Detention Hearing For OLL Arson Suspect

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In a brief hearing today, an Essex County court agreed to keep Verona resident Elliot Bennett in detention for his involvement in the Thursday, April 4, fire at Our Lady of the Lake Church. The hearing was held before Superior Court Judge Patrick J. Arre.

At about 3:33 a.m. last Thursday, the smoke alarm at OLL went off. Verona Police officers responded and, observing heavy smoke, called the Verona Fire Department. The fire was quickly extinguished but it damaged several pews, hymnals, kneelers and a few statues. The Essex County Prosecutor’s Office said that, on the basis of an investigation by detectives from the Prosecutor’s Crime Scene Investigations Bureau and the Verona Police Department, that the fire had been deliberately set.

Bennett turned himself in to VPD headquarters at 4:30 a.m., and he has been charged with first degree bias intimidation, second degree burglary, second degree aggravated arson, two counts of fourth degree unlawful possession of a weapon, two counts of third degree possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose, possession of burglar’s tools and desecration of venerated objects, which are disorderly persons offenses.

Cleanup of the fire began almost immediately. Today, several damaged pews were removed.

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