Convicted murderer let free after judge overturns verdict

A Lowell man who spent more than 30 years behind bars for the murder of eight people in a deadly fire, was set free on bail Thursday after a judge overturned his conviction.

Victor Rosario will be released on $25,000 bail after spending more than three decades at the medium security prison, MCI-Norfolk. Rosario, 57, was convicted in 1983 of arson in one of Lowell’s deadliest fires.

That conviction was overturned Monday by Superior Court Judge Kathe M. Tuttman. In a bail hearing Thursday morning in Middlesex Superior Court, Rosario’s attorney, Lisa Cavanaugh, argued that he met “every criteria” for release.

The Commonwealth has filed a notice that it will appeal Monday’s decision.

In June of 2010, the New England Center for Investigative Reporting brought to light several flaws in the police investigation leading to Rosario’s conviction.

On March 5th, 1982, a Lowell triple-decker burned down, killing eight people, including several children.

Rosario, who was 24 years old at the time, signed a confession stating that he and two of his friends had set the fire with Molotov cocktails as revenge for a drug deal gone wrong.

But NECIR’s investigation showed that there was no physical evidence of the Molotov cocktails–no gasoline or broken bottles were found at the fire’s scene.

Rosario’s translator also told NECIR that Rosario had been delusional while signing the confession, and did not understand what he was saying.

The prosecutor on the case asked for Rosario to be held without bail, evoking the eight people who died in the fire in 1982.

Judge Tuttman, who wrote the decision overturning the original conviction, set bail for Rosario at $25,000. She also ordered that he wear an ankle monitoring bracelet and abstain from alcohol.

As she spoke, Rosario began to cry.

The Boston Globe mentioned our investigation’s impact in their article on Rosario’s conviction.