Wheaton College student RA accused of arson fires on campus

NORTON, Mass. — A Wheaton College student has been arrested in connection with several arson fires on campus.

Janelys Pimentel, 22, of Roslindale, was held without bail and ordered to undergo a mental health evaluation during her arraignment in Attleboro District Court on Thursday. She left the courthouse in shackles while being escorted into a law enforcement van.

Pimentel, a college senior who is a resident assistant of the dormitory where the fires occurred, pleaded not guilty to the charges during her arraignment in Attleboro District Court on Thursday.

She is charged with two counts of arson from fires on Dec. 2, 2018; four counts of wantonly injuring real and personal property for fires on Nov. 28, 2018, Dec. 2, 2018, Dec. 14, 2018 and Feb. 7, 2019; and six counts of vandalism for the fire incidents which occurred during the above dates.

She is accused of setting six fires in McIntyre Hall, a building that houses about 100 Wheaton students. The most recent fire occurred overnight.

A prosecutor said State Police investigators installed hidden cameras inside the dormitory and one of the cameras allegedly caught Pimentel starting a fire, then alerting other students.

Pimentel admitted that she started the fires when questioned by police, but only after she was confronted with the video evidence, a prosecutor said.

She then lights the paper, which was covering the water fountain, with something in her right hand," Assistant District Attorney Natasha Azevedo said. "She also admitted starting all the other fires during the months of November, December."

At approximately 3:36 a.m. Thursday, Norton firefighters, Norton Police and Wheaton public safety officers responded to a box alarm on the 3rd floor of McIntyre Hall.

When crews arrived, they saw a fire in the hallway from an old bubbler. Students were safely evacuated from the building and the fire was extinguished.

Massachusetts State Police investigators assigned to the Office of the State Fire Marshal were notified, as they have assisted in the previous fire incidents on campus.

This was the sixth fire in McIntyre Hall since Nov. 28, 2018.

"No, I would have never [suspected her]," senior Gabrielle Vargas said. "She’s an RA. She’s there to uphold that, and the fact that she did it just shocked me."

No injuries were reported during any of the fires.

Back at the college, the fear is gone, but the questions remain.

"When these types of things happen, all I can think of is, clearly something was going on in her personal life that we don't really know or understand," freshman Chantele Roddy said. "So, it kind of made me sad to be honest."