PROVIDENCE — A Pawtucket man who prosecutors say went on an arson spree to avenge a romantic relationship that turned sour has received a 40-year prison sentence with 17 years to serve.
Attorney General Peter F. Kilmartin announced that Franci Villorio, 22, with a last known address of 27 Palm St., Pawtucket, was sentenced Thursday by Superior Court Justice Susan E. McGuirl to 40 years, with 17 to serve and the remainder suspended with probation, for multiple arsons in Central Falls and Providence. In addition, Villorio was ordered to have no contact with the victim, undergo mental health counseling, perform community service upon his release, and make restitution.
The sentence comes after Villorio pleaded no contest on April 15 to five counts of first-degree arson in arson in exchange for a capped sentence of 40 years with up to 20 years to serve.
According to the Office of Attorney General, had the case proceeded to trial, the state was prepared to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that on February 26, 2011 and again on March 4, 2011, Villorio set fire to a residence at 41 Hedley Ave. in Central Falls. The state was also prepared to prove that Villorio set fire to a residence at 9-11 Colfax St. in Providence on June 28, 2011 and again on June 29, 2011, and set fire to a residence at 70 Washington St. in Central Falls also on June 29, 2011.
Prosecutors maintain that Villorio harbored feelings of jealousy and resentment after learning that his ex-girlfriend was dating someone new. They allege that he went on an arson spree out of vengeance, setting fires to five residences, each with a connection to his ex-girlfriend and her new boyfriend.
Prosecutors say Villorio's first attempt at arson was the residence of his ex-girlfriend's grandmother, located at 41 Hedley Ave. in Central Falls. This fire was quickly extinguished and caused only minor damage. However, a week later, Villorio again set fire to the residence, and this blaze completely destroyed the home and required the evacuation of several neighboring residences. While both fires were ruled as arson, Central Falls Police had no suspects and the investigation remained open.
Prosecutors say that Villorio next turned his attention to his former girlfriend's new boyfriend, who resided at 9-11 Colfax St. in Providence. On June 28, 2011, Providence Police and Fire responded to that address for a report of an occupied house fire. Upon arrival, they found that the fire, which was minor, had been extinguished by the residents.
During the course of the investigation, police discovered an envelope on a vehicle parked in the driveway addressed to the new boyfriend that indicated the fire was intended to harm him and Villorio's ex-girlfriend. In the letter, which he signed “The Hazel Angel,” Villorio wrote that he “wasn't going to stop 'till all families were done,'” prosecutors said.
Prosecutors say that while police were closing in on Villorio as their prime suspect for the Providence fire, he struck again. Less than 24 hours later, Villorio once more attempted to set fire to the residence on Colfax Street, but again the residents were able to extinguish the fire before any major damage occurred.
Shortly thereafter, Central Falls Police and Fire were dispatched to a fire at 70 Washington St. in Central Falls, which was the home of the mother of Villorio's ex-girlfriend. In the home at the time of the fire were seven other residents, including young children. The fire was extinguished quickly with no injuries.
During the course of the investigation, Providence and Central Falls Police, with the assistance of the State Fire Marshal's Office, determined the materials and method for the arson fires were consistent. Each fire was set using gasoline as the accelerant, and each was set under the cover of darkness and at the point of egress of the residences, prosecutors say.
Villorio was apprehended a short time later at his residence in Pawtucket. During a search of his vehicle, police allegedly found a five-quart container that smelled of gasoline, a box of wooden matches and a pair of rubber gloves. Police said Villorio also emitted a strong smell of gasoline. While in custody of the Providence Police, Villorio confessed to the five arson fires.
Detective Jonathan Primiano led the investigation for the Providence Police and Detectives Jeffrey Araujo and Phil Garland led the investigation for the Central Falls Police, with the assistance of Fire Marshal Michael Sweeney, Chief of Investigations for the Office of the State Fire Marshal. Special Assistant Attorney General John Dean prosecuted the case on behalf of the Office of Attorney General.