Retired cop shocked, fire that destroyed his house may be arson

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June 7, 2012, 5:02 pm

(NECN: Ally Donnelly, Winchester, Mass.) - His shoes crunching through the debris, Jim Covino says, "Total devastation, shock."

He's showing us what's left of his Winchester dream house. Last month, a fire tore through in the early morning hours.

We've now learned, investigators think it may have been intentionally set.

"That's devastating news. It's shocking," he said.

Covino is a local restaurant owner and former Winchester police officer. He retired less than three months ago.

We ask him, "Have you made enemies over the years?"

He pauses and then, with a shrug of the shoulders says, "I was a police officer."

The fire happened on May 18. Covino woke to the piercing squawk of smoke detectors and came downstairs to take a look. When he smelled smoke and saw flames through the front door, he rushed to hustle out his sleeping 8- and 13-year-old daughters.

Left behind were two hamsters, fish, wedding photos and baby pictures.

"It's our home, it's our life and it's just been pulled from us. To explain to the kids that somebody can actually do this, potentially, to us..." said Kim Covino.

Winchester Police, who are heading the investigation, are being very tight-lipped.

"I can tell you this fire is under investigation by the Winchester Police Department, the state fire marshal's office and the District Attorney's Office," said Lt. Peter MacDonnell.

In the Winchester Fire Department report, investigators write, "it is reasonable to suspect that this fire was set by human action..." but they have not officially ruled arson.

"It's an undetermined cause right now," said MacDonnell.

According to the report, investigators believe it all started on the front porch: a wreath on the door, set on fire.

Covino, who insists he is not a suspect, has heard all the rumors, from it being a teenage prank to something more sinister, but he doesn't want to comment.

"Somebody would have to come forward and confess," he says. "This is something they don't want to carry for the rest of their lives."

His wife agreed.

"We really need information. Nobody should be able to get away with this. They've destroyed our lives."

Fire officials say the home sustained more than one million dollars in damage.

The Covino’s say it can't be repaired and their dream house will have to be torn down.

Tags: Fire, investigation, arson , Ally Donnelly, winchester massachusetts, jim covino, kim covino, winchester police officer, lt. peter macdonnell
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