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More than three years after a deadly fire swept through the lounge of a Seton Hall University dormitory, two men who were freshmen at the time have been charged with arson and murder. Both have denied any role in the Jan. 19, 2000, blaze at Boland Hall that killed three students and injured more than 50 others. Joseph E. LePore, 21, of Florham Park, N.J., and Sean Ryan, 21, of Livingston, N.J., were arrested Wednesday on charges of felony murder, arson and aggravated assault. LePore is also charged with obstruction of justice. They were jailed on $2 million bail and scheduled to appear in court Thursday, their attorneys said. Ryan still attends the university, and LePore is now a senior at the University of Delaware. Acting County Prosecutor Donald Campolo said Thursday that LePore and Ryan, who were both residents in the freshman dormitory, used a match or lighter to ignite a paper banner that had been torn down and placed atop a couch in a third-floor lounge. The fire then quickly ignited the couch, which Campolo said was made with a highly flammable foam, and sent what he called “highly toxic” thick black smoke throughout the dorm while most of its 600 residents slept. Students Frank Caltabilota, John Giunta and Aaron Karol died in the fire. The indictments unsealed Thursday morning also charged LePore’s father, Joseph T. LePore, 58; his mother, Maria LePore, 55; and his sister Lauren, 24, with obstruction of justice, hindering apprehension and conspiracy. Lauren LePore is also charged with perjury. Another student, Santino Cataldo, 21, of East Hanover, N.J., is charged with witness tampering, obstruction and conspiracy. The indictment also charged Rivano Andika, 29, of Jersey City, N.J., with terroristic threats for allegedly sending a threatening e-mail message to Seton Hall a day after the fire, Campolo said. He declined to elaborate on that charge. The fire was discovered about 4:30 a.m. As the smoke poured into the halls, scared students in pajamas grabbed coats or blankets and fled into bitter pre-dawn cold. One leaped from a window of the six-story hall. The building did not have sprinklers because it was built before they were required. The university has since installed them, and the state created a new law requiring all dorm rooms in New Jersey to have sprinklers by 2004. Authorities interviewed 600 of the dorm’s residents, recreated the fire and also conducted an undercover investigation. “The crime scene was literally consumed by fire. Add to this the fact that certain individuals engaged in a cover-up from day one,” the prosecutor said. The grand jury found no criminal liability on the part of the university. Copyright 2003 Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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