On March 15th of 1982, a fire consumed a three story building in Lowell, Massachusetts. Eight people lost their lives while bystanders desperately looked for ways to help. One of these individuals was 24-year-old Victor Rosario. In the midst of the tragedy, Rosario broke a window of the building in attempt to help, but the fire was so strong that it knocked him back. Two days later Rosario was the prime suspect. He spent five hours in an interrogation room while being held by police. At the end of this time Rosario signed a statement that stated he and two friends threw Molotov cocktails into the building after a drug deal.
An eyewitness stated that he saw someone who looked like they could have been throwing things into the home after a night of drinking. He could not identify Rosario in a lineup. He did, however, recognize Rosario when he saw his face on the front page of the newspaper. When questioned by police details of his story were inconsistent.
Rosario was convicted of arson and eight murders; he was sentenced to life in prison. Investigations by the police into the cause of the fire made up the majority of the evidence against Rosario, but we’re fundamentally flawed. Years after his conviction, the New England Center for Investigative Reporting began an investigation into the original findings. Their investigation found egregious flaws in the methods and conclusions that convicted Rosario. Among these discrepancies were findings that the police assumed from the start that the fire was arson, burn patterns that could not have conclusively been caused by arson, and no accelerants, bottle glass, or other physical evidence of the three Molotov cocktails was discovered at the scene.
There was also the issue of Rosario’s legal representation, who made little effort to refute the evidence provided. He did not call any expert witnesses to challenge the claims of the investigation.Just days before Rosario’s trial he was the driver involved a vehicular manslaughter charge, which resulted in the death of two people. On July 7, 2014, a Superior Court judge voided the conviction and ordered a new trial. Victor was released on Bond on July 10th.