Judge calls fire-related charges 'incredibly disturbing,' orders Hinsdale man held for 4 months


PITTSFIELD — The Hinsdale man accused of setting a string of fires in Pittsfield last week has been ordered held without bail for four months after he was found to be a danger to the community.

Jeffrey Benoit, 26, had been held without bail since his Dec. 1 arrest, pending Tuesday's dangerousness hearing in Central Berkshire District Court.

Judge William Rota ordered Benoit held without bail for 120 days, based on the serious nature of the charges and the facts presented by prosecutors which he called "incredibly disturbing."

Prosecutors said Benoit is suspected of setting a series of four or five fires in a short period of time, most of which appeared to be random.

Benoit was asked to leave a Dec. 1 party on Perrine Avenue after he allegedly became intoxicated and tried to fight with other guests.

He returned a short time later to look for a jacket he believed he'd left behind, apologized for his behavior and left again. Some time later, he returned again and began knocking on the door to the apartment, but wasn't allowed inside.

A few minutes after, the building's fire alarm sounded and the carpeted stairway outside of the apartment was ablaze.

While police were investigating that fire, several others were reported in the area, including fires in a pair of trash bins on Plunkett Street, a parked car and a boat on Kellogg Street, and a pile of leaves on Kellogg Street.

Benoit was located on Fourth Street and placed under arrest abut 3:40 a.m.

Police said two separate buildings, housing at least 19 people, were affected by the fires.

Benoit attorney David Pixley had argued that were Benoit released, he would be able to reside with and be supervised by family, would abide by a no-alcohol provision, would avoid contact with the alleged victims, and would submit to GPS monitoring.

Benoit has pleaded not guilty to charges of arson of a dwelling house, burning property and burning a motor vehicle.

A pre-trial hearing in the case was set for Dec. 29.

Contact Bob Dunn at 413-496-6249.


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