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New Bedford man charged in series of 9 arsons

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NEW BEDFORD, Mass. (WPRI) — A New Bedford man is being held without bail on charges he set nine fires in the north end of the city in a three-month span.

Jose DeBrito, 30, of Sawyer Street, was arrested on arson charges earlier this month following fires on Myrtle and State Streets.

On Friday, police said an investigation by city detectives, fire officials, the District Attorney’s office and the state Fire Marshal’s office led to DeBrito being charged with setting an additional seven fires.

Investigators allege DeBrito set fires at the following locations:

  • July 28: 79 Adams St.
  • July 31: 475 Coggeshall St.
  • Aug. 2: 470-472 Sawyer St.
  • Aug. 8: 140 Hathaway St.
  • Aug. 8: 78 Penniman St.
  • Sept. 7: Purity Linens, 405 Myrtle St.
  • Sept. 30: 231 Myrtle St.
  • Oct. 11: 149 Myrtle St.
  • Oct. 12: 245 State St.

Police said DeBrito poured gasoline on the windows or doors of the buildings then set them on fire and, in many cases, remained in the area to watch the building burn.

“It started happening more and more, and that’s all we could talk about,” said Melissa Fisher, who lives in the Coggeshall St. building that was set on fire on July. “What if they came back, what if somebody ends up getting killed?”

Police said DeBrito was formerly employed by Purity Linens, and one home was the residence of his former girlfriend. The remaining locations appear to have been selected at random, police said, though they’re all in close proximity of his Sawyer Street home.

“I’m sure they’re comforted to know they can go to sleep tonight and don’t have to worry about somebody setting their door or their window afire,” said New Bedford Police Chief Joseph Cordeiro in an interview with Eyewitness News.

Cordeiro said DeBrito had been a person of interest in the previous fires for a while, but police finally got enough evidence to charge him with all nine of them on Friday.

“He had the same MO,” Cordeiro said. “It was either doors, or windows that he was setting on fire. So he had the same MO and then it was just about putting a lot pieces together, a lot of hard work from our investigators.”

After being deemed dangerous at a hearing on Oct. 19, DeBrito was ordered held at the Bristol County House of Correction. He’s scheduled to appear in court for a probable cause hearing on Nov. 19.

“I hope he gets to spend some time in jail and think about all the damage that he’s caused, and possibly families that he could’ve ruined,” Fisher said.

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