Waterford man on trial for setting fire, falsely reporting burglary

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A jury began hearing evidence Thursday in the case of Mark S. Capasso Jr., who is charged with spreading an accelerant around his parents' Waterford home, lighting a sheet on fire and reporting that the home had been burglarized.

Capasso, 34, has pleaded not guilty to reckless burning, second-degree reporting a false incident and providing a false statement. He has opted for a trial rather than accept a plea offer from the state involving a prison term.

The state's first witness, Waterford emergency dispatcher Mariaha Knight, testified that she took a call from Capasso's father shortly after 2 a.m. on Sept. 24 and sent police to the family home at 145 Bloomingdale Road in Quaker Hill. The jury heard a recording of the 911 call.  

"I think we just had an intruder in our house and someone tried to set our house on fire," the father, Mark Capasso Sr., told the dispatcher. "There's accelerant all over the place."

Capasso Jr. got on the phone and said he had been in the basement "trying to call China about something" when he heard noises upstairs. He said he went upstairs and found fire starter gel on the stairs and furniture, a bed sheet on fire and side doors open.  Capasso later told Patrolman Gil Maffeo that he thought Chinese operatives were responsible for the break-in because he had gone to the Chinese consulate the previous day and had a dispute about the citizenship of his 9-year-old daughter, who was living in China with his ex-wife.

"I said to him, I couldn't see them coming to Bloomingdale Road in Quaker Hill, Connecticut to send hm a message over some custody issues," Maffeo testified Thursday.

Maffeo said he had been dispatched to the home for a home invasion that had occurred or was occurring, which he said is a serious call for police officers.

At the home, officers found several floors, couches and doors lined with a pink gel they later determined was Sterno fire starter. They also located a candle with a sheet around it and a red bottle of Sterno with its cap off. They found no signs of forced entry.

The jury viewed photos of the crime scene and listened to a recording of Maffeo interviewing Capasso in his cruiser. The  jury was watching a second interview of Capasso, which took place later at police headquarters, late Thursday afternoon..

According to an arrest warrant affidavit, Capasso eventually told officers he spread the Sterno around the house, lit the sheet on fire, let it burn for 30 seconds and then put it out, the narrative states. He said he did it to take matters into his "own hands" and speed things up with the Chinese government.

The case is being prosecuted by Supervisory Assistant State's Attorney Lawrence J. Tytla and Inspector Timothy Pitkin. Defense attorney Theodore Koch is representing Capasso. Judge Barbara Bailey Jongbloed is presiding.

k.florin@theday.com

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