Teens arraigned on Dever arson charges
Wednesday, April 15th 2009
Four Bridgewater teens accused of setting fires that caused extensive damage to a vacant Paul A. Dever School building were arraigned Wednesday in Taunton District Court.
Eighteen-year-olds Robert Cox, John Anderson, Cameron St. Laurent, and 17-year-old Alec St. Laurent, were released on personal recognizance on charges of trespassing on state property, malicious destruction of property over $250 and burning personalty.
They are among a group of six who face allegations stemming from a Jan. 2 blaze at the Paul Dever complex. Cohorts include a juvenile, whose name could not be printed due to his age, and John Nicholas O’Donnell, 20, both of Bridgewater.
A criminal complaint was issued Tuesday for O’Donnell, who is being charged with trespassing on state property and will be arraigned at a later date.
The incident occurred just before 8 p.m. at an abandoned residential building. A security officer reported a fire at the two-story structure commonly known as House #32, and it was quickly extinguished upon the arrival of Taunton fire personnel.
Later that night, Massachusetts State Police Fire and Explosion Investigation Section began exploration into the cause of the incident. A joint effort between Paul Dever security officers, Taunton police department and state police led to the six suspects.
In searching the area of the fire trespassers, reports say a security officer discovered fresh footprints in the snow that led him to the rear of New England Pottery, at 530 John Hancock Road.
The suspects were stopped by Taunton police as their vehicle was exiting the New England Pottery parking lot, and teens were questioned by investigators.
Anderson, of 165 Comfort St., told troopers that he and his friends had been on the Paul Dever property earlier that night. Reports say the teenager, who was in the building at the time of the blaze, told officers he piled a stack of papers on the first floor desk and Alec St. Laurent used a lighter to set them on fire.
Cameron St. Laurent told troopers that he and Cox, of 230 Vernon St., did the same on the second floor. Then, reports say everyone “ran from the building and knew it was on fire.”
Despite accounts of the incident that put both at the scene, Alec St. Laurent and Cox maintained their innocence during their interview with troopers. According to reports, Cox claimed Anderson left the group in the car for 20 minutes while he met up with friends on the Paul Dever grounds. He told troopers the group remained in the vehicle until Anderson returned.
Their younger friend told troopers that he and O’Donnell were not in the building when the fires were lit. Reports say the two left the house and waited across the street when igniting fires became the topic of discussion.
Reports say the property was not equipped with any security alarm systems at the time of the fire, and it is unknown if the building was secure.
This is just the first of many similar incidents on the restricted Paul Dever School property, which has become the target of destructive behavior over the years. Dever has experienced a string of arson fires over the past year, including one on Dec. 31 and an October 2008 blaze that destroyed a 1,300-square-foot building.
Trespassing and vandalism have also become trend and security guards have struggled to keep young people off the abandoned grounds, located on Bay Street.
Cox, Anderson, and Alec and Cameron St. Laurent, both of 99 Eagle Trace, are due back in court on May 20 for a pretrial hearing.
This article was written by Ashley Lopes and published by Wicked Local Taunton on Wednesday, April 15th 2009 and NOT owned by nor affiliated with opacity.us, but are recorded here solely for educational use. The photographs featured in the article are randomly selected from the Dever State School galleries on opacity.us unless noted otherwise; they may not directly relate to the article subject matter except for the site location - any other relation is purely coincidental.