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Arson charges in fire at curling club

NORFOLK — Two men were arraigned at Bantam Superior Court Monday morning, Dec. 19. They are being charged with a series of acts of vandalism on Saturday, Dec. 17, that included setting fire to the Norfolk Curling Club on Sunday, Dec. 18.The accused vandals are Kyle Majewski, 19, of Sandisfield, Mass., and Matthew Carey, 20, of Torrington.They were arraigned in Bantam and sent to New Haven Correctional Facility, according to a clerk at the court. No pleas were entered.The case is now being transferred to Litchfield Superior Court. Their first hearing is scheduled for Jan. 4. Bond was set in court at $205,000 for Carey and at $230,000 for Majewski.According to a Connecticut State Police report, at 11:25 p.m. on Dec. 17, the police at the Troop B barracks in North Canaan received a report of a fire at a residence at 292 Wheeler Road in Norfolk.Troopers and firefighters from several area companies went to the residence and were able to bring the blaze under control. No one was at home at the time.At 12:45 a.m., Troop B received a phone call from a home-owner at 206 Westside Road in Norfolk. She was reporting that there had been intruders in her basement but that they had left after she yelled at them. Meanwhile, Trooper Paul Makuc from the state police fire marshal’s office was on his way to the Wheeler Road fire. He received a call to go instead to the Westside Road residence, which is behind the Norfolk Curling Club. On his way there, he discovered that the curling club was on fire. The club is at 70 Golf Drive. Westside Road runs parallel to Golf Drive. As firefighters from area companies battled both blazes, Troop B received a 911 call at 1:26 a.m. from a man who said he had been involved in a car crash on Mountain Road, less than a mile from the Westside Road residence and the curling club. Mountain Road intersects with Golf Drive. Trooper Stebbins from Troop B responded to the crash and found Majewski and Carey and evidence linking them to both fires. According to a police report, Majewski had been driving the vehicle. After leaving the curling club and traveling back toward Mountain Road on Golf Drive, they took a left turn and headed west. This took them up a narrow, winding road lined with large, well-tended houses. Had they gone right on Mountain Road, they would have quickly reached Route 44 and the center of the village.Police also found a number of street signs and mailboxes that had been left near the curling club. The items had been taken from the area around Doolittle Road and Wheeler Road. It is believed that Majewski and Carey were responsible for taking those items.The men were taken into custody, with multiple charges of arson, criminal mischief, burglary, criminal trespass and larceny. Jonathan Barbagallo, a member of the Norfolk Fire Department and the Norfolk Curling Club, was one of the first firefighters to arrive at the scene. Like other club members and area residents, he returned to the scene to help with cleanup, and to look mournfully on the wreckage.“The shed was fully involved by the time I got here,” Barbagallo said of the fire in an interview Monday at the site. “The whole building was a total loss. As a member of the club, in the winter, I spent as much time in this place as I did at my house. It was like watching my own house burn down. It was such a unique part of Norfolk. The people who are part of this club are family.”Mary Fanette, president of the club, called the fire a tragedy. Although she confirmed that the club is insured, she did not know yet how much the insurance company would pay to cover the damage and whether it would be enough to rebuild.On Sunday afternoon, curler Ted Stone was out staring sadly at the wreckage. A second generation curler, he has belonged to the club since 1961 (the steel-wood-and stone structure was built in 1956).“Even if we had all our ducks in a row,” he said, “it would take us two years to rebuild.”Even the curling stones, he said, will take a long time to replace. He said the heat from the fire must have been incredibly intense; it melted the steel I-beams in the building’s structure and cracked the large granite curling stones in half.Starling Childs, whose family helped build the club, said the stones can never be replaced; they are made of a rare granite that is no longer being quarried.“Today it costs about $2,000 to replace a set of two stones,” he said in a phone interview Sunday.“This is so devastating. The club has been part of us for more than 50 years. We lost so many things that are not replaceable, including commemorative plaques made by our late member Daryl Russ, along with countless trophies.”Jeff Knudsen, vice president of the club, echoed the feelings of Childs, Fanette, Stone and Barbagallo.“The club is operated by members who put a lot of time and energy into it, and it’s all gone overnight,” Knudsen said. “It was a cozy, tiny little curling club.”Fundraisers will be held at a future date, he said, and “we will try to get the club going again.” Additional reporting was provided by Asher Pavel, Karen Bartomioili and Cynthia Hochswender.

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