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January 10, 2011

Serial arsonist pleads guilty

Patricia Mandigo, 56, of Haverhill, pleaded guilty on Monday, Jan. 10, in Newburyport Superior Court to six counts of arson, three counts of causing injury to a firefighter, and one count of assault and battery with a dangerous weapon.

Mandigo admitted that she set numerous fires to two apartment buildings in Haverhill over a three-year period, according to court records.

Judge Richard Welch sentenced her to 5 1/2 to eight years in state prison, after which she will be on probation for 10 years.

Welch ordered Mandigo to undergo mental health and anger management counseling. She is also forbidden from having access to any kind of fire starting materials.

Essex Assistant District Attorney James Gubitose told the court that if the case had gone to trial the Commonwealth would have proven that on four occasions between Feb. 1, 2006 and Dec. 6, 2007, she set four fires at 94 Emerson St., a 17-unit apartment building where she lived.

The Dec. 6 blaze burned the structure to the ground.

Mandigo then moved across the street to 99 Emerson St., where she started a series of fires in that building between May 28 and Aug. 9 of 2009.

Investigators determined that one of the materials used to set the fires was a dish cloth with a rooster on it, and discovered an identical dish cloth in her apartment. When confronted, Mandigo confessed to setting all of the fires, said Essex County district attorney's office spokesman Steve O'Connell.

State Fire Marshal Stephen D. Coan said, "I want to thank the many agencies and members of the fire investigation team for their determination and teamwork, as well as the Office of Essex District Attorney Jonathan W. Blodgett, for bringing this serial arsonist to justice."

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