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.

Investigator Damren returned to the fire scene Sept. 8, 2018, and looked in the master bedroom for protected areas on the wall. He noted that if photos had been removed from the wall after the fire, the wall would show an outline of where the pictures had been hung.

He found two picture hangers on the wall with no protected area. "This means that two pictures were taken off from the wall prior to or in early stages of the fire," he said.

Keller's former husband, Bagley, told Senior Investigator Mary MacMaster there was a similar incident in 2014, when they were still married.

While Bagley was at work, he was notified his house was on fire. Keller, the children and the dogs had just left the house when the neighbor discovered the fire, he said. The cause was undetermined, but the insurance company eventually paid for the house.

MacMaster also interviewed the neighbors' teenage son, who said his bedroom was adjacent to the Kellers' house. Two months before the fire, he said, he heard a telephone conversation between the couple where Derek was on speakerphone.

The couple "were talking about burning down the house to get out of debt and said they would have to do it when the kids were there, so it didn't look suspicious," he said, according to the affidavit.

Tina White lived in the basement of the Hunter Road home with her boyfriend. On the night of the fire, the couple was at Eastern Maine Medical Center, where she delivered a baby. White said Keller never called her to tell her of the fire.

Less than a week before the fire, White said, Keller had received mail with insurance documents. Upon opening the mail, White said, Keller told her “that the house was insured, and she could burn the place down, collect the insurance, and move someplace else," according to court documents.

Cassandra Smith, who was having an affair with Keller's husband, had her own two children spending the night at a sleepover in the apartment next door to where the fire broke out that night.

Smith told investigators she had heard Derek and his wife arguing over the telephone, as she was with Derek at the time. "Melissa stated she was going to burn down the house," she said.

Damren said in the affidavit that there was no doubt in Smith’s mind that Keller lit the house on fire and Smith thought part of the reason might be that her two children were spending the night next door.

Smith said that after the fire she observed Keller had two bags of dog food in the trunk of her car, along with a box containing insurance paperwork, and what appeared to be hair from a baby in a plastic bag, a baby’s tooth, and a photo album.

In his report, Damren said he was able to determine the electronics of the dishwasher were not the cause of the fire. He was not able to find any "naturally present ignition sources," though he did determine the fire started in the area of the dishwasher.

Damren noted that at the time of the fire, Keller was on probation for endangering the welfare of a child from a 2017 incident in Waterville. According to a Waterville police report, Keller had left two of her children and three other children she was babysitting in her running vehicle for at least 90 minutes while she was at a salon.

If Keller is found guilty of arson, she could face a sentence of up to 30 years in prison and a fine of as much as $50,000.