NORTH TONAWANDA, N.Y. (WIVB) – Three children are without their father after he was arrested and charged with setting nine fires on Tuesday in North Tonawanda and the City of Tonawanda.
Christopher Syracuse, 26, appeared in court Wednesday morning where a judge entered a not guilty plea on his behalf on the 11 felony and four misdemeanor charges against him. He asked the judge if he could address the court, to explain why he intentionally set the fires, but the judge stopped him, saying for his own benefit, Syracuse should say nothing.
PHOTOS | See photos from each fire scene
Police say Syracuse already confessed to starting all of the fires when he was arrested Tuesday night. He is currently being held in the Niagara County Jail without bail pending a Thursday court appearance.
While he sits behind bars, three children are missing their father. “Ashley” is their mother. She says she was sleeping when the fires broke out, and had no idea what was going on.
“I just want to apologize. I feel bad. I feel horrible. I just wish there was more I could do to help these people,” she said.
Watch an extended interview with Ashley below:
Ashley told News 4 she wishes she had something she could offer the people who Syracuse is accused of hurting by setting their possessions on fire, but says right now, she’s just trying to hold her family together.
“He hurt a lot of people. A lot of people lost their houses. But not only does this affect them, but it affects me and my kids as well,” she said. “I don’t want him to be away from the kids. This is the whole reason we agreed on the co-parenting situation is so this way he could be with the kids.”
Multiple law enforcement agencies worked together Tuesday to arrest Syracuse, who they say confessed to starting nine fires at six locations overnight in North Tonawanda and the City of Tonawanda.
Police say several tips led them directly to the Syracuse, who was taken into custody around 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday. He was placed under arrest around 9:00 p.m., after police say he confessed to starting all of the fires.
MAP OF FIRE LOCATIONS:
Chief Hall says Syracuse gave a reason for his actions, but at a press conference late Tuesday night, he would not elaborate. Syracuse does not have a criminal history to speak of, beside a single charge of petit larceny, and has no mental health history.
Police say they do not believe drugs or alcohol are involved and say Syracuse has been cooperative.
All of this is confusing to Ashley, who says she wishes Syracuse had reached out to someone before allegedly starting the fires.
“I wish he would have talked to me, talked to somebody. There’s so many services he could have used. There’s Crisis Services,” she said.
She says when she saw video of the suspected arsonist, she just wanted to know why. When police told her that Syracuse had confessed, she broke down.
“That just broke my heart,” she said. “I apologize on his behalf. I just, I feel for them. I know that right now I have nothing to give and I’m just trying to hold me and my family together.”
Ashley believes Syracuse set the fires as a call for help, but she couldn’t say why.