Two Students Charged in Seton Hall Fire

NEWARK, N.J. (AP) -- More than three years after a deadly fire swept through the lounge of a Seton Hall University dormitory, two men who were freshmen at the time have been charged with arson and murder.

Both have denied any role in the blaze, which killed three students and injured more than 50 others.

Sean Ryan, 22, who still attends the school, and Joseph LePore, 22, now a senior at the University of Delaware, were arrested Wednesday after an Essex County grand jury indicted them on more than 60 counts in connection with the Jan. 19, 2000, fire at Boland Hall. They were jailed on $2 million bail and scheduled to appear in court Thursday, their attorneys said.

Acting County Prosecutor Donald Campolo scheduled a news conference Thursday where he planned to announce the indictments of several other people accused of obstructing or hindering the investigation.

Prosecutors believe the blaze began when a homemade paper banner left draped over a couch in the dorm's third-floor lounge was ignited.

The fire was discovered about 4:30 a.m. As smoke poured into the halls, scared students in pajamas grabbed coats or blankets and fled into bitter pre-dawn cold. One leaped from a window of the six-story hall.

Students Frank Caltabilota of West Long Branch, John Giunta of Vineland and Aaron Karol of Green Brook died in the fire. Two of the men were found in the lounge and the other was in a nearby room.

The 48-year-old building did not have sprinklers because it was built before they were required. The university has since installed them, and the state created a new law requiring all dorm rooms in New Jersey to have sprinklers by 2004.

The grand jury that handed up the indictment spent nearly two years hearing from dozens of students who lived at the dormitory. They also heard from state police detectives who took statements from students early in the investigation, as well as firefighters and rescue workers.

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