SPRINGFIELD, Mass. — A Maine man charged with setting fires at a Massachusetts church with a predominantly Black congregation was held on $25,000 bail at his arraignment Tuesday.
Dushko Vulchev, 44, of Houlton, is linked to three fires at the Martin Luther King Jr. Presbyterian Church in Springfield on Dec. 13 and Dec. 15, prosecutors said. He is not charged in connection with another more damaging fire at the church on Dec. 28 that made the building unusable. That fire is still under investigation, but investigators have said it is a possible hate crime.
He pleaded not guilty to six charges, including attempted arson and malicious destruction connected to vandalism to several cars.
Vulchev was tied to the fires and the vandalism by his car, which was seen in the area, Assistant Hampden District Attorney James Forsyth said. He was arrested in Pittsfield on Thursday.
Investigators have not disclosed a motive in any of the fires.
Forsyth in seeking bail argued that Vulchev has no ties to Massachusetts and may flee to Canada. Vulchev was previously convicted of assaulting his estranged girlfriend in Maine, authorities said.
Vulchev’s attorney called it a case of mistaken identity and asked that his client be released on personal recognizance.
“The only thing that actually links him to that is the assertion that his car is in the area and these pictures that some police officers have decided look like him,” the lawyer said.
His next court date is Feb. 5.