BARRE — A teen who helped set fire to the Aldrich Block in 2010 is admitting the crime as well as a role in another arson in Williamstown last year.
Jessica Delary, 19, of Barre, pleaded guilty to second-degree arson, burglary and violating conditions of release in Washington County criminal court in Barre on Wednesday. She has agreed to a sentence of six months to five years in jail as well as probation for one to five years.
In pleading guilty, Delary said the information in the police affidavit about the Aldrich Block fire was accurate. According to the affidavit, Delary and Nicholas Witham, 19, of Roxbury, spread a substance they believed to be paint, but which was roofing tar, on the floor of an office in the century-old building. The two had entered the vacant building several times by climbing a fire escape to the third floor and forcing open a window.
Delary and Witham started the fire by using checks from the Key Bank that had previously been located in the building. The two tried to extinguish the fire with a piece of Plexiglas that melted and a wall painting that instead fanned the flames.
Delary and Witham then fled the building without calling emergency services.
Delary’s formal sentencing was pending until the building owners, Mayor Thomas Lauzon and his wife, Karen, could give a statement about the crime’s impact on them and the sentencing deal. Mayor Lauzon, however, said Wednesday afternoon that he declined the opportunity to do so.
“I don’t think it’s appropriate, because I can’t separate myself from the fact that I’m the mayor,” he said. “In that respect, I don’t know if my testimony would carry more or less weight to the judge. In either case, it wouldn’t be fair.”
Lauzon said the fire caused around $3 million in damage to the building, which has been repaired. He said his insurance policy covered only $1 million.
The case had been held up as Delary sought — unsuccessfully — youthful offender status since she was 16 at the time of the fire. As part of the plea agreement, State’s Attorney Thomas Kelly said Wednesday that Delary, who was facing a separate arson charge in Orange County, is being allowed to plead guilty to a lesser charge of felony unlawful trespass and will have another year added to her maximum sentence in Washington County, resulting in a sentence of six months to six years altogether.
In the Orange County case, Delary is accused of participating in several fires set in and around the former Rosewood Inn in Williamstown in July. The flames were put out before they could do any serious damage. The charge of violating conditions of release that Delary admitted to stemmed from her being out past her court-ordered curfew at the time the Williamstown fires were set.
Witham pleaded guilty to being involved in the Aldrich Block fire in 2011 and was given a seven-year deferred sentence. He picked up more charges since then, however, and was sentenced in November for two violations of probation, possession of alcohol by a minor, and supplying alcohol to minors, all misdemeanors. He was sentenced to six years in jail.
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