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Cold arson case heats up

Suspect emerges in 2011 fire at Entergy headquarters

BRATTLEBORO—Brattleboro Police have identified a suspect in a cold case involving a 2011 fire at Entergy headquarters on Old Ferry Road.

Investigators ruled the Sept. 20, 2011 fire suspicious after a preliminary investigation. According to Det. Lt. Michael Carrier of the Brattleboro Police Department, the case has been categorized as cold, but it remained active.

On Sept. 8, light was shed on the mystery when the department received a call with new information, wrote Carrier in a Sept. 11 press release.

As a result of that call, Carrier and Brattleboro Fire Department Fire Investigator Lenny Howard traveled to Burlington to interview a person of interest.

“At the completion of the interview it was determined that probable cause was developed” to charge Anthony M. Gotavaskas, 32, of Montpelier, with arson, wrote Carrier.

Gotavaskas will appear in Windham District Court in December.

The early-morning fire started on the middle floor of Entergy’s Vermont Yankee Joint Information Center. The three-story building housed offices and storage equipment. At the time, the area where the fire started was being used for media relations.

According to newspaper accounts at the time, Gotavaskas entered the building through a broken window. The sprinkler system kept the fire contained to an office area. The office sustained fire and water damage, according to the BPD’s press release.

BPD and BFD, in addition to the state Division of Fire Safety conducted the preliminary investigation that pinpointed the fire as deliberate.

Other organizations assisted in the investigation, including the Vermont State Police Fire Investigation Unit, FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force, and the Fire and Explosion Investigation Section of the Massachusetts State Police.

While he couldn’t comment on the details of the investigation, Carrier did say that it’s not uncommon for other agencies outside the local community to provide assistance in an investigation.

For example, the Massachusetts State Police’s Fire and Explosion section provided a K-9 to assist in determining if any accelerants were used.

According to Carrier, investigators gathered evidence at the scene and reviewed surveillance video, but eventually all leads were exhausted.

Marty Cohn, Entergy spokesperson, said that the company does not plan to pursue independent legal action against Gotavaskas.

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Originally published in The Commons issue #323 (Wednesday, September 16, 2015). This story appeared on page A3.

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