NJ cop pleads not guilty to charges from fire at police captain's house

Story highlights

  • Police officer Michael Dotro is charged with arson, attempted murder
  • The fire occurred at the home of a police captain
  • Both the officer and the captain are with the Edison, New Jersey, police department
  • Dotro's lawyer says his client is "in shock" over charges against him
A New Jersey police officer plead not guilty on Friday, a day after he was arrested and charged with setting fire to the house of an Edison police captain and his family.
Michael A. Dotro was arrested on Thursday at his home in Manalapan, New Jersey, after an investigation by the Middlesex County prosecutor's office and the Monroe Township Police Department. That investigation determined that a fire at the police captain's home early on May 20 had been intentionally started outside the house.
Police, EMT personnel and firefighters were called to the two-story, colonial-style home of police Capt. Mark Anderko shortly before 4 a.m. on May 20. Anderko was in the house with his wife, two children and 92-year old mother.
The fire was extinguished within 10 to 15 minutes and there were no injuries, but the house was damaged.
"The investigators described it as considerable, one part of the house had damage on the first and second floor of the home, " said Jim O'Neil, spokesman for the Middlesex County Prosecutor's Office.
Dotro, 35, was charged with five counts of attempted murder and one count of aggravated arson, authorities said. A nine-year veteran of the Edison police department, he was suspended from his job with pay.
Dotro's lawyer, Lawrence Bitterman, said that his client is "in shock" and had told Bitterman that "he can't believe he's being arrested."
Superior Court Judge Bradley Ferencz on Friday upheld previously set bail conditions on Friday, which included a $5 million bail. If the bail is posted, Dotro must surrender his firearms and passport and may not have any contact with the victims.
"I believe they have the wrong guy," said Bitterman.
Bitterman said that Dotro also told him, "The thought of anyone doing this to his brother officer makes me (Dotro) sick."
Citing court restrictions, the prosecutor's office declined to give details of the evidence or to talk about the motive.
The investigation is still ongoing but Bitterman said the search warrant didn't return any incriminating evidence.