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Lawrence Man Fire Marshal Called 'Serial Arsonist' Held Without Bail

LAWRENCE (CBS) – A man police called a "serial arsonist" for his alleged role in a suspicious Lawrence fire that displaced multiple families was ordered held without bail.

State Fire Marshal Stephen Coan joined Lawrence Mayor Daniel Rivera and other investigators at a Friday press conference to announce the arrest of Lawrence resident Jason Given.

Given faces arson charges for a fire on Grainger Street fire Thursday and for previous blazes at an Osgood Street home.

Lawrence Fire
The fire on East Cambridge Street in Lawrence early Thursday morning. (Photo credit: Lawrence Police)

"We define a serial arsonist as someone who is engaged in multiple fires," Coan said. "Clearly as this individual is being charged, he's being charged for lighting multiple fires. So that is a clear definition within our vocabulary."

Given was brought into court in a wheelchair, and tried to cover his face with his shirt collar.

His attorney said Given was born with Cerebral Palsy and suffers from severe depression.

Flames broke out on Grainger Street and spread to a nearby building on East Cambridge Street around 4 a.m. on Thursday.

Lawrence police said investigators used forensic evidence and surveillance footage to identify Given as a suspect.

Lawrence Fire
State Fire Marshal Stephen Coan with Mayor Daniel Rivera announcing arson arrest at site of May 7 fire on East Cambridge Street. (Photo by Bernice Corpuz-WBZ NewsRadio 1030)

No one was injured in the fire, but 14 people were displaced and their belongings were destroyed.

In addition, police said Given set fire to an Osgood Street home four times in the last year.

The first fire in July 2014 displaced the family and destroyed the home.

Given then allegedly started fires at the property again in December and twice more in March.

The prosecutor said on Friday that Given confessed to starting the fire on Grainger Street with a barbecue lighter and also confessed to previous Osgood Street fires.

"Arson is not a victimless crime," said Coan.

After being arraigned on eight counts of burning a dwelling and four counts of burning a building, Given was held without bail. He is next scheduled to appear in court on May 15.

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