Attorney General Peter F. Kilmartin announced today that Franci Villorio (age 22), with a last known address of 27 Palm Street, Pawtucket, was sentenced today 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, Justice McGuirl ordered the defendant have no contact with the victim, undergo mental health counseling, 100 hours per year for five years of community service upon his release, and restitution.
Villorio pleaded nolo contendere on April 15, 2013 to five counts of first degree arson in exchange for a capped sentence of 40 years with up to 20 years to serve.
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 located at 41 Hedley Avenue in Central Falls. The state was also prepared to prove that Villorio set fire to a residence located at 9-11 Colfax Street in Providence on June 28, 2011 and again on June 29, 2011, and set fire to a residence located at 70 Washington Street in Central Falls also on June 29, 2011.
Villorio was filled with jealousy and resentment after learning that an ex-girlfriend, for whom he still had feelings, was dating someone new. Engulfed with rage and a thirst for vengeance, Villorio went on an arson spree, setting fires to five residences, each with a connection to his ex-girlfriend and her new boyfriend.
Villorio's first attempt at arson was the residence of his ex-girlfriend's grandmother, located at 41 Hedley Avenue in Central Falls. Quickly extinguished, the fire caused only minor damage. Committed to completing what he set out to do, Villorio again set fire to the residence a week later. The extent of the second fire completely destroyed the home and required the evacuation of several neighboring residences.
While both fires were ruled arson, Central Falls Police had no suspects and the investigation remained open.
Villorio turned his attention to the new boyfriend, who resided at 9-11 Colfax Street in Providence. On June 28, 2011, Providence Police and Fire responded to the residence for a report of an occupied house fire. Upon arrival, 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, who was one of the residents of the property, that indicated the fire was intended to harm the ex-girlfriend and her new boyfriend. In the letter, which he signed "The Hazel Angel," Villorio wrote that he "wasn't going to stop 'till all families were done."
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 residence located at 70 Washington Street in Central Falls, the residence 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 arsons were consistent. Each fire was set using gasoline as the accelerant, and each fire was set under the cover of darkness and at the point of egress of the residences.
Villorio was apprehended short time later at his residence in Pawtucket. A search of his vehicle, found a five quart container that smelled of gasoline, a box of wooden matches and a pair of rubber gloves. Villorio also emitted a strong smell of gasoline. While in custody of the Providence Police, Villorio confessed to the five arsons.
Detective Jonathon 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.