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ME- Police: Car explosion was suicide

8-20-2008 Maine:
WINSLOW -- An explosion on Monday rocked businesses on China Road, killed a Palermo man and sent flames and automobile parts flying at least 20 feet in the air, witnesses said.

Maine Department of Public Safety Spokesman Steve McCausland said 23-year-old Shane Rexford purchased cigarette lighters at the Cumberland Farms convenience store, drove across the street into the parking lot shared by Pleau's Market and Movie Gallery and ignited a flammable liquid inside his car around 8:15 p.m. Monday.

Rexford died in the fire, which is being treated as a suicide, McCausland said. No one else was hurt.

"I heard this tremendous boom, and it shook the whole building," Movie Gallery Manager Kristen Berard said. The car ignited about 50 feet from the store.

"I ran out, and the trees were all on fire. I was just shaking."

Berard said as she watched, a second explosion launched parts of Rexford's Chevrolet Impala as high as the power lines overhead.

Police and medics arrived on the scene, but Rexford was already dead when they saw him in the driver's seat, according to the Winslow Police call log.

Maine State Police were confident enough about Rexford's identity on Tuesday to inform his mother of what had happened, McCausland said. The medical examiner's office has not yet positively identified Rexford as the deceased.

McCausland said Rexford, of Carrs Corner Road in Palermo, had been a sex offender who, in December 2007, was convicted of possessing sexually explicit material of a minor under 12.

Rexford served five months in the Waldo County Jail and was released in May, a corrections officer said last night from the Belfast jail.

The Impala in the fire was registered in both Rexford's and his mother's names, McCausland said.

Police say the Impala was parked when Rexford lit the flammable fluid. Berard said it appeared that the car was moving while it was in flames, but whether that was from the force of the blast or if the vehicle was still gear, she did not know. From her perspective, she said it appeared that the vehicle slammed into the guard rail at the edge of the parking lot.

The flames and explosion would have been clearly visible from McDonald's across the street.

"My employees told me they could feel the percussion of the blast," McDonald's Manager Derik Boutin said.

Flames scorched trees at the scene about 20 feet up, and charred bits on Monday were still scattered on the asphalt. The metal grill from the Impala and a couple of other charred car parts were also left.

Ken Quirion, of Winslow, was on the Sebasticook River Bridge at a traffic light when he saw youths run across China Road from Cumberland Farms to the fire scene.

A former state fire investigator, Quirion said he drove into the parking lot where the car, parked against the trees with no other vehicles around, was fully engulfed. He said he could not tell if anyone was inside.

"There was so much fire that you couldn't tell anything and I wasn't about to get close because this fire was really going," Quirion said. "The glass was broken out of the whole car, so the fire went extremely quick."

Quirion said he suspected that the Fire Department had just been called about the fire because fire officials arrived about four minutes later -- about the amount of time one would expect for arrival.

"The fire was going awful quick in a very short time and that doesn't happen in an accidental fire," Quirion said.

He said when he heard the news Tuesday that the fire was not accidental, it all made sense.

This was not only the incident in recent memory of an apparent self-immolation, McCausland said.

In Hancock County, a college student doused himself in gasoline and set himself on fire earlier this year, McCausland said. ..News Source.. by JOEL ELLIOTT Staff Writer

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