Staten Island men arrested in convent fire

Lucy Yang has the story
October 18, 2013 3:26:38 PM PDT
Authorities say they have arrested three 19-year olds in a deliberately set fire at a Staten Island convent that left a nun critcally injured.

Vincent Calder of Staten Island was arrested Thursday after police say he admitted to starting the fire at the St. Joseph Hill convent on Oct. 12th.

Calder was charged with arson, reckless endangerment and criminal mischief, all as hate crimes. He was also charged with criminal trespass and burglary.

Sasso Christopher was charged with burglary, criminal mischief and criminal trespass.

Diego Tuso was charged with burglary, criminal mischief and criminal trespass.

Source tell Eyewitness News that the trio broke into the convent looking to see what they could steal. Calder found the religious candles, lit one on fire in a closet and another on an upper floor.

Police say Calder then admitted during questioning that he threw lit candles onto the floor of the convent, starting the fire.

"I was so frightened for sister Regina," said Sister Denise Martin, who is still quite emotional about the fire that trapped and almost killed Sister Regina at the convent last Saturday.

"Kind of discourages you that this has to happen," Martin said.

We're told the three teen suspects were drinking and smoking marijuana when they allegedly decided to rob and torch the beautiful old church.

Two nuns were sleeping there at the time. Sister Denise on the first floor managed to escape and call 911, but she then tried to find Sister Regina on the second floor.

"She had already jumped and I hadn't seen her," Martin said.

Sister Regina, 45, critically hurt her back in the fall and must now learn how to walk again. A tree was planted at the convent on Friday and dedicated to her.

As for the teenagers, Vincent Holder is also being charged with hate crimes. No answer at his family's house on Friday.

"I forgive them but they need to know there are consequences to their actions," Martin said.

The convent is on the grounds of St. Joseph Hill Academy, a 14-acre Catholic school for kindergarten through 12th grade.