultimately determined the fire was arson. But they stopped short of saying it was a hate crime.
Last week, the couple’s former neighbor, Matthew Short of Canaan, was indicted on charges of arson, burglary and aggravated cruelty to animals in connection with the conflagration.
He told police he was upset because the men had stolen $150 from him, an allegation Baldie and Pelletier call “crazy.” They say they barely knew Short, and according to an acquaintance of Short’s, he “didn’t like the guys based on their sexuality.”
But Maine Department of Public Safety spokesman Steve McCausland maintains that “the sexual orientation of anyone involved has not been a focus of the investigation.”
Nearly eight months after losing everything, the couple is now living in a new apartment and are slowly rebuilding their animal family, adopting two new cats and a dog. Though nightmarish visions of their previous pets, terrified and yelping for help as they burned to death in a raging fire, still haunt them.
“(The fire) kind of put me somewhere else,”Pelletier explains. “I don’t trust anymore. I lock my doors.”
“When I hear a dog barking, I think of the dogs (that died in the fire),” he continues. “When I hear a fire engine, I think of that. It just puts stuff in my life that was never there before.”