Arson attempt at the Shady Lawn Motel leads to arrest

Suspect identified through DNA match is already an inmate

WHITE RIVER JUNCTION - A long-time Hartford area resident is being charged with attempted first degree arson in connection with two small fires that began along the back side of the Shady Lawn Motel during the pre-dawn hours of May 1st.

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    Sean Runnals, 33, is already incarcerated on unrelated charges but detectives showed up at the jail earlier today and issued him a citation ordering him to appear at the courthouse in downtown White River Junction on November 7th to answer the new felony charge.

    A lengthy investigation used DNA and fingerprint analysis to zero in on Runnals as the suspect, according to an announcement by Vermont State Police Detective Sergeants Todd Ambroz and Tom Williams who noted that they were assisted by Hartford Fire Marshal Mike Bedard.

    The Vermont State Police Fire Investigation Unit was called out to look into the pair of small fires which broke out around 4:44 a.m. on May 1st at Shady Lawn which sits on Maple Street at the edge of downtown White River Junction.  

The Shady Lawn Motel is owned by Jalaram Hospitality and managed by Kalpesh Patel

    "Although damage was minimal to the motel, it was determined that two separate, but distinct areas of origin were located along the back side of the motel," investigators said, adding "Gasoline was used as an accelerant in the attempts to burn the motel, however the fire spread to the leaves below and the smoke alerted the occupants who called 911.  Damage to the motel was limited to soot and smoke deposits, but there were several occupants in the building at the time of the fire."

    Investigators are asking anyone who might have additional information regarding this fire to please contact Detective Sergeant Todd Ambroz at (802) 878-7111 or the Vermont Arson Tip Award Program at (800) 322-7766.  The arson tip program provides rewards of up to $5000 for information that leads to the identity of an arsonist.  

Sean Runnals, 33, (seen during a 2014 court appearance) is facing felony count of attempted first degree arson

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