Accused church arsonist held on $10K bail

  • Trevor J. Defrancesco stands before Judge Mark Mason (unseen) during his arraignment in Franklin County Superior Court on Thursday afternoon. Recorder Staff/Domenic Poli

  • Trevor J. Defrancesco stands before Judge Mark Mason (unseen) during his arraignment in Franklin County Superior Court on Thursday afternoon. Defrancesco is accused of setting two fires in the Our Lady Immaculate Church basement in Athol shortly after midnight on Oct. 19, 2019. Standing to Defrancesco’s right is his defense attorney, public defender Jonah Goldsmith, of the Committee for Public Counsel Services. Recorder Staff/Domenic Poli

  • The entrances to the Our Lady Immaculate Church on School Street were posted with signs on Oct. 20 to inform parishioners that weekend Mass would be celebrated at St. Francis of Assisi Church on Main Street in Athol. STAFF FILE PHOTO/DEBORRAH PORTER

  • The entrances to the Our Lady Immaculate Church on School Street were posted with signs on Oct. 20 to inform parishioners that weekend Mass would be celebrated at St. Francis of Assisi Church on Main Street in Athol. STAFF FILE PHOTO/DEBORRAH PORTER

Staff Writer
Published: 1/17/2020 1:35:57 PM
Modified: 1/17/2020 1:35:24 PM

GREENFIELD — The homeless man accused of intentionally setting two fires inside Our Lady Immaculate Church in Athol on Oct. 19 was ordered held on $10,000 bail ahead of an April 16 pre-trial hearing.

Trevor J. Defrancesco, 21, faces a charge of burning a building and was arraigned in Franklin County Superior Court on Thursday. His attorney, Jonah Goldsmith, of the Committee for Public Counsel Services, entered a not guilty plea on behalf of his client. Goldsmith had no comment for The Recorder.

Athol Fire Chief Joseph Guarnera previously told The Recorder that paper was used to start the pair of fires set at 192 School St. shortly after midnight on Oct. 19. He said one fire was ignited on a table and another burned in a cabinet until firefighters eliminated the flames with hoses and fire extinguishers.

According to the State Fire Marshal’s Office, Defrancesco was arrested in the area later on Oct. 19 for allegedly setting the School Street fires. Guarnera previously explained alarm was raised shortly after midnight, alerting his department to the fire. An on-duty Athol Police officer noticed the smoke and confirmed the blaze for the fire crew. Guarnera previously said a broken water pipe helped contain the flames. However, the chief said, smoke that billowed into the main section of the church caused extensive damage. The Fitchburg Fire Department was called to ventilate the building with a special truck that has a powerful fan, according to Guarnera.

The fire was investigated jointly by the Athol Police Department, Athol Fire Department and Massachusetts State Police assigned to the State Fire Marshal’s Office.

Assistant District Attorney Matthew Thomas is prosecuting the case for the Northwestern District Attorney’s Office. A request for comment left at Our Lady Immaculate Church was not returned before press time.


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