Arsonist now blamed for entire JP fire spree

November 21, 2014
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A Dorchester arsonist currently in federal prison for setting four fires, including one in Jamaica Plain, is now blamed by investigators for an entire nine-blaze arson spree that terrorized JP from 2005 to 2009.

That allegedly includes the notorious—and long unsolved—2005 firebombing of Hyde Square’s popular El Oriental de Cuba restaurant, a crime that kicked off the local arson wave of homes and businesses.

The new accusations against arsonist Jose L. Baez, 43, were made by Boston Fire Investigation Unit officials at a Nov. 14 meeting of the Jamaica Plain Problem Property Committee meeting, according to committee member Michael Reiskind.

Baez was convicted in 2012 of four Boston-area arsons, including a 2009 blaze at JP Auto Body in Hyde Square. At his sentencing, the judge ruled there was 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.

It is unclear what new evidence, if any, led to the new attributions to Baez.

A Gazette call to Boston Police for confirmation was not returned. A Gazette call to the U.S. Department of Justice requesting information on whether Baez would be charged with the new crimes, or whether his sentence would be altered, was also not returned.

A Gazette call to Michael Ruane, Baez’s lawyer in 2012, was not immediately returned.

Baez reportedly was motivated by revenge as he burned businesses and homes, often late at night, with Molotov cocktails or gas-soaked car tires. In JP, he had filed an unsuccessful small-claims lawsuit against the body shop, had previously dated the owner of the hair salon, and believed he was served a bad meal at El Oriental, according to the arson investigation report given at the Nov. 14 meeting.

Nobel Garcia, owner of El Oriental, told the Gazette this week that Baez “should be behind bars. He’s going to get whatever he deserves.”

Matthew Hayes, owner of JP Auto Body, said, “All I know is, he’s in jail, and probably for a long time.”

Baez is currently serving a 15-year sentence. He also was ordered to pay $3.2 million in restitution to his victims.

No one was killed in the arson fires, but some firefighters and residents were injured. Many people were left homeless and several businesses were destroyed.

Baez is now considered responsible for the following fires: El Oriental at 416 Centre St. on July 18, 2005; Maria’s Hair Fashions at 138A South St. on March 24, 2006 and Jan. 6, 2009; Forest Hills Dentistry at 3722-3728 Washington St. on Aug. 17, 2006; Century 21 Pondside Real Estate at 619-623 Centre St. on Aug. 21, 2006; a 12 Sigourney St. home in December 2009; a 111 School St. home on Jan. 28, 2009; a 22 ½ Sigourney St. home on Feb. 7, 2009; and JP Auto Body at 12-18 Rock Hill Road on April 29, 2009.

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