SOMERVILLE, NJ - A Superior Court judge ruled Friday that the arson suspect charged with burning down two 5-story buildings in downtown Bound Brook Sunday night will remain in jail until a pre-indictment conference in March.
In his denial to release the suspect on bail, Superior Court Judge Kevin M. Shanahan referenced posts that appeared on Juan Hector Padilla's Facebook page in the days prior to the fire that threatened to burn down buildings.
"Someone who would post on social media, 'I will burn down the building they put up to mess with my head' poses a significant danger to the community," the judge said.
The seven-alarm fire first reported at 7:53 p.m. Sunday quickly spread as embers from the fire at the Meridia II apartment building under construction blew across the street to a second five-story apartment building also under construction, spreading to three smaller structures - an electronics store, a two-story boarding house and a two-story, 4-unit apartment building.
More than one dozen residents of the two smaller buildings remain displaced and are being assisted by the Red Cross, other agencies, and donations from the public.
There were no fatalities and only one minor injury to a firefighter.
Hundreds of firefighters and dozens of pieces of equipment from Somerset and adjoining counties fought to contain the fire, which burned for several hours before it was knocked down; firemen continued to douse the hot spots throughout the day Monday from aerial ladder trucks.
During the court proceedings Friday, Somerset County Assistant Prosecutor Yoana Yakova revealed that damage from the fire is estimated at $52 million.
The suspect, 28, is a resident of the Ashton Arms Apartments on East Second Street in Bound Brook. He was arrested within 24 hours of the fire, based on video surveillance from businesses on East Main Street and individuals' I-phone videos, which showed Padilla in the vicinity of the Meridia II building, according to Somerset County Prosecutor Michael H. Robertson. The videos were shown in court Friday.
Demolition of what was left of the buildings began this week.
Bound Brook Mayor Robert Fazen said the owners of the two apartment buildings plan to rebuild.
"Bound Brook will rebound and we will rebuild," the mayor said at a press conference Tuesday during which the arrest of Padilla was announced. He is formally charged with aggravated arson and hindering apprehension. Robertson said more charges are possible as the investigation continues.
No motive has been established and it is unknown whether an accelerant was used, the prosecutor said at the press conference.