HAVERHILL — Investigators said the man charged with arson in Thursday night's apartment building fire was angry that his ex-girlfriend, who lived there, has a new boyfriend.
Police said David Gillespie, 45, 19 Arlington St., is charged one count of arson of a dwelling. He was arrested at 1:50 p.m. yesterday, following an investigation by Det. Carl Rogers and State Police Sgt. Paul Zipper, with the assistance of Deputy fire chief William Laliberty and fire Lt. Richard Beaudoin.
Investigators said based on interviews they did of people in the area shortly before the fire, they discovered that Gillespie was visiting a second-floor apartment of the building at 68 Pecker St. before the blaze broke out. They said his ex-girlfriend, Sheila Torres, lived in another apartment on the second floor.
Gillespie became angry when he realized Torres had a new boyfriend in her apartment, investigators said. They said he set a second-story porch on fire. The blaze left eight people homeless.
Police spokesman Sgt. John Arahovites said Gillespie is being held without bail pending his arraignment on Monday in Haverhill District Court.
"We do not anticipate anyone else being charged," Arahovites said about the investigation into the fire.
Police said they have no other details about the case against Gillespie and that more information is expected to come out at his arraignment.
The three-story apartment building received heavy damage to its second and third floors and its residents had to be evacuated. As of yesterday they were not allowed to return.
Kevin Braley of Haverhill said he had just gone to the store and was walking toward his girlfriend Torres' home in the apartment building just before 6 p.m. on Thursday when he saw flames coming from the second story of the building.
Braley said he went into the building, banged on doors and warned people to get out. Eventually, the smoke drove him from the building.
Joining him in the evacuation effort was Edward Brown of How and Welcome streets. He volunteers at the nearby Emmaus family shelter.
Police said the two-alarm fire left Braley's girlfriend, Sheila Torres, who lived on the second floor of the six-family structure, and seven other people homeless.
Lt. Jeffrey Hardy of the Salvation Army arrived at the scene with bottled water and food for the victims and firefighters. Red Cross volunteers arrived as well and provided aid to some of the victims.
Yesterday, Hardy said he put up one couple at a local hotel for two nights and that next week he plans to get together with other social service agencies, including Community Action, to help find housing for those who were displaced and to help them replace some of the items they lost in the fire.
Hardy said the second and third floor of the building appeared to receive heavy damage and that as of yesterday not one was being allowed in.
One firefighter suffered a laceration, according to Laliberty. Engines 1, 3 and 4, along with the ladder truck and several rescue vehicles, were dispatched to Pecker Street.
The fire was under control in less than an hour, fire officials said.
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