PITTSFIELD -- A serial arsonist who told police he set fires across South County in order to rid the area of "eyesores" pleaded guilty to 23 charges and was sentenced to up to seven years in state prison.
Police and prosecutors say Stuart Zebrowski, 55, of Chicopee, set fire to old and abandoned buildings and brush he found "unsightly" between April 2009 and April 2012, mainly along his delivery route while working for a Springfield-based linen service.
The Massachusetts State Police said Zebrowski also broke into several homes along his route and stole various items, including two chain saws, a broom and and what police described as "a pink rock."
Zebrowski, who is a level 2 sex offender, allegedly told investigators he broke into the homes "out of curiosity," but didn't intend to harm anyone.
PHOTO GALLERY | Stuart Zebrowski pleads guilty to arson and other charges
The fires were set in the communities of New Marlborough, Sandisfield, Egremont, Richmond, Lee, Monterey and Great Barrington.
In Great Barrington, Zebrowski set fire to a building behind Guido's Fresh Marketplace on Main Street in March 2012 that was a complete loss.
Zebrowski told police the two-story wooden apartment building was "dilapidated" and "an eyesore" and that people in the community should have thanked him for burning it down, according to police.
He admitted watching the building burn and returned to the scene after the building had been razed.
Assistant Berkshire District Attorney Mary-Elizabeth Mack, calling the fires "significant," said that although no one was hurt, the potential for harm to firefighters and the public was there.
"He said he didn't intend to harm anyone, but he had no control over the path of the fires. He had no idea what could have happened," said Mack.
On Monday in Berkshire Superior Court, Zebrowski appeared with his attorney, Richard D. LeBlanc, and pleaded guilty to multiple counts of arson, breaking and entering in the daytime for a felony, larceny from a building and larceny under $250.
Six counts of burning wood or other property were dismissed at request of the DA's Office.
LeBlanc said his client served in the U.S. Army's 82nd Airborne Division, was a hard-working family man and was cooperative with police after his arrest.
The attorney blamed an unnamed "condition" for Zebrowski's behavior. The defendant, he said, was in counseling and wanted to "put this behind him." LeBlanc asked for a three- to five-year prison sentence for his client. Mack was asking for between five and seven years.
Judge John A. Agostini sentenced Zebrowski to at least four years and no more than seven years in state prison. He said he believed the defendant would likely serve four years in prison and be on parole for three years.
"He seems to do well in a structured environment," commented the judge.
Zebrowski was given credit for the 592 days he has been in jail on $25,000 cash bail since his arrest in April 2012 awaiting the outcome of the case.
He has previously served time in prison. He was convicted on two rape charges in Hamden Superior Court in 1984 and was sentenced to nine to 14 years in prison.
As a level 2 sex offender, he is considered by the state to be at "moderate" risk to re-offend.
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