Man convicted in JP arson

A Dorchester man pleaded guilty yesterday in federal court to committing a string of revenge-motivated arsons in 2008-2010, including the 2009 burning of JP Auto Body in Hyde Square. The Jamaica Plain fire was one of eight arsons that plagued the neighborhood in 2005-2009, but the only one where a suspect was caught.

Jose L. Baez, 40, also admitted to arsons at a Cambridge Whole Foods Market where he once worked; a Back Bay dental office where he had been a patient; and a Roslindale house where he knew three residents, according to the U.S. Department of Justice. He had disputes with all of those business and people, according to prosecutors. The federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, which investigated the case, previously said that Baez had a dispute with JP Auto Body over a $200 charge for a leaky car trunk and lost a small-claims court case about it.

JP was terrorized by a wave of house and business arson fires in 2005-2009 that were set late at night by various methods. The JP Auto Body arson on Rock Hill Road was one of four in JP that year that were started by igniting gasoline-soaked tires set against a door or wall. No one, including Baez, has been charged in those other 2009 cases, which included a South Street hair salon and houses in Egleston Square and Parkside. The JP Auto Body blaze did an estimated $65,000 in damages, but the business was able to reopen within several days.

Baez faces the possibility of decades in prison when he is sentenced on Nov. 29.


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