For Immediate Release - October 19, 2009

Attorney General Martha Coakley's Office Announces That Jury Finds Clinton Man Guilty of Setting Fire to Historical Landmark and Barn

Defendant also Convicted for Setting Fire to Two Additional Structures in Western Massachusetts

WORCESTER - Today, a Worcester Superior Court jury convicted a Clinton man involved in setting fires to a historical landmark in Sterling, a barn in Holden, an abandoned paper factory in Erving, and at a railroad bungalow in Florida, MA. Michael Dreslinski, age 30, was found guilty on the charges of Burning a Building (4 counts), Conspiracy to Commit Arson, Breaking & Entering in the Nighttime with Intent to Commit a Felony, Malicious Destruction of Property and Malicious Injury to a Railroad. Dreslinski will be sentenced by Superior Court Judge John S. McCann at a later date.

Co-defendant, John Rousseau, age 30, also of Clinton, is scheduled to appear in Worcester Superior Court on October 20, 2009, for a final pre-trial conference. Rousseau is charged with Burning a Building (4 counts), Conspiracy to Commit Arson, Breaking & Entering in the Nighttime with Intent to Commit a Felony, Malicious Destruction of Property, Malicious Injury to a Railroad, Larceny and Receiving Stolen Property.

According to authorities, in the early morning hours of August 12, 2007, Rousseau and Dreslinski drove to the historic home of Mary Elizabeth Sawyer, author of the fabled nursery rhyme "Mary Had a Little Lamb," located at 108 Maple Street in Sterling, Massachusetts, and set the vacant building on fire. The next day, on the morning of August 13, 2007, Rousseau and Dreslinski drove to Holden, Massachusetts and set fire to a barn located at 106 Bond Road. Investigations conducted by the State Police Fire and Explosion Investigation Unit determined each fire to be willfully and maliciously set, an act of arson.

On August 19, 2007, at approximately 12:30 p.m., following an in-depth investigation, State Police assigned to the Attorney General's Office with assistance from State Police assigned to the Fire and Explosion Unit and officers from the Clinton Police Department arrested Rousseau and Dreslinski in Lancaster without incident. The men were arraigned the next day in Orange District Court, at which time they entered a plea of not guilty and were ordered held without bail.

On October 23, 2007 a Franklin Superior Court Grand Jury returned indictments against Rousseau and Dreslinski. On November 14, 2007, Rousseau and Dreslinski were arraigned in Franklin Superior Court in connection with setting a fire in an abandoned paper factory in Erving in July, and in connection with setting a fire at a railroad bungalow in Western Massachusetts, at which time they entered pleas of not guilty and were ordered held without bail.

A Worcester Superior Court Grand Jury returned indictments against Rousseau and Dreslinski on December 21, 2007. On February 19, 2008, Rousseau and Dreslinski were arraigned in Worcester Superior Court, where they entered pleas of not guilty and were ordered held without bail.

The trial for Dreslinksi started on October 5, 2009, and lasted 11 days. The jury deliberated for approximately three and a half hours before returning with a verdict of guilty.

This case was prosecuted by Assistant Attorney General Eileen O'Brien, Senior Trial Counsel in the Attorney General's Criminal Bureau. It was investigated by the Attorney General's Office with assistance from the State's Fire and Explosion Unit, State Police assigned to Northwestern District Attorney Betsy Scheibel's Office, the Commonwealth Fusion Center, State Police Air Wing, and police departments in the towns of Clinton, Sterling, Rutland and Holden and Boston & Maine Railways.

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