Judge hands 12½-year sentence to man who pleaded guilty to setting fire to mill near King Philip Mill Complex

Article Date: July 23, 2014

From The Herald News

By Brian Fraga

FALL RIVER — A Fall River man will spend up to 12½ years in state prison for setting fire to a building adjacent to King Philip Mill Complex in January 2012.

Christopher T. Silva, 40, formerly of 215 Tripp St., was sentenced Wednesday after he pleaded guilty to 11 counts of charges that include arson of a dwelling, three counts of injuring a firefighter, breaking and entering into a building during the nighttime for felony, and assault and battery on a public employee.

Jury selection was scheduled to begin Wednesday in Fall River Superior Court, but Silva took a plea deal instead. Judge Robert Kane sentenced Silva, who was also placed on probation for five years after his release.

On January 3, 2012, at 2:50 a.m., Fall River police Officer John Ruggiero responded to the area of Kilburn and Charles streets, where he found a mill building at 386 Kilburn St. engulfed in flames. The smaller mill was less than 20 feet from the larger King Philip Mill. At the time, the Fall Rive Fire Department had to evacuate a resident of the building, who was the property manager.

Firefighters kept the fire from spreading to the larger mill site, though three firefighters suffered injuries battling the blaze. Police Lt. Paul Bernier and Lt. William Powers of the fire department led the arson investigation.

According to court documents, Silva was an early person of interest. Bernier knew Silva from previous investigations; Silva had already been convicted of breaking into a mill, stealing computers and trying to mask the robbery by starting a fire.

While firefighters were still battling the mill fire, Silva approached Powers near the scene and started talking to him. Powers and Bernier, who also arrived at scene, recognized Silva and said they smelled a petroleum-type odor on his person. When Powers asked Silva for his name, Silva became agitated and tried to flee, but he was quickly taken into custody, according to court documents.

Security cameras at the mill captured Silva going into and out of the building seconds before the fire started. Police said Silva stole computer equipment from an office and then set the fire, which destroyed the two-story granite proofing building, though firefighters stopped the flames from spreading to the mill proper, about 20 feet away.

The mill was later deemed, unsafe and its tenants were removed.

Assistant District Attorney Michael Cahillane prosecuted the case.

Original Article: http://www.heraldnews.com/article/20140723/NEWS/140728448