New Jersey

PhD Student Was ‘Planning to Burn Down St. Patrick's Cathedral,' Had Hotel Booked Near Vatican: Prosecutors

The suspect was arrested at a New Jersey cathedral days before the St. Patrick's incident, according to law enforcement sources

What to Know

  • The man arrested with gas cans and lighters at St. Patrick's Cathedral had booked a flight to Italy earlier that morning, police say
  • Marc Lamparello, 37, also had a run-in with NJ officers two days before; cops say he refused to leave a cathedral after it was closed
  • Lamparello faces resisting arrest and other charges in the NJ case; he was charged with attempted arson and other crimes in the NYC one

The Ph.D. student who was arrested after law enforcement confrontations at churches in two states in a matter of days, was "planning to burn down St. Patrick's Cathedral" when he was arrested last week, prosecutors say.

Marc Lamparello, 37, has been undergoing psychiatric evaluation at Bellevue Hospital since his arrest last week on attempted arson and other charges after allegedly trying to walk into St. Patrick's with two gas cans, lighter fluid and butane lighters. He made an initial court appearance Wednesday from the hospital and was being held without bail.

Assistant District Attorney David Stuart also said Lamparello, who police previously said had booked a one-way $2,800 flight to Italy that would have taken him out of the country the day after the St. Patrick's incident, had also booked a hotel just 20 minutes from the Vatican. Stuart didn't comment further, though, on Lamparello's possible plans in Rome.

He did not enter a plea Wednesday. His attorney, Christopher DiLorenzo, previously confirmed the details of his client's psych evaluation but didn't comment further. Lamparello's possible motives, meanwhile, remain under investigation. 

According to a criminal complaint, an employee spotted him carrying the canisters and a black bag inside cathedral around 8 p.m. on April 17.

When an officer arrived on scene, Lamparello allegedly said that his vehicle had run out of gas and that he was taking a shortcut through the church. According to the complaint, the 37-year-old's car had gas in the tank. 

Two days before the St. Patrick's incident, itself days after fire ravaged Paris' famed Notre Dame Cathedral, Lamparello had a confrontation with police after refusing to leave the Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart in Newark. When an officer told him it was closed, Lamparello said, "If you want me to leave tonight, you're gonna have to handcuff me and arrest me tonight and take me to jail," law enforcement sources tell News 4. He still didn't leave.

Other officers arrived, at which point Lamparello threw himself onto a pew and yelled, "No!" then scuffled with police who tried to apprehend him, sources say.

As he was being taken out of the cathedral, Lamparello told police he wasn't leaving. "God wants me to be here. I know all the sins the priests have committed," he said, according to law enforcement sources.

Eventually he was handcuffed and taken to police headquarters to be booked on charges of defiant trespassing, obstruction and resisting arrest.

Officials say they called in paramedics to do an evaluation because Lamparello wasn't exhibiting rational behavior at the time; they found nothing wrong with him. Then the man's mother showed up, said he had an apartment in Manhattan and said she was taking him to her home in Hasbrouck Heights. The van allegedly involved in the St. Patrick's case was parked outside the New Jersey cathedral, but it was never searched because investigators had no reason to do so.

Lamparello has no prior criminal history of note.

No one was hurt in either case, but some gasoline did spill on the floor of St. Patrick's as Lamparello was leaving; he had been stopped by a security guard.

Cardinal Timothy Dolan said last week the incident "in a way, as scary as it is, shows that our security is working." He also said he hoped Lamparello was getting the mental health care he appeared to need. 

Lamparello, who published a book and teaches at Seton Hall, according to police, is a Ph.D. student at the CUNY Graduate Center in New York. As part of that Ph.D. program, students are required to teach on other CUNY campuses. Lamparello taught one course at Brooklyn College, the school said, but was never employed there. He did, however, work at Lehman College, a spokeswoman said. 

In a previous statement, Lehman College spokesperson, Sarah Ramsey said the institution was aware of the arrest and taking action to terminate Lamparello.

“We are aware that an individual was arrested last night after an incident at St. Patrick’s Cathedral. The individual was hired at Lehman College during this academic year, and was a part-time, online instructor this semester. We are taking the appropriate steps to terminate the individual’s employment with the college,” she said.

Lamparello had a separate incident in Hasbrouck Heights in December in which he went to police to say he thought he was being stalked by someone while at work and school in New York.

He also said he had seen a Hasbrouck Heights police vehicle outside of his New Jersey home in late November and was jarred when it left moments later. Police told him the cruiser had nothing to do with any police business, and he left, apparently comfortable with the explanation, according to the incident report.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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