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Teen pleads not guilty in fire that killed 3

Michael Pilato, 15, is led into Webster town court Thursday. Pilato is charged with dousing his home with gasoline and setting it ablaze, killing his father and two brothers. AP Photo/Democrat & Chronicle, Jamie Germano

A 15-year-old boy pleaded not guilty Tuesday to killing his father and two brothers by setting fire to the family’s Webster home.

Michael Pilato remained held without bail following his arraignment in Monroe County Court on six counts of second-degree murder, two counts of attempted second-degree murder and one count of arson.

A grand jury indicted the Webster teenager on Friday, more than two weeks after investigators say he poured gasoline throughout his family’s two-story home and set it ablaze with the intention of causing deaths. He is being prosecuted as an adult.

The early morning fire on Dec. 7 killed Pilato’s 71-year-old adoptive father, Carmen, and his brothers, 16-year-old Peter and 12-year-old Joshua. His mother, Elaine, and a 13-year-old sister, Elizabeth, escaped with injuries.

His attorney Tuesday described Pilato as “still in shock” but said he has been cooperating in his defense.

“The whole situation is starting to sink in little by little,” said Andre Vitale, a public defender.

Vitale said his client and a network of friends have been providing information as Vitale looks into the charges.

“The most important thing has been the support he knows he’s getting from his friends,” Vitale said.

While authorities have offered no clues for his actions, some of Pilato’s classmates described a tumultuous relationship with his father, a retired construction worker who had remarried and adopted the four children as infants after his biological children were grown. Prosecutors said none of the adoptees were related to each other.

One of the boy’s friends, Sonny Mottler, said Pilato got in trouble recently for driving off in his mother’s car and said police briefly detained them last summer for firing a BB gun in the woods.

Pilato is being held in the Monroe County Children’s Center, a secure facility for criminal suspects under the age of 16. He’s due back in court Jan. 5.

If convicted, he could get up to 15 years to life in prison.

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