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Man indicted in Superior Court for arson in blaze at Great Barrington building with history of violations

Wonderful Things Great Barrington (copy) (copy)

Harry Sano was arraigned in Berkshire Superior Court Tuesday afternoon on charges he set fire to his building at 232 Stockbridge Road, which was riddled with health violations, in an attempt to defraud his insurer.    

PITTSFIELD — The arson case of a Great Barrington property owner accused of setting on fire his building that formerly housed apartments and the Wonderful Things yarn store has been moved to Berkshire Superior Court.

A grand jury early this month indicted 85-year-old Harry H. Sano Jr. on charges he allegedly set fire to 232 Stockbridge Road over the summer in an attempt to defraud his insurer, Lloyd's of London, court documents show. 

The building had a history of unsafe living conditions and previously served as a multifamily apartments whose units first were scrutinized in fall 2017, when five tenants were taken to the hospital with carbon monoxide poisoning from a faulty furnace.     

Sano was arraigned in Superior Court on Tuesday afternoon on charges of arson of a dwelling, burning a building to defraud an insurer and presenting a false insurance claim. Not guilty pleas were entered on his behalf, and Sano walked out of the courtroom and will continue to be released before trial on his own personal recognizance.  

He was identified as the suspect in the blaze after a search warrant conducted at his home resulted in law enforcement finding “several items of evidence related to the arson.” 

Firefighters arrived at the scene before 8 p.m. on July 7. They encountered multiple fires on the first floor that were connected by “trailers” — which are combustible or flammable materials used to spread fire from one area to the next. They were made of “rope, wall board joint tape, paper, wallpaper, other ordinary combustible Class A materials and ignitable liquids,” a state police fire investigator said in a report.

The trailers connected “fuel packages” of wood, paper, cardboard and paraffin wax squares, and authorities said in court documents that parts of the ceiling had been punched through to allow the fire to spread up and into void spaces.

The building used to house “Wonderful Things,” the yarn store that Sano and his wife started in 1973. At the time of the fire, Sano was at loggerheads with the Board of Health, after inspections turned up 33 violations across all the apartment units, which are above a former Wonderful Things retail store.

He is due back in court on April 19. 

Amanda Burke can be reached at aburke@berkshireeagle.com or 413-496-6296.

Cops and Courts Reporter

Amanda Burke is Cops and Courts Reporter for The Berkshire Eagle. An Ithaca, New York native, she previously worked at The Herald News of Fall River and the Fitchburg Sentinel & Enterprise.

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