The December death of a Massachusetts firefighter has been ruled a homicide after authorities determined the blaze he was fighting in an apartment building had been deliberately set by a former tenant.
Secret indictments were handed up Friday by a Worcester County grand jury, Worcester County District Attorney Joseph Early said. The suspect, Momoh Kamara, 21, of West Boylston, is charged with second-degree murder, arson of a dwelling and armed burglary.
Kamara was arrested without incident and arraigned Friday afternoon in Worcester Superior Court. He was ordered held without bail and is scheduled to return to court on April 24.
Blake Rubin, Kamara's attorney, said afterward that his client is "beside himself." He added that the prosecution's case is based solely on circumstantial evidence.
"This is a man with no real experience in a prison, and he's 21-years-old, so he's terrified," said Rubin. "You're talking about a young man who’s not very familiar with court."
Roy, 36, of Shrewsbury, died after responding to a 5-alarm fire in an apartment building on Lowell Street around 4 a.m. on Dec. 9, 2018. He became trapped on the second floor of the structure along with four other firefighters. He managed to escape using a ladder and was rushed to a nearby hospital, where he died. His cause of death was smoke inhalation, according to the medical examiner.
He left behind a 9-year-old daughter, his parents and a brother.
The fire investigation determined the fire was set in the basement, Early said, and the criminal investigation eventually led them to Kamara, a former building resident.
Prosecutors said video recordings from around the fire scene showed Kamara entering the area around 2:30 a.m. and exiting within 5 minutes of when firefighters arrived. They said Kamara had previously been involved in a disagreement with former roommates about property.
Worcester Fire Chief Michael Lavoie said his department is "extremely grateful" to investigators "for their determination and professionalism" in pursuing the case.
"While we are heartened that Mr. Kamara will face justice, our department is still devastated by the loss of our brother, firefighter Christopher Roy," he said. "The past three months have been extremely difficult for all of us as we continue to mourn his loss."
"We will never forget his sacrifice," Worcester Police Chief Steven Sargent added. "His actions define what it means to be a hero."
Early said the investigation into the fire is still ongoing.
Roy's death was the eighth fatality the Worcester Fire Department has experienced in the past two decades. In 1999, six firefighters were killed battling the Worcester Cold Storage Warehouse fire.