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October 19, 2013

Haverhill man pleads guilty to arson

(Continued)

When contacted after the fire in May, a Vinfen spokeswoman confirmed that her organization supported several individuals living in Nieves’ building but would not identify them or which apartments they lived in. The spokeswoman said Vinfen clients who live independently are provided with services ranging from visits to their homes to assistance with such things as food shopping, money management, medication management and clinical support management.

Dr. Ann Teele, court psychologist, testified at Nieves’ arraignment in Haverhill District Court that when she evaluated Nieves, he displayed a range of behaviors, including disorganized thoughts, and that he referred to things she had not asked him about. She said that while being held in a jail cell, he displayed behaviors indicating he may have been in some kind of psychotic state.

Teele said Nieves has a long history of hospitalizations, including time spent in a hospital in Puerto Rico and at Bridgewater State Hospital in the past. Teele told the judge she believed that Nieves did not meet the standard competency to stand trial.

Nieves was ordered committed to Bridgewater for evaluation and was subsequently indicted by an Essex County Grand Jury on the charge of arson of a dwelling.

One witness told police that Nieves had talked about burning the building down and that he had been feeling stressed about people who were always going to his apartment, according to a police report.

When police questioned Nieves as to his whereabouts prior to the fire, he told them he was downstairs at the market/restaurant having rice and beans when he heard the fire alarms sound. He said he then ran outside and waited for firefighters.

The fire was reported at 11:54 a.m., when officer Ronald Hilchey was driving by the building and noticed flames and smoke pouring from second-floor windows of the three story building, which has eight apartments. Police safely evacuated the building.

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