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Englewood car arsonist could be freed next month following guilty plea

Photo Credit: Mary K. Miraglia, CLIFFVIEW PILOT Courthouse Reporter
Photo Credit: Mary K. Miraglia, CLIFFVIEW PILOT Courthouse Reporter

EXCLUSIVE: An undocumented day laborer from Guatemala who set an Englewood neighborhood on edge could be paroled at the same time that he is sentenced after pleading guilty today to torching cars.

Although the plea-bargained state prison term will be four years, 25-year-old Marco Antonio Rene will be eligible for parole at the Jan. 24 sentencing because he already has spent a year and a half in the Bergen County Jail, Superior Court Judge Edward A. Jerejian said this afternoon.

Had he been convicted during a trial of the nine total arsons he was charged with, Rene could have faced at least 10 years behind bars, the judge noted.

He also reminded Rene that he will be turned over to federal immigration officials for deportation proceedings as soon as he is released. As CLIFFVIEW PILOT first reportedRene has been in the country illegally since 2010 .

Jerejian continued his $2.5 million bail.

Rene pleaded guilty to setting fire to only two of the cars — a 1986 Pontiac and a 1999 Toyota — in what authorities said was a three-day spree on the city’s west side in the summer of 2012.

Prosecutors dropped the remaining counts in exchange for the plea.

The 5-foot-6-inch Rene didn’t say why he did it, although law enforcement officials told CLIFFVIEW PILOT that he claimed being upset because his girlfriend broke up with him.

Rene originally was charged with four counts of attempted murder, eight counts of aggravated arson and a single count of possessing a fraudulent Social Security card and resident alien card after two cars were set ablaze.

The first was parked outside the Shop-Rite at West Street and Tallman Place.

Less than an hour later, a witness flagged down a passing Englewood patrol car and reported that a man had just torched a car on West Demarest Avenue.

Englewood police officers flooded the area. They spotted Rene and another man entering an apartment a few blocks away and brought both in for questioning.

The second man quickly gave up Rene, who then admitted to torching the two cars and setting fires to five cars and a house in a nearby neighborhood two weeks earlier, Police Chief Arthur O’Keefe told CLIFFVIEW PILOT at the time.

Emergency workers were at the scene of the car fires when the siding of a house suddenly sprouted flames. They believe it may have been smoldering for awhile.

Damage to the home was minimal, they said, but four people were inside at the time — leading to the attempted murder charges that were later dropped.

The vehicles were all parked curbside between the Soldiers Monument on West Palisade Avenue and Cottage Place. They included a restored 1986 Fiero, a Lexus and two Camrys. Three were destroyed, one had moderate damage and one had minor damage. A sixth, parked nearby, sustained some damage after it caught fire from the others.

The Bergen County Sheriff’s Department’s Bureau of Criminal Identification collected evidence for the investigation, conducted by the Englewood Police Department and the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Arson Squad.

Marco Rene, attorney Ian Silvera, interpreter
(STORY / PHOTOS: Mary K. Miraglia, CLIFFVIEW PILOT Courthouse Reporter)

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