Naples man admits setting fire to ex-girlfriend’s clothes, other charges

AUBURN — A Naples man accused of choking his ex-girlfriend, setting her clothes on fire and then fleeing police in nearby woods is spending nine months and a day in jail on related criminal charges.

Christian Coley Photo by Lewiston Police Department

In a plea deal reached with prosecutors, Christian D. Conley, 29, pleaded guilty on Tuesday to eight counts stemming from an incident in August 2021 when Conley’s girlfriend took refuge with him in a Lewiston flooring company after Conley knocked a plate of food out of her hands and then assaulted her in their apartment, according to Assistant District Attorney Katherine Hudson-MacRae.

Conley had followed her to the business and was knocking on the door when police were called to the scene.

A month later, Conley drove to his ex-girlfriend’s home in Lewiston, climbed onto the roof of the building and threatened to kill himself.

His ex-girlfriend fled.

Half an hour later, she returned to find a pile of her clothes burning in the driveway, Hudson-MacRae told Androscoggin County Superior Court Judge Harold Stewart II on Tuesday.

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Conley pulled the victim out of his car and pushed him to the ground, Hudson-MacRae said.

Conley ran into his ex-girlfriend’s house and damaged the front door, a window and a shower.

He came out of the victim’s home with a knife that he threatened to kill her and himself with, swinging the knife in her direction, Hudson-MacRae said.

He stabbed the victim’s car with the knife and hit her with a shovel, then disabled the car by ripping out its battery, the prosecutor said.

Conley wrapped his arm around his ex-girlfriend’s neck and began strangling her, then kneeling her in her ribs as she lay on the ground, Hudson-Mac Rae said.

Police found Conley hiding in nearby bushes before fleeing into nearby woods. A police dog followed him, but he refused to stop for police and was eventually subdued with a Taser, she said.

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Conley has been charged with nine crimes related to that incident, including arson.

Prosecutors dropped five of those charges on Tuesday, including arson. Conley was sentenced to four years in prison, but the judge suspended all of that time except nine months and a day on a felony charge of criminally threatening domestic violence. After his release, Conley will be on probation for two years.

Conley also admitted to seven other crimes while out on bail, most of which stemmed from the August 2021 incident. Sentences for these crimes will run concurrently with the nine-month-and-one-day sentence, said the judge. Conley has been in jail for about eight months for which he will be credited with his sentence, Judge Stewart said.

Conley’s criminal conduct began in August and continued for more than a month, according to the judge.

“It’s tragic,” he said. “I mean, your life got out of hand quickly and dangerously.”

Now that Conley is “clean and sober,” Stewart said, and with the help of mental health and substance abuse counseling, he should be able to return to the crime-free life he lived before August.

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Conley had no criminal record.

A letter to the judge written by Conley’s ex-girlfriend was read out in court on Tuesday.

In it, she said, “I don’t think Christian needs to do more time.”

She said Conley had to be with her two children.

The victim, who has serious health issues, said she and Conley “collided emotionally. He made a mistake.”

But, she added, “He’s also the most amazing man I’ve ever known. He has done things for me that no one else has ever done. I love you, Christian. Please, your honor. Let him out.

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Conley’s attorney, Edward Rabasco, said his client became a crack user about six months before his first criminal conduct.

The conditions of Conley’s release from prison include no possession of alcohol and illegal drugs, or firearms. He must complete a domestic violence court program as well as mental health and addiction treatment.

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