Woonsocket building arsonist gets 5 years in federal prison

WOONSOCKET – A man indicted in December 2019 on a charge of arson for allegedly breaking into a mill-type building and setting fires in multiple locations inside the structure was sentenced Monday to five years in federal prison.

Jacob E. Lahousse, 23, of no known address, admitted in September that he set the fires after climbing a ladder and entering the rear of the building, which houses at least two businesses. 

On April 5, 2019, Woonsocket police responded to an alarm at Sports Systems Custom Bag Corp., located at 44 Hazel St., and discovered smoke in the building and water flowing from sprinkler heads in both the building’s basement and first floor.

A “small fire” inside a desktop computer that was lying on the basement floor and “smoldering papers” on a desk inside a first-floor office were extinguished, according to U.S. Attorney for the District of Rhode Island Zachary A. Cunha. Most of the fire was extinguished by the sprinklers before emergency personnel arrived. 

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Along with finding evidence of forced entry, including an attempted entry into a safe, investigators found a “badly damaged” digital video recorder used to record security images. 

According to charging documents and information presented to the court, video surveillance shows Lahousse walking around the inside of the building collecting various items and placing them into bags, destroying several video surveillance cameras and then setting three separate fires in the building: one inside a desktop computer on the basement level, one to a piece of fabric on the basement level and one on a love seat in a first-floor office. 

In the office that sustained fire damage, a handwritten note was posted on the wall that stated, “[i]n case you decided 2 call the feds I got pics of the fam,” and on the desk next to the note was an empty picture frame that previously contained a family photo, according to the Monday news release. 

Lahousse was identified as the individual depicted in the video surveillance by numerous individuals. He was arrested on July 14, 2019, by Blackstone, Mass., police and found to be in possession of two checkbooks in the name of the owner of one of the businesses inside the building where he set the fires.