Suspect arrested in 2003 Olney fire that killed five

Abdu Rivera in a booking photo released by  Philadelphia Police Tuesday. He was arrested in the deaths of five people

Abdu Rivera in a booking photo released by Philadelphia Police Tuesday. He was arrested in the deaths of five people

Philadelphia police have arrested a suspect in a 13-year-old firebombing case that left five people dead in the Olney section of Philadelphia.

Investigators reopened the cold case in July 2014 after the detective assigned to the case retired. The new investigators managed to locate new witnesses, who agreed to come forward and cooperate with the investigation. 

After losing a brawl to a boxer that erupted outside of a club, police said, Abdu Rivera and pals sought retaliation. They went to boxer John Santiago’s home in 100 block of Widener Street around 3 a.m. on Nov. 18, 2003.

Inside, the family was sound asleep. 

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Homicide Captain James Clark said the backdoor of the home was bolted closed at the time, which ended up blocking their escape. 

“So what they did is, threw a couple of Molotov cocktails … actually trapping them inside of the house. They were trapped inside the house, they couldn’t get out the back door,” Clark said.

Killed were Santiago, 23; his girlfriend, Clarissa Davila; their 3-month old daughter, Jacquelyn; his 17-year-old brother, Alex; and his 41-year-old mother, Francisca DeJesus. Three other family members managed to escape, Clark said.

Rivera, 32, was arrested on Monday. He now faces five counts of murder, arson and related offenses. Clark said Rivera is a career criminal who was “extremely very well-known to police.”

Clark said the new witnesses didn’t say what motivated them to come forward more than a decade after the incident. But he said it wasn’t related to the $100,000 cash reward for information. Still, the new witnesses, he said, will be receiving the reward. 

Relatives of the family members were “extremely happy” about the arrest, Clark said. He said additional arrests may be made, but that Rivera is the main suspect in the case.

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