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Suspect confesses to sanctuary fire
Saturday, September 04, 2004
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PALMER - A man who is a volunteer firefighter in Hampden and a civilian dispatcher for the town's Police Department confessed to burning down a building at the Laughing Brook Wildlife Sanctuary, saying he was excited by the sight of fire, Hampden Assistant District Attorney Brett J. Vottero told a Palmer District Court Judge yesterday.

Charged with arson in connection with the Wednesday fire in Hampden was Derek Anti, 22, of 158 Stafford Road, Hampden. Anti is a full-time dispatcher, volunteer firefighter and part-time police officer for the town. He pleaded innocent yesterday, and Judge Patricia T. Poehler ordered him held without right to bail until a hearing can be held on whether his release would pose a danger to the community.

In his confession, Anti indicated an "excitement that came to him from seeing a fire," Vottero said, in arguing that the suspect be held without the right to bail.

Vottero said Anti is a suspect in other blazes in the town, but he did not identify what fires.

Fire Chief Peter Hatch said Thursday that an investigation remains open into a 2002 house fire that occurred nearby on Glendale Road, which borders the sanctuary.

Neither Hatch nor Police Chief Douglas Mellis could be reached for comment yesterday on what background checks were done on Anti.

Anti, who stood in the court- room with his head bowed throughout his arraignment, is being held at the Hampshire House of Correction. A dangerousness hearing is scheduled for Thursday at 11 a.m. in District Court.

Anti's lawyer, William J. Fennell of West Springfield, argued for Anti's release pending trial, saying the accused could be confined to his home and required to report to the court daily.

"He is not charged with anything else," Fennell said, referring to Vottero's comments about other fires.

He said Anti offered to take a lie detector test with respect to any other fires, but police chose not to administer one.

Poehler agreed to allow Anti to be held in the Hampshire County House of Correction rather than the Hampden County Correctional Center in Ludlow where he could be exposed to inmates he dealt with as an employee of the Hampden Police Department.

Vottero said Anti made a tape recorded confession stating that he used gasoline to set the fire in the rear of the Laughing Brook building. Police recovered the container, Vottero said.

The trial will eventually be held in Hampden Superior Court in Springfield, Vottero said.

The 2:20 a.m. fire destroyed the 13,000-foot structure which once housed an education center and gift and book shop owned by the Audubon Society. The facility has been empty for more than a year, and was uninsured, a society spokeswoman said Thursday

Posted Sat 04 Sep, 2004 17:38:

Give me a f*cking break, this teabag gets a police job? I hope heads roll for this one
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