Blackstone Valley, Crime, Local News, News, Top Video

DCYF cuts ties with embattled Pawtucket group home agency

[anvplayer video=”WPRI:1890952″]

PAWTUCKET, R.I. (WPRI) — The state’s child welfare agency has cut ties with a Pawtucket group home agency that was the subject of a scathing report detailing drug use, lack of supervision and even sex trafficking at the agency’s three locations.

The Department of Children, Youth and Families (DCYF) said Tuesday it was canceling its contract with Blackstone Valley Youth & Family Collaborative. The decision came days after a State House hearing where lawmakers grilled DCYF’s director about why the group home agency had not been shut down.

In a press release, DCYF said they had given Blackstone’s executive director, Daniel Brito, time to remedy the problems detailed in a report by the Office of the Child Advocate, a watchdog over DCYF. On March 1, a DCYF team went to review the corrective actions, and determined the concerns were not fully addressed.

”The safety and well-being of our youth is of the utmost importance,” said DCYF director Trista Piccola. “When we learn of incidents or concerns involving institutional care providers, or anyone who is charged with the care of children and youth in our state, we investigate and take action.”

DCYF will have 30 days to find alternative placements for the 5 young people currently living in the two group homes. A third location was also part of the Child Advocate report, but that house burned down last year and has not re-opened.

While DCYF had stopped sending new referrals to the group home agency, which houses youth ages 16-21, lawmakers at the House Oversight committee last week were shocked that the agency’s contract hadn’t immediately been terminated after the report came out in late January.

”It is my hope that when you leave here, that place will be shut down. Because it needs to be shut down. Even burnt down,” said Rep. Anastasia Williams, D-Providence, who stood up and left the meeting after making the remark.

Jennifer Griffith, the Child Advocate, told the committee she didn’t believe the agency could be rehabilitated. The report included revelations about widespread drug abuse, human trafficking and even weapons in the homes run by Blackstone.

A former Blackstone employee is also facing human trafficking charges, accused of housing underage trafficking victims at one of the group homes.

Crime, Local News, News, Providence, Top Video, West Bay

Affidavit: Sen. Kettle sent nude photos of girlfriend to married friend

[anvplayer video=”WPRI:1860111″]

COVENTRY, R.I. (WPRI) — State Sen. Nicholas Kettle allegedly sent nude photos of his girlfriend to a friend in exchange for similar photos of the friend’s wife, according to a court document obtained by Eyewitness News.

The state police affidavit, filed in Kent County District Court, lays out the case for a video voyeurism charge against Kettle. He was arrested on the charge on Friday after an investigation that involved the seizure of multiple cell phones, iPads and computers.

The case is separate from two extortion charges filed against Kettle. Those stem from a secret grand jury indictment that was unsealed Monday.

In the video voyeurism affidavit, State Police Detective Robert Hopkins says Kettle’s girlfriend at the time came into the State Police barracks with Kettle’s iPad, which he had left at her house. She said she found text messages on it between Kettle and a friend, in which Kettle shared nude photos of the girlfriend.

“He sent explicit pictures of now I believe his ex-girlfriend to another subject out of state without her knowledge,” Lt. Col. Joseph Philbin said.

The photos, according to the affidavit, all showed the girlfriend looking in the other direction. She said she had no idea the photos were taken.

On Jan. 16, state police executed a search warrant at Kettle’s home and seized his iPhone.

According to the affidavit, Kettle sent the friend photos of his girlfriend while the friend sent nude photos of his wife. The two met in the Boy Scouts, according to Kettle’s girlfriend.

“Mr. Kettle stated that he needed to be ‘stealthy’ and was asking [the friend] for advice on how to take a video without [his girlfriend] knowing,” Detective Hopkins writes in the document. Hopkins also said the text messages with the nude photos had been deleted from Kettle’s iPhone, but had synced to other devices including his iPad via iCloud.

Police also executed a search warrant at Kettle’s friend’s house in New Hampshire, seizing his electronic devices.

Kettle was arraigned by a justice of the peace on one count of video voyeurism on Friday. An arraignment in Kent County District Court has not yet been scheduled.

Kettle’s attorney, Paul DiMaio, said he doesn’t believe the facts of the case amount to video voyeurism because the statute requires the photos be taken for “sexual gratification.”

“I don’t think he did that,” DiMaio said.

“We wouldn’t have charged if there wasn’t gratification,” Lt. Col. Philbin said.

In a separate case Monday, Kettle was indicted on two counts of extortion, accused of threatening and attempting to compel a Senate page to have sex with him. Both the Democratic and Republican leaders of the Senate have called for his resignation, and said they would support a vote to expel him from the Senate.

[anvplayer video=”WPRI:1859492″]

Crime, Local News, News, Providence, Top Video

Police sought ‘evidence of great value’ from murdered former doctor’s safety deposit box

[anvplayer video=”WPRI:1847322″]

EAST PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Police seized the contents of former doctor Clive Bridgham’s safety deposit box including jewelry and other documents while investigating his murder, according to a search warrant affidavit obtained by Eyewitness News.

The affidavit, requesting a warrant to search and seize items from Bridgham’s TD Bank safety deposit box, says a detective “believes evidence of great value relating to the horrific homicide of Clive Bridgham may be contained within said TD Bank Safe Deposit Box #1” located a Barrington bank branch.

The warrant was granted, and police seized the contents in the box, which were listed as $7200 cash, assorted antique jewelry, Dr. Bridgham’s will, dated 8/6/2002, and assorted documents.

It’s unclear of what value the items are to the investigation. Police have not released a motive for the alleged murder, for which 21-year-old Owen Morris is charged.

Morris, a former patient of Bridgham’s who also filed a complaint against him with the state Department of Health, was arrested on Jan. 22. Bridgham was found dead in his Pleasant Street home on Jan. 11. Police said he was stabbed multiple times.

Police discovered the existence of the safety deposit box during their search of Bridgham’s home, according to the new affidavit. “Detectives found a red envelope labeled with “TD Bank”…on one side and “#1″ written on the other side. Contained inside the small envelope were 2 silver colored keys,” the document says.

The request to search the box, including the statement that the items could be of “great value” to the investigation was made on Jan. 31, after Morris was charged with the murder.

Morris’ attorneys are slated to hold a status conference in Superior Court on Tuesday to determine his next court date. Morris has not yet entered a plea, and his case is pending indictment.

[anvplayer video=”WPRI:1846655″]

Crime, Local News, News, Providence, West Bay

Man says RI attorney used him as ‘scapegoat’ for check-cashing scheme

[anvplayer video=”WPRI:1815760″]

PAWTUCKET, R.I. (WPRI) — Marcus Crook says he was surprised when he was picked up by police at his job in Connecticut back in December, and sent to Rhode Island to face charges in an alleged check-cashing scheme from 2016.

The 30-year-old Pawtucket man was charged with three crimes, accused of cashing checks from the business account of attorney Robert McNelis at a local establishment, which lost more than $7,000 in the alleged scheme.

“He used me as a scapegoat,” Crook said in an interview with Eyewitness News on Thursday.

Police said McNelis had accused Crook of stealing his checkbook. But a month later, McNelis was also arrested, charged with 11 counts including bank fraud and soliciting another to commit a crime.

“Every check that was cashed, I was directed to do by Rob,” Crook said. “I had no reason to believe that anything I was doing was illegal.”

Crook, who said he knew McNelis because the lawyer had considered representing him in a civil case, told State Police that McNelis had directed him to cash the checks. Police said Wednesday: “The investigation corroborated certain key aspects of what Mr. Crook had told investigators.”

“I had text messages back and forth between Rob and I,” Crook said. “State Police aren’t going to go arrest him on 11 counts just on the word of me.”

State Police spokesperson Laura Meade Kirk declined to comment on those text messages on Thursday. But McNelis’ attorney–his twin brother Ryan McNelis–claims the texts are fabricated.

“A doctored, fabricated text record that Mr. Crook created by a cloned cell phone,” Ryan McNelis said in an interview on Wednesday.

Ryan McNelis said his brother maintains his innocence, and believes he will be exonerated as the case is adjudicated. He also contends that Crook stole his checkbook from Robert McNelis’ Johnston law office.

“He had access to the building and raided my brother’s office while my brother was away,” Ryan McNelis said.

“I didn’t steal them from his office,” Crook countered, claiming Robert McNelis handed him the checks. “I was actually sitting on his couch at his house.”

Crook says McNelis told him he needed the cash to pay back a woman from a case that was the subject of a disciplinary matter before the Supreme Court in 2016. According to the court order, McNelis had a non-lawyer assistant who had access to his financial accounts, and overcharged a client. McNelis paid the woman back $9,100, and was publicly censured by the court for his “recklessness.”

The court said he had ample time to learn from his errors after a previous public censureship in 2014.

McNelis was arrested at the Garrahy courthouse in Providence on Wednesday, and later arraigned and released on personal recognizance. His brother said he was heading on a belated honeymoon to Europe on Thursday.

Crook has a lengthy criminal record, and acknowledges he has broken the law on multiple occasions. He said McNelis paid him to cash the checks back in 2016, and he needed the money at the time.

“I’m responsible for what I do, and what I do wrong,” Crook said. “That’s all on me.” But he says he feels that the attorney exploited him in this case.

“A lawyer who’s supposed to have my best interest at heart,” Crook said. “Instead of having my best interest at heart, he used me as a scapegoat.”

Crime, Local News, News, Providence, Top Video

Man accused of killing local doctor had filed Department of Health complaint against him

[anvplayer video=”WPRI:1789517″]

EAST PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — A Warren man charged in the killing of former Barrington chiropractor Clive Bridgham had recently filed a complaint against him, according to East Providence Police.

Owen Morris, 21, was charged Tuesday with first-degree murder, accused of stabbing Bridgham numerous times at his Pleasant Street home. Police disclosed at a news conference Tuesday afternoon that Morris had been one of Bridgham’s patients.

The complaint filed with the Department of Health based on a 2016 incident led Bridgham to agree to surrender his chiropractic license in September 2017. Paperwork from the Department of Health says a patient accused him of “violating the professional boundaries of the chiropractic physician-patient relationship.” The surrender was accepted on Nov. 1.

Two months later, on Jan. 11, police got a call from Bridgham’s significant other, reporting that she had not heard from him. Police went to check on him and forced entry into his Pleasant Street home, police said. They found he had been stabbed “multiple times.”

“It was particularly brutal,” Parella said. He described it as “an attack with an edged weapon,” but declined to say what the weapon was or if police have recovered it. Parella said the alleged murder was premeditated.

One day after the murder, investigators sought records surrounding the surrender of Bridgham’s chiropractic license, according to a search warrant obtained by Eyewitness News.

In the warrant’s affidavit, a detective explains he needs records from the Department of Health related to complaints made about Bridgham, including names, “so as to assist in the investigation of the death of Bridgham.”

Twelve days after the homicide, police arrested Morris on a warrant Monday and charged him with murder. Morris was arraigned in Providence District Court Tuesday morning and ordered to be held without bail. His defense attorney, Jason Knight, declined to comment on the charge.

Bridgham’s license was also put on probation in 2003 after he was accused of having a sexual encounter with a patient, according to a consent order. Police declined to say if any other complaints were discovered, but said they are investigating.

“Everything we looked at was a contributing factor in making this arrest,” Parella said.

In a police report from 1999, a neighbor accused Bridgham of being a “pedophile,” claiming he sexually assaulted a 12-year-old boy whom the neighbor had sent to mow Bridgham’s lawn. The neighbor told police the boy’s family had declined to pursue charges.

Around the same time Bridgham was relinquishing his medical license, Morris withdrew from the University of Rhode Island. The economics major was on the Dean’s List and lacrosse team, according to spokesperson Dave Lavalee, but took a leave of absence in the spring of 2017. He eventually withdrew from the university in September.

Clive Bridgham was found murdered in his East Providence home on Jan. 11, 2018. (WPRI file photo)

[anvplayer video=”WPRI:1789997″]

Crime, Local News, Massachusetts, National, New England, News, SE Mass, Top Video, US & World, West Bay

Warwick man sentenced to 15 years for terrorist plot after flipping for the government

[anvplayer video=”WPRI:1725447″]

BOSTON, Mass. (WPRI) — Occasionally choking back tears, a Warwick man who plotted to behead a conservative blogger renounced ISIS in a Boston courtroom Wednesday morning, vowing to become a productive member of society after he serves time for his role in the terrorist plot.

Nicholas Rovinski, 27, was sentenced to serve 15 years in prison for conspiring to support ISIS and conspiring to commit an act of terrorism. He will receive credit for time served behind bars since his arrest in June 2015.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephanie Siegmann acknowledged in court that Rovinski differed from other federal terror subjects in that he has publicly renounced ISIS and was willing to cooperate with federal investigators, including testifying for three days against his co-conspirator David Wright.

Siegmann said Rovinski never complained nor wavered in his decision to cooperate during long prep sessions for his testimony, even as threats were made to kill him and his family and to behead his cat.

Rovinski, Wright and Wright’s uncle Usaamah Rahim all plotted to behead conservative blogger Pamela Geller back in 2015, after ISIS (also known as ISIL or the Islamic State Group) issued a decree urging members to kill her over a cartoon contest of the Prophet Muhammad. The plot was never carried out.

“I’m striving to be a new man,” Rovinski said in court Wednesday. “I accept responsibility for my actions.” He said his crimes, for which he pleaded guilty in 2016, were full of “animus” and “evil.”

Rovinski also said he hopes to be a productive member of society upon his release, aiming to do charity work to help the poor and veterans. “He feels really badly about having signed on to an ideology that is inimical to the military forces that protect the country,” defense attorney William Fick said outside court.

While the plea agreement called for a possible sentence of 15-22 years, prosecutors and the defense team jointly recommended the lower-end 15 year sentence on Wednesday.

“There’s no doubt that the defendant…posed a grave threat to the United States in June 2015,” Siegmann said. She said his diagnosis of cerebral palsy is “not an excuse, but part of why he was so swayed” by Wright.

Court sketch of David Wright in court.

Wright was sentenced to 28 years in prison on Tuesday after being convicted by a jury in October. He was painted as the mastermind of the beheading plot, manipulating Rovinski into agreeing to the plan. Rahim, the third co-conspirator, was killed by police back in 2015 after lunging at officers with a knife.

After his arrest, Rovinski wrote two letters in prison to Wright, continuing to express a desire to recruit people to ISIS. But prosecutors said he later denounced the ideology and has fully cooperated since.

In emotional letters to the court, Rovinski’s family members described him as someone who had trouble fitting in, in part because of his disability, and asserted he was “brainwashed” by Wright after Rovinski turned to Islam following some troubled teen years.

“They knew he was vulnerable and naive, and that he was a lost young man trying to fit in and find friends,” Rovinski’s mother Lori Rovinski wrote in a letter to the court, asking for leniency.

Family members declined to comment on the sentence after the hearing.

Rovinski’s Twitter photo from 2015

“If he hadn’t had the misfortune for encountering Mr. Wright online, this phase may have gone by unnoticed,” said Fick.

Still, Fick agreed the sentence as fair, while also calling it an “extremely, extremely severe punishment.”

Judge Bill Young recommended that Rovinski be placed at FCI Danbury in Connecticut, a low-security facility where he would participate in a skills program. He was also ordered to have no contact with Pamela Geller, and to be on supervised release for the rest of his life once he completes his sentence.

“These are most serious crimes,” Young said to Rovinski. “I’m glad you can acknowledge how fair the government has been.”


[anvplayer video=”WPRI:1724666″]

Crime, Local News, News, Top Video, West Bay

Police allege former chief slapped his wife, had pattern of abuse

[anvplayer video=”WPRI:1693820″]

CRANSTON, R.I. (WPRI) — Cranston’s former police chief allegedly hit his wife “with an open hand” before being arrested Thursday night and charged with two misdemeanor crimes.

Marco Palombo, 53, was booked and briefly placed in a jail cell at the very department where he was once chief Thursday night. He was released on personal recognizance and is due in court on Dec. 12 to face charges of domestic disorderly conduct and domestic simple assault.

According to the 11-page arrest report obtained by Eyewitness News, police were called to Palombo’s home by a family member who reported he was “out of control,” before the call disconnected.

Officers who responded to Palombo’s home were told he had struck his wife. “I observed the skin on her right cheek and neck to be covered in red irritation consistent with being slapped,” Sgt. Ryan Shore wrote in the report.

Shore also said Palombo’s wife reported the alleged assault was part of a pattern of abuse.

“[She] went on to state that this isn’t the first time that physical abuse had occurred and she had also had to have surgery on her thumb due to a prior incident which went unreported to police,” the report said.

Palombo was informed at his home that he would be arrested, and was “extremely reluctant and irritated by the decision,” according to police, and asked to speak to someone with a higher rank.

Palombo was arraigned by a justice of the peace at the Cranston Police Department Thursday night and released on $1,000 personal recognizance.

The office of attorney Peter DiBiase confirmed he is representing Palombo in the criminal case, but declined to comment on the charges.

Palombo served 27 years on the Cranston police force before resigning as chief in 2014 amid the parking ticket blitz scandal.

Crime, Local News, News, Providence, Top Video

Providence man pleads guilty to killing pregnant girlfriend

[anvplayer video=”WPRI:1549406″]

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — A Providence man admitted Thursday to killing his girlfriend and her unborn child in 2015 by beating her repeatedly with a fire extinguisher and setting her apartment on fire.

Born Smith, 31, pleaded guilty to first-degree murder and first-degree arson and was sentenced to two life sentences by Superior Court Justice Sarah Taft-Carter. The sentences will run concurrently.

The victim, Aliss Collins, was eight and a half months pregnant at the time of her death, according to family members who attended the plea hearing. She planned to name her son Alexander.

“Since Aliss was killed my whole world is changed forever,” said Olabisi Agboola, Collins’ younger sister. “The amount of pain that is in my heart…I cannot quantify into words.”

In court, Assistant Attorney General John Krollman said Cranston first responders went to to Collins’ Marcy Street apartment on Nov. 13, 2015 for the report of a fire, subsequently finding Collins on the bathroom floor with severe head injuries.

Krollman said Collins’ cause of death was ruled to be blunt force head injuries and smoke inhalation. Police charged Smith with her murder and the arson after discovering his handprint on a fire extinguisher that was also covered in Collins’ blood.

Smith had just discovered he was the father of Collins’ child, Krollman said. A DNA test later proved he was the biological father.

Smith admitted to the crimes and declined an opportunity to address the court.

Leemu Seabook, Collins’ older sister, described her as a “beautiful, educated, caring, giving, strong, excited woman full of life, as she shared pictures of her growing belly and constantly updated her sisters on her motherhood milestones.”

Multiple family members described her as having a high-pitched, infectious laugh that everyone could recognize.

“My sweet Aliss, my little sister who hated getting her hair braided,” Seabrook said. “My sister who laughed, and made you laugh.”

The family plans to plant an apple tree in Collins’ honor, and in memory of an annual apple picking trip she started. Collins’ aunt, Lisa Jackson, held up a photo of Collins at her final trip to the apple orchard. She was seven months pregnant.

After the sentencing, Col. Michael Winquist said he was “very proud” of the work his detectives did to solve the case. He said the palm print on the fire extinguisher was the key piece of evidence that tied Smith to the crime.

Smith will first become eligible for parole after 25 years, according to the Attorney General’s office.

Crime, Local News, National, News, Providence, Top Video

FBI cracking down on human trafficking in Rhode Island communities

[anvplayer video=”WPRI:1533657″] PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — When FBI divisions nationwide conducted a three-day crackdown on human trafficking and child exploitation last month, the sting turned up one arrest in Rhode Island, in the seaside town of Tiverton. Police there arrested Jerry Isme, 27, who lives in Boston, for allegedly trafficking a 16-year-old girl.

The arrest sheds light on what the FBI tells Eyewitness News is a common misconception: that sex trafficking is mostly taking place in large cities. Traffickers don’t discriminate by zip code when they choose their victims, according to Special Agent Brooks Broadus, because the internet allows them to target vulnerable women and girls from anywhere.

“We’ve seen girls from Maine all the way though Rhode Island, and they’re actually being groomed from Boston,” Special Agent Broadus said in an exclusive interview with Eyewitness News on Wednesday. Broadus said the I-95 corridor is often used to traffic victims along the east coast.

In the Tiverton case, a police report obtained by Eyewitness News describes police approaching Isme after he parked his car at a location police did not disclose. A woman and a teenage girl were in the car, according to police, along with two boxes of condoms and a hotel room card.

“I was just giving them a ride,” police say Isme told them. “I already told y’all I’m not selling them [girls], I’m not getting paid for this.” The officer who wrote the report said he had not asked Isme if he was selling the girl, who police later discovered was 16. The victim spoke to police and Isme was charged with sex trafficking of a minor.

The sting was part of Operation Cross Country, the eleventh iteration of the nationwide FBI initiative that ran from Oct. 12-15. According to the FBI, 84 exploited children were rescued and 120 traffickers were arrested.

“Anyone can be vulnerable to this situation given the right opportunity,” Broadus said. He said victims come from low-income and wealthy communities, and span all races and ethnicities.

The “pimps,” as the traffickers are called, are typically able to groom their victims into believing a lifestyle in the sex trade would be glamorous and lucrative, before trapping them in a situation that can be difficult to escape from. The FBI says some suspects use a tactic called “debt bondage,” where traffickers charge victims for transportation and other living costs that they’ll never be able to pay down.

“A predator knows who their victims are,” Agent Broadus said. “They understand who are the weak ones that they can actually exploit…they will recognize that in a child and start exploiting them.”

Warwick Detective Kerri Chatten works on the Human Trafficking and Child Exploitation Task Force, which investigates these crimes and often infiltrates hotel rooms, truck stops and private residences to rescue exploited children.

She says a big part of catching the predators involves cooperation from hotels and motels, where sex crimes are often committed.  A brochure provided to Eyewitness News advises housekeepers to look for “multiple condoms in the trash,” or men waiting in the hall. Employees who work in the lobby are encouraged to converse with minors arriving with adults to try and get a sense of whether they are in danger.

“If we can get to these young people at a younger age and we can provide them services and help them, maybe we can prevent it,” Detective Chatten said.

There are warning signs for parents to look for, such as a girl coming home with expensive gifts and phones with no explanation, or a drastic change in behavior after starting to associate with a new person. Some victims are even “branded” with tattoos by their pimps.

The FBI only recently began reporting sex crime statistics to its Uniform Crime Report, but the first report that came out in 2015 only contained data from 13 states. The FBI is planning to collect more data in future reports.

According to data from the Rhode Island Attorney General’s Office and U.S. Attorney’s office, there were 11 sex trafficking cases prosecuted in Rhode Island in 2016. Year-to-date in 2017, U.S. Attorney spokesperson Jim Martin said there have been eight cases. Year-to-date statistics from the Attorney General’s office were not immediately available.

The numbers are almost certainly lower than the total number of victims, because sex trafficking crimes are under-reported by victims. Special Agent Broadus said that’s the reason the FBI is not focused on arresting women in prostitution cases, because it often takes 8-10 contacts with a victim before they disclose they are being trafficked.

According to the FBI, these are possible indicators of human trafficking:

  • Working in the same place they live
  • Poor living conditions
  • Letting someone else speak for them
  • Not being in possession of their own travel/immigration documents
  • Locks being on the outside of doors rather than inside
  • Increasing debt
  • Boss taking their pay
  • Paying boss for food, clothing, rent
  • Not free to leave
  • Someone always watching/guarding
  • Threatened by boss

Victims who need assistance can call the National Human Trafficking Resource Center Hotline at (888) 373-7888, or their local police department.

Crime, Local News, News, SE Mass, Top Video

New Bedford man charged in series of 9 arsons

[anvplayer video=”WPRI:1529080″]

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.

[anvplayer video=”WPRI:1528653″]