Two arrested in alleged Athol arson

ATHOL — Two 19-year-old men have been arrested on arson charges stemming from a Jan. 23 house fire.

Kevin Thibodeau, of Athol, and Bryant Defresne, of Leominster were arrested Wednesday evening on charges of burning a dwelling, breaking and entering in the daytime with intent to commit a felony, malicious destruction of property over $250, and causing injury to a firefighter.

A firefighter received minor injuries when he slipped on ice at the fire, which happened on one of the coldest, windiest nights of the year. He was treated at Athol Memorial Hospital and released that night.

Police believe the two acted alone, said Lt. Kevin Heath of the Athol Police Department. The investigation is ongoing, and involves the Athol Police and Fire departments, as well as state police working with the state Fire Marshal’s Office.

“We had received information that at least one of these suspects had information about the fire,” said Heath. “On further investigation, we gathered more information, and it became evident that they were directly involved in setting the fire.”

The single-family house, at 147 High St., was vacant at the time. Owners Richard and Patricia Adams had been in the process of moving out, and most of their belongings had already been removed.

The fire was started with an accelerant, leaving police no doubt that it was intentional, said Heath. He said police have a possible motive in mind, but would not elaborate.

The two are no strangers to Athol police. Last May, they were arrested in town, and charged with drilling into fuel tanks of more than 20 area vehicles and stealing gasoline in a three-week spree.

Thibodeau and Defresne were arraigned in Orange District Court Thursday on the arson charges. Thibodeau was held on $200,000 cash bail or $2 million surety. His next scheduled court appearance is March 1.

Defresne’s bail information and next court date were not available before the Orange District Court’s clerk’s office closed Thursday afternoon.

David Rainville can be reached at:
or 413-772-0261, ext. 279

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