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Riverhead man held without bail; $50K worth of damage at church after fire

The Riverhead man accused of setting a fire at a Roanoke Avenue church is not eligible for bail because of two prior felony convictions, Riverhead Town Justice Lori Hulse said at his arraignment Sunday.

Lee Ragland, 33, was caught on surveillance cameras starting a fire at the Luz en tu Senda Church at 941 Roanoke Ave. at about 2:22 a.m. Saturday, according to police.

Mr. Ragland started a fire in a garbage receptacle at the church, which spread to an exterior west side wall and an interior wall, according to court documents.

An affidavit from Dora Cabrera, who is described in court documents as an “owner or possessor” of the church, estimated that $50,000 worth of damage was done to the church.

Police said the fire, located in the back of the church, had reached a point of breaching an upper window and was entering the interior of the church.

Riverhead Fire Department volunteers were able to quickly put out the fire. No one was in the building at the time of the fire.

The Suffolk County Arson Squad, along with the Riverhead Town Detectives, and the town fire marshal were investigating.

The case will be reviewed by a grand jury. Mr. Ragland until be incarcerated until Nov. 1 while the grand jury decides if it will indict him.

Mr. Ragland was convicted of first-degree aggravated unlicensed operation of a vehicle, a felony, in 2017, and was convicted of third-degree criminal possession of a weapon, also a felony, in 2007, according to court documents.

He has a pending case in Riverhead Town Justice Court for seventh-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance stemming from a Sept. 28, 2018, arrest.

He also was convicted of a petit larceny charge in 2017, which is a misdemeanor.

Mr. Ragland wore a T-shirt, shorts and sandals in court Sunday having been kept overnight by police following his arrest. He was assigned a court-appointed attorney, Olga Murray, and filed a not guilty plea. He is due back in town court Monday.

Police ask that anyone with additional information may contact the Riverhead Detective Division at 631-727-4500, ext. 312. All calls will remain confidential.

Photo caption: The exterior of the church damaged in an early morning fire Saturday. (Credit: Tim Gannon)

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