Man Facing Arson Charge for Fire at St. Raphael Cathedral

By: Dana Brueck
By: Dana Brueck

Police arrested a 41-year-old man in connection with the fire investigation at Madison's St. Raphael Cathedral.

The suspect is described as a transient man ... a man with a 10th grade education, whose last address is listed as Lodi.

Investigators released the criminal complaint, but it gives no indication of how or why the fire was started.

Fire Chief Debra Amesqua says, "the city of Madison fire department has determined this fire was the result of arson."

Forty-one year-old William, or Billy, Connell will face charges of burglary, arson and bail jumping. Investigators said little but released the criminal complaint against Connell during an afternoon news conference.

The complaint indicates an officer responded to a grocery store early Tuesday morning after reports of someone knowing something about the fire at St. Raphael's Cathedral a day earlier.

Police Chief Noble Wray says, "we received information from an individual who admitted he's involved in the arson."
The criminal complaint says Connell told the officer, "it was me ... I broke into the church with a crowbar and stole a bottle of wine and messed around with some stuff."

When the officer asked why St. Ray's, the report says Connell replied "I will save those details for a lawyer."

Investigators found a crowbar at the scene. They believe it came from a nearby construction site. But, police say they need the public's help.
"There's an altered small four-inch piece of metal rebar welded to it; we need help identifying where this crowbar belongs," officer Larry Kamholz says.

The complaint states the officer found eight matchbooks on the suspect.
The officer also found packets of hot chocolate that can be traced back to the church.

Meantime back at court, Connell's defense attorney requested a competency evaluation. Connell's defense attorney says the suspect does not understand why he's being charged.
Rhoda Ricciardi, Connell's defense attorney, says, "he's a sad story, a very sad story ... the first step is determining whether he can make it through facing these charges."

Connell's bail is set at more than $200, 000.

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