Woonsocket man sentenced to serve five years in state prison for arson


PROVIDENCE, R.I. – Attorney General Peter F. Neronha announced that a Woonsocket man was sentenced in Providence County Superior Court to serve five years at the Adult Correctional Institutions (ACI) after pleading to setting a fire in a Woonsocket apartment in 2020 while it was occupied by an adult and three children.


Luis Rivas Melendez (age 31) entered a plea of nolo contendere to one count of first-degree arson.


At a hearing on January 13, 2022, before Superior Court Justice Richard Raspallo, the Court sentenced the defendant to 10 years at the ACI, with five years to serve and the balance of the sentence suspended with probation. Additionally, the Court issued a No Contact Order between the defendant and his victims.


“In the course of a petty domestic dispute, this defendant apparently believed that the best way to settle the matter was to literally burn down the house. That outrageously reckless and criminal act – placing in danger the lives of three children and another adult – warrants a significant sentence of imprisonment, and I am grateful that one was imposed by the court here,” said Attorney General Neronha. “The justice that was served today would not have been possible without the strong work of the Woonsocket Police and Fire Departments and the Office of the State Fire Marshal, for which I am also grateful.”


Had the case proceeded to trial, the State was prepared to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that on the morning of February 23, 2020, the defendant set fire to a couch in an apartment on Bourdon Boulevard that was occupied by one adult and three children at the time.


At approximately 3:30 a.m. that morning, the defendant visited the apartment to attend a birthday party for his significant other, who resided there. After remaining at the apartment for a couple of hours, the defendant left, only to return at approximately 6:30 a.m.


At that time, the defendant demanded the keys to his significant other’s car, which she would not turn over. Following this argument, the defendant walked to the downstairs level of the apartment and proceeded to light a couch on fire.


Upon smelling smoke from the fire, the four occupants of the apartment ran downstairs and observed the defendant dragging a burning couch out of a room and outside through the front door of the apartment.  After the defendant dragged the burning couch onto the lawn of the apartment unit, he then ran away.


One of the occupants called 911 and the Woonsocket Fire Department and Police Department responded, rendering the scene safe. Investigators found substantial fire damage to a downstairs room, entryway, and door frame of the apartment.


The Woonsocket Police Department apprehended the defendant several days later, on February 26, 2020.


Detective Sergeant Kevin Greenough of the Woonsocket Police Department, Fire Investigator Hannah Burnes of the State Fire Marshall’s Office, and Assistant Attorney General Daniel C. Guglielmo of the Office of the Attorney General led the investigation and prosecution of the case.