Arsonist imprisoned, blamed for more fires

A Dorchester arsonist was sentenced to 15 years in federal prison last week for setting four fires, including one in Jamaica Plain. The judge also found him responsible for two other, previously unsolved JP fires that were part of an arson spree that terrorized the neighborhood from 2005 to 2009.

Jose L. Baez, 41, was convicted in August of four Boston-area arsons, including a 2009 blaze at JP Auto Body in Hyde Square. At his Dec. 14 sentencing, the judge ruled there is sufficient evidence to say Baez also committed four other arsons, including the repeat burnings of Maria’s Hair Salon on South Street in 2006 and 2009. Baez was not charged with those crimes, but under federal law, a judge can consider a convict’s probable other crimes when formulating a prison sentence.

Baez reportedly was motivated by revenge as he burned businesses and homes. In JP, he had filed an unsuccessful small-claims lawsuit against the body shop and had previously dated the owner of the hair salon, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for Massachusetts.

Several other arsons that happened in the same period in JP and other neighborhoods remain mysteries. They include yet another arson at Maria’s Hair Salon’s temporary location in Hyde Park in 2008, where it had moved after the first arson.

Other still mysterious JP arsons include the 2005 firebombing of the El Oriental de Cuba restaurant in Hyde Square; the 2006 firebombing of Century 21 Pondside Realty in central JP; and two house fires in 2009 in Egleston Square and Parkside. The two house fires used Baez’s favored arson method, involving car tires soaked in gasoline set against doors and set ablaze.

It is unclear whether Baez is considered a suspect in those cases. The U.S. Attorney’s Office did not return a Gazette phone call.

No one was killed in Baez’s arsons, but some residents and firefighters were injured and many were left homeless. Several businesses were destroyed. The judge also ordered Baez to pay $3.2 million in restitution to his victims.

Besides the eight arsons, Baez also was ruled responsible for possession of illegal drugs with intent to distribute. Arson investigators found approximately 400 grams of cocaine in a West Roxbury garage he rented, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

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