Abdu Rivera Arrested for 2003 Arson that Killed Five, Including a Baby

Police credit witness cooperation and say they expect to make more arrests in the case.

Arson suspect Abdu Rivera. (Photo via Philadelphia Police Department)

Arson suspect Abdu Rivera. (Photo via Philadelphia Police Department)

On November 18, 2003, a suspicious fire ripped through a home in Olney, killing five people, and on Tuesday, 13 years later, police have announced an arrest.

32-year-old Abdu Rivera has been arrested and charged with five counts each of arson and murder, as well as other offenses stemming from the blaze. The victims that night were 41-year-old Francesca DeJesus, her 23-year-old son John Santiago, his wife Clarissa Santiago, 17, and their infant daughter, Jacqueline. Another family member, Alexis Santiago, died 10 years later from his injuries.

Investigators say that Rivera and some other men had been involved in a fight with John, a four-time Pennsylvania Golden Gloves state champion, outside of a club at Second and Ontario streets. Police believe that Rivera and other unidentified suspects found Santiago’s home and burned it down as an act of revenge.

“He beat two or three of them up,” Homicide Captain James Clark said on Tuesday. “Because of pride, they went back.”

The case sat dormant for years until two detectives reopened it in 2014, Clark indicated. The reward eventually went up to $100,000, and detectives found cooperating witnesses, who led them to Rivera.

“I can’t say it enough,” said Clark. “The detectives did good work.”

Clark said that two or three more arrests are expected.

“He’s extremely well known to us,” said Clark, referring to Rivera’s long arrest record. In the years following the fire, Rivera spent time in jail for involuntary manslaughter and firearms charges.

Erika Lewy contributed to this report.

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