Man arrested in 2003 arson that killed 5

PHILADELPHIA (WTXF) Philadelphia Police have announced an arrest in an arson that killed five people back in 2003.

The announcement came Tuesday afternoon as Captain James Clark addressed the media at a press conference.


"I'm glad because now the rest of the family can have some peace knowing that they caught him," said Lois Rodemer. She’s relieved to hear that the person police say set her neighbor’s house on fire 13 years ago is in police custody. She remembers the day it happened.

"I went to the phone and called 9-1-1 and told them there's a big fire over here," she said.

Five people were killed in the fire on the 100 block of Widner Street in Olney which police believe stemmed from a fight at a bar between a boxer named John Santiago who died in the fire and the suspect Abdu Rivera. 

The case went unsolved for over a decade because police say witnesses would not come forward. Today police arrested Rivera after the case was reopened a year and a half ago.

"We found the witnesses and went back out to the neighborhoods. The witnesses did do the right thing and we were able to get an arrest warrant," said Captain James Clark of Philadelphia Police. Police arrested Rivera at Philip and Ontario Streets.

Jose Martinez lives a block away from where the fire happened.

"It's kind of crazy that it took so long for them to find somebody and to get enough evidence to get somebody for that crime. 5 people died. It's a shame," he said.

Police say the fire was started with an accelerant that trapped the victims inside.

"They threw a couple of Molotov cocktails in the window  so they were trapped inside. It was sad but we're happy we were able to make the arrest," said Captain Clark who also says there could be two more arrests but they believe Rivera is the main person responsible.
 

 

 

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