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Man confesses in North Side arson case



Published: Tue, September 5, 2006 @ 12:00 a.m.



The prosecutor said the defendant is a flight risk; the judge set $1 million bond.

By PATRICIA MEADE

VINDICATOR CRIME REPORTER

YOUNGSTOWN -- Jacob Perrotta confessed torching five houses on the North Side "for the excitement of it," an arson investigator said.

Perrotta, 23, of Cooper Street was arraigned today in municipal court on five counts of arson. Judge Robert A. Douglas Jr. set bond at $1 million and ordered that Perrotta be placed on electronically monitored house arrest if the bond is posted.

Bassil Ally, assistant city prosecutor, told the judge that Perrotta confessed to an arson investigator that the fires were set for fun. Ally described Perrotta as "nomadic," saying he hasn't had a residence in the past eight years and his mother lives in New York.

Ally said Perrotta's actions put numerous firefighters' lives at risk. The prosecutor asked for the high bond, saying Perrotta is a flight risk.

Perrotta, who was arrested Friday, is accused of setting fire to vacant houses at 16 Tacoma Ave., 51 Woodbine Ave., 12 Saranac Ave., 52 New York Ave. and 43 McGuffey Road (right off Wick Avenue).

Lt. Kevin Johnson, an arson investigator, said 51 vacant North Side structures, mostly houses, were set on fire between July 2005 and March. A few were torched more than once.

He reasoned that the fires ceased in March because Perrotta and his accomplice knew investigators were close to solving the crimes.

Suspected in other cases

Johnson said after court that Perrotta is a suspect in other North Side arsons.

"They were doing it for the excitement of it," Johnson said. He said Perrotta did not act alone and is cooperating with the ongoing investigation.

Capt. Alvin Ware, head of the arson bureau, has said he thought a pyromaniac was setting the fires and then staying close by to watch the houses burn.

Many of the properties were sold in bulk through negotiated tax lien sales. Bulk means good and bad properties are included in each sale.

Johnson said the $5,000 reward offered by the Ohio Blue Ribbon Arson Committee helped bring in tips. The committee, made up of firefighters, police officers and insurance officials, offers rewards from the insurance industry for information leading to the identification of arsonists.

meade@vindy.com




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