Butchery arsonist gets eight years in prison


Staff writer

SALEM -- A Danvers man was sentenced to eight years in prison, followed by 20 years of probation, for setting a fire that destroyed the Danvers Butchery last summer.

Steven Parziale, 32, pleaded guilty in Salem Superior Court to charges stemming from a string of fires in Danvers in July and August of 2002.

The Danvers Butchery, a local landmark on Donegal Lane, was destroyed in one of those fires during the early morning hours of Aug. 12.

A little more than a week later, on Aug. 20, police were told of a small fire outside the Cherry Street Fish Market.

Fire investigators and police were still looking for leads when Salem Superior Court probation officer Kevin Henneberry read a news account of the fires, and became suspicious.

Henneberry had been supervising Parziale, who was on probation for a 1996 fire in a Melrose apartment building that left two firefighters injured and 40 people homeless. Parziale had recently stopped reporting to his probation officer, and had stopped attending counseling, something that was a condition of his probation in the 1996 case.

Further troubling the probation officer was the fact that Parziale lived at 107 Locust St., not far from the Butchery.

Henneberry called Danvers Police Detective Carole Germano, who in turn contacted the state's arson squad. Troopers Paul Zipper and Paul Horgan approached Parziale and asked if they could question him about the Danvers fires.

He initially denied any involvement, said prosecutor Kevin Mitchell. But after a short break, Parziale offered a confession.

And he offered a reason: He was reliving the sexual abuse he experienced at the hands of a relative during his childhood.

Remembering that night

As he walked home from a friend's house in the early morning hours of Aug. 12, Mitchell said, Parziale stopped at a Dumpster on School Street, where he started a small fire.

As he watched the fire, he told police, he could see the face of his alleged abuser in the flames. (The relative was cleared after a 1998 trial in Middlesex County Superior Court).

"Angry, confused and frustrated," Parziale kept walking, he said, approaching the Butchery. He found a bag of trash and put it atop a vent outside the building, then set the bag on fire.

Once again, he told police, he saw the face of his abuser in the flames.

But as Parziale walked home, the fire tore through the building's ventilation system.

It went to two alarms and, when it was all over, had caused between $300,000 and $400,000 in damage to the business -- not counting the lost sales the business has suffered since being shut down, and the lost wages of employees who were laid off after the fire.

As Mitchell described the details of the case, Parziale's father, who had attended every court appearance by his son, wiped away tears. Parziale had been attending counseling after his release from prison for the 1996 fire, but had stopped because he did not have insurance to cover the cost.

'Needs help'

Mitchell, who had asked for a longer term of seven to 10 years in prison, acknowledged Parziale's troubled past.

"Though he needs help, it's obvious that the public needs to be protected at the same time," said the prosecutor, who said the unusually lengthy probation period is intended to allow Parziale to receive treatment.

Parziale's lawyer, Ronald Ranta, said Parziale regrets the fire and has written a letter of apology for setting it. "His intention was never to cause the great harm that resulted," Ranta said.

Parziale suffered from impulses he could not control, said the lawyer. He was not targeting anyone in particular, only the "demons that were in his life," said Ranta.

Judge Peter Agnes said that while Parziale has to be punished for jeopardizing the lives and safety of the public, and for violating his probation in the 1996 fire, he also needs treatment, something the judge said he hopes Parziale will get while on probation.

Agnes sentenced Parziale to five years in prison for the Butchery fire, followed by three years for violating his probation in the Melrose fire, and then 20 years of probation for five smaller brush and trash fires Parziale set in July and August.

"I certainly hope he gets the help and the treatment he probably needs," said Norm Wilson, the chief operating officer for the Butchery. "It's an unfortunate thing. His actions touched not only the business but everyone who worked for the company as well."

Wilson said that while a few employees were transferred to the Newbury Butchery, many others were forced to find new jobs.

And the Danvers Butchery is still months away, at the soonest, from reopening. The owners have plans to sell the Donegal Lane site as house lots, and will open a retail store at their production plant on Pine Street after an expansion and renovation.

Though they would like to be back in business in time for summer, Wilson concedes that may not be possible, given that they are still awaiting permits from the town's Conservation Commission and planning and zoning boards.