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New Jersey

Man Charged in Massive NJ Fire to Remain Jailed Pending Trial

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What to Know

  • A man accused of setting a large fire that destroyed or damaged several buildings in a New Jersey town and caused nearly $52 million in damage will remain jailed until his trial, a judge ruled Friday
  • State Superior Court Judge Kevin Shanahan cited Facebook posts that Juan Hector Padilla made that threatened to burn down buildings and the world. The posts were made in the two weeks leading up to the Jan. 12 fire in Bound Brook
  • The blaze broke out in a complex under construction, quickly engulfing the entire site before jumping across the street to another under-construction apartment building

A man accused of setting a large fire that destroyed or damaged several buildings in a New Jersey town and caused nearly $52 million in damage will remain jailed until his trial, a judge ruled Friday.

State Superior Court Judge Kevin Shanahan cited Facebook posts that Juan Hector Padilla made that threatened to burn down buildings and the world. The posts were made in the two weeks leading up to the Jan. 12 fire in Bound Brook.

Somerset County prosecutors had sought Padilla's detention citing the fire's destruction and its impact on the community. Padilla's lawyer, Matthew Katzenbach, argued that his client should be freed pending his trial, saying he posed a low risk of flight and had ties to the community, including his young children who live in the state.

The blaze broke out in a complex under construction, quickly engulfing the entire site before jumping across the street to another under-construction apartment building. Several homes and an electronics store were also damaged or destroyed in the fire, which was brought under control several hours after it began.

More than 100 residents who live near the scene were evacuated as a precaution, and 15 people were displaced when the boarding home they lived in was destroyed by the fire. No serious injuries were reported in the blaze, although one firefighter was treated for a sprained ankle.

Investigators have said it could take months to determine the origin and cause of the fire.

A person authorities believe to be Padilla was caught on video walking behind the construction site where the fire started. But Katzenbach disputed the person was his client, noting that the video was taken from far away.

Padilla, 28, of Bound Brook, is charged with aggravated arson and hindering apprehension.

A massive fire in Somerset County consumed at least five buildings, forced over 100 residents to evacuate. NBC New York's Ida Siegal reports.
Copyright AP - Associated Press
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