NORTH PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Two members of the Outlaws Motorcycle Club were in court Thursday on charges related to two fires at the same location in Scituate.
John Petrarca, the club’s president, and Robert Anderson are both facing two counts of felony arson and conspiracy. No pleas were entered at their arraignments and both were ordered held without bail.
Prosecutors say the same detached garage off Tunk Hill Road caught fire around midnight on June 29 and 5 a.m. on July 6. Investigators from the state fire marshal’s office found accelerant at the scene in both cases.
Petrarca’s defense attorney, John Harwood, argued in court that his client was never there, however.
“I haven’t heard that this young man’s anywhere near this place, other than he’s a friend of a guy named Anderson,” Harwood said. “I know you too. Doesn’t mean we’re setting fires.”
Scituate police conceded that they weren’t able to place Petrarca at the scene, but they believe he’s the one who ordered Anderson to set the two fires. Sgt. Matthew King said surveillance footage showed Anderson’s car at the scene, and he recited text messages between the two men aloud in court.
“Asking, ‘All set?’ And then the second suspect, Robert Anderson, responding back, ‘It will be later.’ Shortly after that, the fire was lit for the first time,” King said.
While a specific motive for the alleged arson is unclear at this time, police allege that Petrarca and the victim had a disagreement with one another.
Petrarca, 53, and Anderson, 50, are both due back in court next week for a status hearing.