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October 19, 2013

Haverhill man pleads guilty to arson

HAVERHILL — A Haverhill man who was sent to Bridgewater State Hospital after he was charged with setting fire to the White Street apartment building where he lived pleaded guilty to arson at a hearing Thursday in Salem Superior Court.

Superior Court Judge David Lowy sentenced Ernesto Nieves, 48, to two-and-a-half years to two-and-a-half years, plus one day, in state prison, which was deemed served by Lowy.

At Nieves’ arraignment on the charge of arson on Sept. 1, 2011, in Haverhill District Court, a judge ordered he be committed to Bridgewater State Hospital for evaluation after testimony by a court psychologist. According to the Essex District Attorney’s Office, Nieves continued to be held at Bridgewater until his hearing this week.

Nieves was represented by defense lawyer William Sullivan of Haverhill. Assistant District Attorney John Brennan served as prosecutor.

Witnesses told police that in the weeks leading up to a May 26, 2011, fire in an apartment building at 113 White St., Nieves had talked about using gasoline to burn the building down.

The owner of a market/restaurant located on the ground floor of the building told police that on the day of the fire, Nieves was “acting crazy” and was “going in and out of the store,” according to a police report.

Police said that on May 26, 2011, Nieves set his bed and closet on fire, then left his second-floor apartment at 113 White St., locking the door behind him. Police said he left without alerting the other tenants of the multifamily apartment building.

Nieves was subsequently charged with arson of a dwelling. Police had arrested Nieves on a warrant following an investigation.

Following the May 26 fire, the building’s owner said Nieves was a client of Vinfen, a human services agency based in Cambridge.

Vinfen is a private, nonprofit human services organization that provides services to people with psychiatric, developmental and behavioral disabilities, according to its website.

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