NEW BRITAIN, Conn. (WTNH) — A woman accused of intentionally setting fires at two houses of worship in New Britain faced a judge Monday.
Kimorah Parker, 30, is accused of torching Congregation Tephereth Israel on Friday and St. Matthew’s Lutheran Church about 45 minutes later. Police said the burglary alarm then went off at St. Joseph’s Church, where investigators believe Parker broke in.
New Britain police were on high alert even before the fires were set. Police said Parker is a person of interest in other cases similar to this one.
Parker appeared virtually at New Britain Superior Court on charges of arson and burglary.
“The allegations, in this case, do warrant a significant bond, given that they would support this defendant is a significant risk to public safety,” the judge said.
Michelle Joyce, a longtime member of Congregation Tephereth Israel, had been going to the synagogue since she was little, as her grandfather was a founding member. She remembered all the people who used to go there and where they sat, noting that it was always packed with a big crowd. Now, the place where she celebrated the Jewish holidays is boarded up.
“Looking at the damage is just hard,” Joyce said.
Pastor Mark Valigorsky of St. Matthew’s Lutheran Church said authorities told him Parker got into the church by throwing one of the church’s planters at the front window.
“It is a hate crime, if you will, that someone would do this,” Valigorsky said.
Valigorsky said Parker put items on the stove, turned it on, lit it, and then “apparently got out of the building as fast as possible.”
At the church, the damage is minimal but will take time to repair. As for the synagogue, an engineer will have to determine whether or not it’s safe to rebuild.
“It means a lot to me, this building means a lot to me,” Joyce said. “We grew up here, I brought my children here. It means an awful lot to me, so my hope is that they will be able to restore it.”
The synagogue is on the National Register of Historic Places. Joyce said the most important thing is the Torahs weren’t inside the building when the fire happened.
Two of Parker’s friends who were in the courtroom Monday told News 8 they hope she gets the care she needs.
“I think she should get help,” Caleb Newburry said. “I think that should be the first thing. I think she needs help, mental help.”
“I want to hear her voice,” Luis Malave said. “I want to know what took over her.”
Parker is being held on a $260,000 bond and was put on suicide watch. She is due to return to court in two weeks.
Members of New Britain’s Polish community recently received threats over fundraisers held for Ukraine. Stewart said the two Ukrainian churches in the city were not the target of this. At this time, she does not believe there is a connection between Friday’s fires and the threats.
Extra law enforcement was at several events in the city over the weekend and at the places of worship.
No one was injured during the incidents and a motive remains unclear. The fire marshal’s office and New Britain Fire Department are investigating the fires.
The video below is from a previous newscast.