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Henniker man faces arson charge in fire at wife’s home

A Henniker man charged with arson allegedly set fire last month to a home owned by his wife, who had twice filed for divorce against him, according to court documents.

Matthew Patenaude, 47, was arrested Nov. 13 and faces a felony charge of arson related to an Oct. 25 fire at a home on Colby Hill Road in Henniker. He waived a probable cause hearing yesterday in district court, meaning his case will now be prosecuted in superior court.

In an affidavit filed with the court, investigator Danielle Cole from the state fire marshal’s office described the evidence she collected when she responded to the fire several weeks ago at the home owned by Ashley Patenaude.

During the investigation, the affidavit states Ashley Patendaude told Cole she was married to Matthew Patenaude, but he had been living with his mother in Weare for the past few months. The couple had gone through the divorce process during the last year, but Matthew Patenaude had refused to finalize it. Ashley Patenaude filed for divorce again, the affidavit states, and the notification of the divorce from the court had been mailed out to both of them that week.

Matthew Patenaude had encountered his wife and her new boyfriend, Ignatius “Martin” Ferreira, at Ashley Patenaude’s home several weeks before the fire, Cole wrote in her affidavit.

“At that point, (Matthew Patenaude) stated something to the effect of ‘I guess we are going to have a bloodbath’ and then left the house,” the affidavit states.

On Oct. 25, Matthew Patenaude was watching the couple’s three young children, and he exchanged text messages with Ashley Patenaude to tell her he had done laundry and dishes at the house. He also told her he would watch the kids overnight, according to the affidavit.

A passer-by reported the fire about 3:45 p.m. Both Ashley Patenaude and Ferreira were at work at the time. Matthew Patenaude had reportedly left the house with the three children before the fire was called in to 911 and spent the night at his mother’s house in Weare, the affadavit states. He dropped the children off with their mother the next day, and he did not respond to the Henniker police who attempted to contact him numerous times Oct. 26 and 27.

All three children, who are between the ages of 3 and 7, were interviewed at the Merrimack County Child Advocacy Center, Cole’s affidavit states. In his interview, the oldest child said Matthew Patenaude brought them back to the house after school to make sure he had locked the house.

“During all of the interviews with the children, at no time did any of them indicate that there had been a fire at the house while they were still at there,” the affadavit states.

At 4:28 p.m., Ashley Patenaude texted Matthew Patenaude to ask whether there was a fire at the house, the affidavit states. He told her he would ask his father to check, and then later told her his brother said there was a fire.

The fire started in the basement and continued to burn up the stairs to the first floor and the attic, the affidavit states, and the entire house suffered smoke and heat damage. Investigators ruled out all electrical or other accidental causes of the fire and determined the fire was incendiary, or it had been intentionally set.

When she searched the house, Cole found two plastic totes of tools in the basement that Ferreira said were his. According to the affidavit, Ferreira had brought the totes to the house the night before the fire, leaving them in a trailer outside. He had also left a container three-quarters full of diesel fuel under the overhang of the exterior porch near the basement door.

Cole found the tank of fuel in that same place outside, but it was nearly empty. Ferreira identified the totes and everything inside them as his, except a red-and-black barbecue-style lighter.

The affidavit cites several witnesses who saw Matthew Patenaude outside the house shortly before the fire was reported, as well as several interviews Cole conducted with his relatives who live nearby.

Relatives Stuart and Katherine Patenaude told investigators Matthew Patenaude’s father, David, and his brother Mark came to their house while the fire department was still on scene at Colby Hill Road. In her affidavit, Cole wrote the couple believed it was possible Matthew Patenaude had intentionally started the fire at Ashley Patenaude’s house.

“According to Stuart, Mark Patenaude made a comment to the effect of ‘how do you think Matt will look in stripes?’ ” the affidavit states. “Stuart and Katherine also stated that they remembered that Mark had made a comment that (Matthew Patenaude) had said to him before the fire that if he can’t have it no one can.”

When Cole interviewed David and Mark Patenaude at their home, the brother said he was only joking about the stripes and didn’t remember making any other comments. Both men told her Matthew Patenaude was “very upset” when he saw his wife and Ferreira at her home several weeks before the fire, the affidavit states.

Mark Patenaude also said Matthew Patenaude took a shotgun from his father and brother’s home about a week before the fire. Mark Patenaude told his brother he should have a clear head and make good decisions, and Matthew Patenaude made the comment that “he deserves to get shot,” the affadavit states. Mark Patenaude said he thought his brother was upset about his wife and her new boyfriend.

“Mark explained that (Matthew Patenaude) was not in New Hampshire presently as he was paranoid and had left to stay with some friends and that he might be in Vermont,” Cole wrote in the affidavit.

Patenaude’s father posted his $50,000 cash bail when he was arrested last week, and that bail was reduced to $25,000 when he waived his probable cause hearing yesterday.

He faces one charge of arson, a Class B felony. His next court date has not yet been scheduled.

(Megan Doyle can be reached at 369-3321 or mdoyle@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @megan_e_doyle.)

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