Alleged arsonist is connected to JP blaze

David Taber

A man arrested Aug. 9 and charged in US District Court in connection with an arson fire in Roslindale that morning is a suspect in the April 2009 fire at JP Auto Body at 12-18 Rock Hill Rd.

The suspect, Jose Baez, 38, of Dorchester, allegedly regularly “used automobile tires as the central device for…fire setting,” according to an affidavit by Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Fire Arms and Explosives (ATF) agent Brian Oppedisano, provided to the Gazette by the US Department of Justice (DOJ).

There were four arsons involving automobile tires in Jamaica Plain in 2009. The fire at JP Auto Body is the only JP fire Baez is explicitly connected to in the affidavit.

Baez was arrested in the early hours of Monday morning, shortly after a fire broke out at around 3:45 a.m. at a residence at 11 Firth Rd. in Roslindale.

Baez allegedly had personal connections with the victims of all of the fires he is alleged to have started. The residents of the Roslindale home were allegedly his gambling associates, DOJ spokesperson Christina Dilorio-Sterling told the Gazette in a phone interview.

According to a press release from the DOJ, “Baez [is] a suspect in a series of arson fires in the City of Boston since 2008, and a Global Positioning System (GPS) had been attached to his vehicle. At 3:21 a.m….the GPS notified law enforcement that Baez’s vehicle had left his residence and was stationary on Bexley Road in Roslindale,” near Firth Road.

The ATF and the Boston Police and Fire departments were involved in the investigation, according to the press release.

MacDonald told the Gazette that Baez is a suspect in the April 2009 arson at JP Auto Body, one of four “tire arsons” in the neighborhood that year. In that case, eight or nine tires were set against three different wooden doors around the outside of the building and then ignited, the Gazette reported at the time.

In the criminal complaint, Oppedisano alleges Baez set fire to JP Auto Body after shop owner Matthew Hayes refused to refund $200 Baez had spent trying to fix a leak in the trunk of his car in 2008.

After the work was completed the trunk still leaked. When he looked at the car again, Hayes determined that, in addition to the “body rot in the upper trunk area” that he had fixed, “there were leaks around the rear window and vinyl roof,” which would require the attention of “an auto glass repair shop or a shop that specializes in vinyl roof repair,” the affidavit said.

When Hayes refused to refund the $200, Baez took him to small claims court, but lost the case, the affidavit says, citing a judgment for the defendant dated Sept. 2008.

The ATF affidavit also alleges Baez was responsible for a 2009 arson fire at a Kenmore Square dentist’s office where he had complaints about the service.

A dark-colored Chevrolet Caprice similar to Baez’s was spotted on surveillance tapes near both JP Auto Body and the dentist’s office at around the times of the fires, the affidavit says.

The other 2009 JP tire arsons included a Jan. 6 hair salon fire at 138A South St.; a Jan. 28 house fire at 111 School St.; and a Feb. 7 house fire at 20-22 1?2 Sigourney St. Early this year, arson investigators and then-City Councilor John Tobin put forward an $11,000 reward for information leading to arrests in the JP arson cases.

The Gazette previously reported that surveillance footage from the Sigourney Street fire showed a white or light-skinned Hispanic man on the scene at the time of the fire carrying tires and other material. In the affidavit, Baez is repeatedly described as a “light-skinned Hispanic man.”

The South St. hair salon, Maria’s Hair Fashion, had burned twice before—in 2006 in the same building at 138 South St. and in 2008 after it relocated to a Hyde Park building. It is now reopened at the 138 South St. location.

All three of those fires were ruled arsons.

The beauty salon’s Hyde Park landlord, Christ Stamatos also owns 615-619 Centre St., which was firebombed in 2006. [See related article.]

At least eight arson fires have burned JP homes and businesses since 2005.

Baez made his first court appearance Monday. In his testimony at that hearing Oppedisano said investigators had not sought a warrant before attaching the GPS device to Baez’s car, Dilorio-Sterling told the Gazette. Baez’s lawyer, William Fick, did not respond to Gazette phone calls requesting comment by press time.

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