Springfield teenager charged with setting downtown fire

07/11/08 6:06AM

Vermont State Police say they've charged an 18-year-old with setting a fire that gutted a building in Springfield, leaving 22 families homeless.

John Gassert, 18, of Springfield, is charged with arson and reckless endangerment in Tuesday night's fire at the Ellis Block, a downtown Springfield building that houses apartments, a movie theater and a beauty salon.

Springfield Police Detective Jody Small says Gassert - who lived in the building with his girlfriend - emerged as a suspect as a result of interviews with other tenants of the building and that he made incriminating statements.

Yesterday, Gassert - who has no prior criminal record - pleaded not guilty to first-degree arson and reckless endangerment.

The movie theater hosted last summer's premiere of "The Simpsons" movie. Now, the town's chamber of commerce is appealing to Hollywood and people who were involved in that event to pitch in to help the victims of the fire recover.


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