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Investigators: Fire That Torched Police Cars Was Intentional

Wednesday, October 22, 2014
Thetford — State fire investigators have determined that the fire that destroyed Thetford’s three police cruisers last week was set intentionally.

The cause of the fire, which was reported around 2:30 a.m. on Friday, has been officially identified as “incendiary/arson,” according to a State Police statement distributed Tuesday afternoon.

State Police Detective Sgt. Steven Otis, one of the troopers leading the investigation, said he could not provide more details on how the fire was started because it could compromise the investigation.

Reached at the Norwich Police Department Tuesday afternoon, Otis said he was reviewing the November 2012 fire that destroyed Norwich’s three police cruisers. That fire was ruled accidental at the time by different investigators.

Norwich Police Chief Doug Robinson, who has been serving as Thetford’s interim police chief since the summer, told the Valley News last week that he thought it was a “very good move” to review the Norwich case because of the similarities with last week’s blaze.

According to police, an anonymous Thetford business owner has donated an additional $2,000 to the state’s existing reward money, meaning there is up to $7,000 in reward money for information leading to the “identification and arrest of the individuals responsible for the fire.”

Norwich Police have loaned a cruiser for Thetford to use and the Selectboard is checking with other area agencies to see if a second car is available for loan.

Thetford Selectman Donn Downey, the board’s liaison to the police department, said Selectboard Chairman Stuart Rogers was scheduled to look at the three cruisers with representatives from the Vermont League of Cities and Towns, the insurance provider for the vehicles, earlier on Tuesday.

Downey said part of the process includes cataloguing equipment that was lost inside the cars and the board hopes to get more information shortly, but “unfortunately we don’t really have much of an indication on the time line” regarding insurance payments.

Police Chief Search

Meanwhile, the Selectboard is scheduled to hold a special meeting at noon today regarding the results of the standard background and references check that an outside firm performed on Springfield, Vt., resident Richard A. King, the Ludlow, Vt., sergeant who was conditionally offered the police chief position last week, pending the results of that report.

Downey said the board is expected to meet with the police search committee chairman, Mark McMahon, and that the meeting will be mostly executive session.

Downey acknowledged that the meeting was not anticipated when the board made a conditional offer to King last week, but that on Monday night, the board decided to meet once more to discuss the hire in order to ensure a “pretty darn flawless process.”

He declined to elaborate further on the reasons for the meeting.

King said he presumed the meeting was part of the normal hiring process and said he was eager to hear back from the board.

Maggie Cassidy can be reached at mcassidy@vnews.com or 603-727-3220.




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