Jehovah’s Witness church destroyed in arson, teenager charged

A teenager was charged with setting a fire that destroyed a Jehovah’s Witness Kingdom Hall Sunday morning, officials said.

Robert Nicoletti, 18, of Westfield, was arrested after he was seen leaving the area of the church. The fire was reported shortly before 6 a.m.

No one was injured, but the two-alarm blaze gutted the church on Southwick Road, according to Deputy Fire Chief Joseph Pac. A nearby storage shed that Nicoletti allegedly broke into was also destroyed.

State Fire Marshal Stephen D. Coan estimated the damage at between $400,000 to $500,000.

Pac said a suspicious liquid that may be gasoline was found around the building, and that apparently sped up the fire’s spread. He said it took about two hours to get the fire under control.

The fire was not thought to be a hate crime.

“We found there’s no direct motive of an anti-religious activity,” Coan said.

Nicoletti was being held Sunday on $10,000 cash bail and was scheduled to be arraigned Monday morning in Westfield District Court for burning a building and breaking and entering.

Source:
Associated Press, USA
Nov. 30, 2003
www.heraldtribune.com
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