A man has been arrested in connection with a fire that destroyed the Wind Tiki restaurant earlier this month, a popular spot for Chinese food in Webster, Massachusetts.
Joel Batista-Viera, 42, of Webster, was arraigned Tuesday morning in Dudley District Court on several charges related to a string of break-ins at businesses in the area.
The fire at Wind Tiki started on Thompson Road early in the morning on March 18. Firefighters from multiple towns spent hours trying to put it out. The restaurant had closed at 8:30 p.m. the night before, so no one was in the building at the time.
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Batista-Viera is accused of targeting three restaurants in the same area in one night.
Police who responded to the fire found rolled coins and loose change near the back door.
Investigators say he also broke into Mexicali Cantina Grill, where he tried to access the cash registers and file cabinet. They say he tried to start a fire there with a candle.
The surveillance system was damaged, but video footage was able to be recovered and viewed remotely. After investigating the break-in at Mexicali, authorities returned to the scene of the Wind Tiki.
While they were there, another attempted break in was reported at Lake Pizza on Thompson Road, which also occurred the previous night. No entry was gained to the business, but detectives were able to recover surveillance footage.
Those who live and work nearby said it was shocking to see a community staple all but destroyed in a matter of hours. The restaurant has been around for decades and is considered an institution.
When police arrived on scene, they found both rolled and loose change on the ground by the back door, which was unsecured. The evidence prompted an investigation by the Webster Police Detective Bureau, along with the State Fire Marshal’s Office.
Over the next few days, detectives collected surveillance video from several businesses in the area. The same man could be seen at the Mobil gas station on Thompson Road when the Wind Tiki was on fire, at Mexicali and at Lake Pizza.
Police released photos of the man, later identified as Batista-Viera, of Lincoln Street. He turned himself in to Webster police Monday.
Batista-Viera has been charged with two counts of breaking and entering, two counts of larceny, one count of burning a building, one count of vandalism, one count of attempting to burn a building and attempting to break and enter.
His family had nothing to say as they left court.
He was ordered held on $25,000 cash bail. If he gets out, he will be on house arrest with a GPS monitoring bracelet.