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Woman charged with setting fire that destroyed Potsdam apartment building

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POTSDAM — A former SUNY Canton student from Winthrop has been charged with setting the fire Oct. 25 that destroyed the Potsdam apartment building where she lived with nine other SUNY students.

Brandi Lee Saumier, 21, was arraigned Wednesday on one felony count of second-degree arson and was sent to St. Lawrence County jail, Canton. Potsdam Acting Village Justice Margaret Garner set bail set at $5,000 cash or $10,000 bond at the recommendation of Assistant District Attorney James Monroe. Ms. Saumier, of 1071 Buckton Road, Winthrop, is represented by attorney Peter A. Dumas, Malone.

She said in court that she was majoring in health care management at SUNY Canton but has withdrawn from school since the incident.

Police allege Ms. Saumier set a fire in a bedroom in her first-floor apartment at 28 Pierrepont Ave. knowing that others were in the building at the time. Nine people escaped unharmed.

In a statement to police, Ms. Saumier, who had been undergoing psychiatric evaluation at Claxton-Hepburn Medical Center, Ogdensburg, admitted to starting the fire at 1:30 a.m. with no intention of hurting anyone.

She said she felt mistreated by “everyone and everything,” according to court documents. She said she had not been sleeping or eating well and woke up on the night of the fire with the urge to get rid of her belongings. “I lit a roll” of paper towels “on fire and threw it in the middle of the room,” Ms. Saumier said in a statement to police.

Once the fire began, Ms. Saumier stated, she left the house without saying anything to roommates Mackaly L. Simpson and Adam G. Barnes, and went to McDonald’s on Market Street, where she called family members who picked her up and took her to the police station at 4 a.m.

“I didn’t think about home — I didn’t even know if I wanted my stuff to burn,” Ms. Saumier said in her statement. “No one else was in my room when I set the fire. No one else knew I set the fire.”

Mr. Barnes told police in a statement that he and Ms. Simpson had smelled something burning, looked through the apartment and when they approached Ms. Saumier’s bedroom door, felt heat.

“At that time I opened the door and a large, thick cloud of black smoke came out from the bedroom,” Mr. Barnes said, adding that he, Ms. Simpson and the fourth roommate, Quinn G. Patraw, exited the apartment. Mr. Barnes said he and Ms. Simpson called 911 and alerted their neighbors.

After Ms. Saumier’s arraignment, Mr. Dumas said: “I’ll be petitioning the court to consider her mental well-being. I plan on turning over every stone to get her the help that she needs.”

She is scheduled to return to Potsdam Village Court on Nov. 15.

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