Providence arson investigators probe for answers in fire

{}An empty lot is all that's left of what used to be a multi-family home on Admiral Street. The third floor of the house was damaged by fire in late July.

"It's just a despicable crime, I can't say that enough," Paul Doughty, an arson investigator with the Providence Fire Department, said.

Doughty said crimes like this affect the building, the neighborhood and, most of all, the people living there.

Federal investigators have taken over the case and are pointing the finger at the building's owner, Rony Metellus, 51, of Providence. Metellus was arrested Thursday and appeared in court Friday to face a charge of arson.

"It is not uncommon to have insurance interests be the motivation for an arson fire," Doughty said.

That's what investigators say they think happened here.

The U.S. Attorney's office says surveillance videos show a car, similar to the one Metellus drives, parking on Admiral Street before the fire started. Then, investigators say, video shows a person fitting his description walking toward the house, then returning to his car eight minutes later, just before firefighters were called, and driving the car away without its headlights.

Investigators say other videos show Metellus leaving his house,{} less than a mile away from the rental property, before the fire was reported, then coming back.

Not long after the fire, investigators say Metellus filed an insurance claim.

Doughty said an arson like this is dangerous in a city like Providence, which is densely populated with wooden buildings.

"It forced that family out in the middle of the night and lost all their belongings, and they're looking for housing in another location, something they never planned on," Doughty said.