ELLSWORTH — During a bail hearing Wednesday, a Bucksport woman accused of two counts of arson told Justice Robert Murray via her attorney and an interpreter that she had been “fleeing a situation that wasn’t safe” the day of a fire at her home.
Aza Jerome Vasylyk, 56, is a Ukraine native and used a Russian/English interpreter via telephone during the hearing.
Defense attorney Mary Kellett, acting as lawyer of the day, represented Jerome, who is accused of setting fire to an outbuilding, which spread to the house she shared with her husband, Timothy Jerome, on Town Farm Road Nov. 11.
Jerome was reported missing that day. She was found Tuesday in Orland.
“She was fleeing a situation that wasn’t safe and does that affect the bail issue,” Kellett said after taking Jerome’s statement from the interpreter. “She was in hiding.”
These statements were made after Murray had set bail at $1,000 cash or $20,000 surety.
Assistant District Attorney Delwyn Webster had asked for $50,000 cash bail.
Kellett had requested unsecured bail.
“She has no funds in which to post cash bail and no criminal history,” the defense attorney said.
“She is standing on her presumption of innocence,” Kellett said.
“Incarceration would be an additional burden because of the language barrier,” Kellett told the judge.
Jerome testified in court through the interpreter that she speaks very little English.
Murray cited her week-long disappearance as a reason to deny unsecured bail.
Jerome appeared before the judge in a short-sleeve red jumpsuit, which hung loosely on her.
No one was in the courtroom for her appearance except members of the media and court and jail personnel.
It took staff several minutes to locate a translator experienced in translating court terminology and proceedings using a company called LanguageLine Solutions.
Kellett offered Jerome a choice of a Ukrainian or Russian interpreter. Jerome chose a Russian interpreter.
Bucksport police and several other agencies had been looking for Jerome, who walked away Monday, Nov. 11, after a fire started at the home she shared with her husband.
She was found Tuesday afternoon, Nov. 19. Authorities charged Jerome with two counts of arson and took her to the Hancock County Jail late Tuesday night.
The state stipulated that a condition of Jerome’s release be that she not use or possess accelerants or incendiary devices.
Kellett said that was an issue because the stove at Jerome’s home must be lit with matches but that her husband could do that for her.
“The state is not asking for a no-contact provision with her husband,” Kellett said. “It’s expected she can stay with him.”
Bucksport police arrested Timothy Jerome, 61, at the scene of the fire on Nov. 11 on charges of refusing to submit to arrest and obstructing government administration. He is free on bail.
During the proceedings when Justice Murray was trying to determine if the woman was eligible for court-appointed counsel, Jerome said her husband handled finances.
“I wanted to have communication with other people, but he was the sole source of information for me,” the translator said, quoting Jerome.
The American featured Jerome in a story in April 2018 when she taught a class in Ukrainian cooking at the RSU 25 Adult Education Center.
According to that report, the couple was married in 2013 after a long-distance courtship. Jerome moved to Bucksport full time after the wedding.