LOWELL, Mass., July 11 (UPI) -- A man convicted in 1983 of setting the deadliest fire in the history of Lowell, Mass., was released the same day another fire claimed seven lives in the city.
Victor Rosario, 57, who has spent more than half his life in prison, was freed after his wife posted $25,000 bail Thursday. A judge overturned his conviction Monday, finding evidence that investigators in 1982 may have been wrong when they ruled the blaze was arson and that Rosario's confession was coerced.
Police charged that Rosario and brothers, Edgardo and Felix Garcia, used Molotov cocktails to start a fire that killed five children and three adults in retaliation for a drug deal turned sour. The Garcia brothers are now dead.
Rosario sobbed as Middlesex Superior Court Judge Kathe Tuttman ordered his release during a hearing Thursday. The judge required him to remain in Massachusetts and to wear a GPS monitor.
The Middlesex County District Attorney's Office plans to appeal Tuttman's order granting Rosario a new trial.
During his years in prison, Rosario married an education specialist with the state and became an ordained Baptist minister. He plans on living in Beverly Rosario's home in the Brighton neighborhood of Boston and to become an active member of Tremont Temple Baptist Church.
Lisa Kavanagh, one of Rosario's lawyers, said the church has offered him a part-time job. She said he will continue to counsel prisoners, as he did behind bars.
Rosario's advocates say advances in forensic science, including findings that evidence once considered markers for arson show up in accidental fires, have cast doubt on the 1982 investigation. The number of fires ruled arson has dropped sharply in recent years.
Earlier Thursday, seven people, including three children, were killed in a fire in a Lowell apartment building. Fire officials have said there is no evidence that the blaze was deliberately set.