Strip mall arson suspect faces judge

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — A judge ordered the suspect held without bail Wednesday in an alleged arson at a small Providence strip mall, after police say the suspect confessed.

Police say William Roberts, 51, was captured on surveillance video setting the fire at the businesses on Reservoir Avenue on Oct. 7. Three businesses were destroyed and three firefighters were treated for injuries.

Arson investigator Sean Reddy said Tuesday he’d spotted Roberts on Reservoir Avenue, and he matched the description of a man determined to be the suspect in surveillance video seized from a drugstore earlier in the week. Reddy said Roberts confessed, saying he set the fire by igniting toilet paper in a cardboard box in front of the Sunny Market Place. The flames then spread to two adjoining businesses; all three are out of business.

Roberts is charged with first degree arson; a conviction could carry a life sentence.

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