December 16, 2009
BERLIN — Police Chief Peter Morency announced on Monday that Police Commission Chair Steve Griffin made a private donation of $5,000 to increase the reward for information involving suspicious fires. The reward is now $10,000.
The chief made the announcement at a news conference on Monday surrounded by representatives from the State Fire Marshall's office and State Police. He also announced police have arrested one person in connection with suspicious fires, and they have identified a second person of interest.
Police arrested Paul Pinette, 53, of Berlin, for contempt of court. Chief Morency said Mr. Pinette was identified as a person of interest based on information provided by the various agencies involved in the fire investigations. Mr. Pinette was arrested after after refusing four times to allow police to take his hand print, which, like a finger print, is unique to each individual. Bail was set at $1,000 cash and Mr. Pinette's court date is February 23. He has not been charged with arson or any fire-related crime.
Chief Morency could not give an estimate as to if or when the second person of interest would be arrested, he said, but the reward has helped in generating information.
"Sometimes we're just missing a piece of the puzzle," he said, and one tip could fill in that gap.
"Somebody knows something out there," said State Fire Marshal J. William Degnan. He compared lighting a match to commit arson to pulling the trigger of a gun. he said it was good to see the community pull together to try to eradicate this problem.
Chief Morency thanked Mr. Griffin for his donation, and also Seventh Street Graphics, which donated the printing of the reward signs.
"I've had too many people tell me they can't sleep at night," Mr. Griffin said when asked why he decided to make the donation. His hope is his the reward increase will result in an increase in the amount of information coming in, he said.
And if it weren't for Chief Morency's insistence, he said, he would have made the donation anonymously.
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives announced the $5,000 reward last week. The reward will go to anyone who gives information that leads to an arrest and conviction of those involved in arson.
Berlin has had 16 suspicious or undetermined fires since the last arson arrest, the chief said, plus several other arson attempts that were extinguished before the buildings were fully involved.
"We thought Kerry Tibbetts would be the end of this," Chief Morency said referencing the man believed to be responsible for some of the 2008 fires but was determined by the court to by mentally unfit to stand trial. "We are probably talking multiple suspects here. We're going to have to continue our efforts."