MONROE — Three township men were arrested and charged Saturday with intentionally firing explosive devices at a neighbor’s home and setting it on fire, Middlesex County Prosecutor Bruce J. Kaplan and Chief Michael Lloyd of the Monroe Township Police Department announced.
Michael Cavallo, 18, and his brother, Johnathan Cavallo, 22, and Matthew Debski, 20, were each charged with 21 criminal offenses, including counts of arson and aggravated assault for allegedly setting off the explosive devices and endangering a family of five who was asleep during the attack at 4:42 a.m. Saturday.
The family, a husband, wife and three children, were not injured and were able to escape when one of the explosive devices set the attic of their home on fire.
The defendants also were charged with firing another explosive device and endangering a police officer and a rescue squad worker when they arrived at the house in response to an emergency call.
The fire at the house on Laquinta Court in Monroe was quickly extinguished. Firefighters from Monroe Township, Spotswood, Helmetta and Jamesburg responded to the blaze.
The three defendants were being held at the Middlesex County Adult Correction Center in North Brunswick. Bail was initially set at $150,000 on each defendant, but Superior Court Judge Dennis Nieves raised it to $250,000 per defendant today after reviewing the charges. They must post the full amount before they can be released from custody and may have no contact with their victims.
An investigation by Detective Ray Gifford of the Monroe Township Police Department and Investigator George Stilwell of the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office determined that the three defendants allegedly fired three explosive devices from the victim’s property, which is adjacent to the Cavallo home.
The victims were awakened by the first two explosions and called police. One explosive device entered the attic of the house and the other broke through a second-floor window in the bedroom of one of the children.
As the police officer and the rescue squad worker arrived at the house minutes later, the third explosive device was fired, but did not strike the victims’ house.
Investigators, with the assistance of the New Jersey State Police, traced the explosive devices to the Cavallo home, and the three men subsequently were arrested and charged.
They were charged with five counts each of arson for endangering the five family members and one count each of arson for igniting the explosive device that set the house on fire. In addition, each defendant was charged with five counts of aggravated assault for the attack upon each family member.
The three men also were charged with two counts each of arson for firing the third explosive device and endangering the police officer and the rescue squad worker.
The defendants also were charged with six counts each of possession of the explosive devices for an unlawful purpose.
The three men also were charged with one count each of criminal mischief and one count each of trespass.
The prosectuor’s office did not disclose the identities of the family members or a possible motive for the attack, which remained under investigation.
Kaplan thanked the New Jersey State Police for its assistance in the investigation and examination of the explosive devices.
The investigation is continuing. Authorities are asking anyone with information on the incident is to contact Detective Gifford of the Monroe Township Police Department at 1-732-521-0222, or Investigator Stilwell of the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office at 1-732-745-8675.
As is the case with all criminal defendants, the charges against Debski and the Cavallos are merely accusations and they are presumed innocent until proven guilty.
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