Soda Bottle Led Police To Alleged Arsonist
Lodi teen accused of firebombing Rutherford and Paramus synagogues
A bottle of Crush soda led investigators to the Lodi teen police charged with committing arson at synagogues in Rutherford and Paramus.
After allegedly tossing Molotov cocktails through the bedroom window of Rabbi Neil Schuhman and his wife, Anthony M. Graziano, 19, left a number of the bottles behind, Bergen County Prosecutor John Molinelli said at a press conference Tuesday.
After determining that the cocktails were made using the distinctive Crush soda bottles, duct tape hairspray and motor oil, police looked for stores near the Rutherford synagogue that was attacked. That led investigators to a Walmart in Saddle Brook, where security cameras caught Graziano buying all four items on Jan. 9, Molinelli said.
After posting the security footage online, Molinelli said his office received several tips on Monday that led police to arrest Graziano at his Lodi home late Monday night. The Anti-Defamation League of New Jersey offered a $7,500 reward for anyone with information leading to an arrest.
"Our community breathes easier now that law enforcement has identified and arrested this individual, said Etzion Neuer, the acting New Jersey regional director for the Anti-Defamation League.
There were nine people sleeping in Beth El Temple in Rutherford when the synagogue was firebombed. Schuman and his family escaped mostly unscathed, though the rabbi sustained minor burns putting out a fire in his bedroom.
Graziano was charged with nine counts of attempted murder and one count each of bias intimidation and aggravated arson in connection with the Rutherford incident.
Molinelli also believes Graziano was responsible for an arson committed in Paramus on Jan. 3. Graziano allegedly threw a bottle containing gasoline at the rear wall of Congregation K'Hal Adath Jeshurun, but the resulting fire burned out quickly, Molinelli said.
Graziano was additionally charged with aggravated arson, arson and bias intimidation in the Paramus fire.
Molinelli said Graziano could face between 40 and 80 years of parole ineligibility.
Graziano graduated from Hasbrouck Heights High School in 2010 before moving to Lodi to live with his mother and siblings.
Molinelli said Graziano rode his bike to the Paramus and Rutherford synagogues. While Graziano has his driver's license, Molinelli said Graziano did not have access to a vehicle during the dates of the attacks.
He chose the houses of worship based on their proximity to his home and their location in residential areas, Molinelli said.
Molinelli said Graziano was driven by anti-Semitism.
"We have no doubt that the arson and the attempted murder in Rutherford were directly the result of Mr. Graziano's hatred for people of Jewish faith," Molinelli said.
Law enforcement at the local, county, state and federal level collaborated on the investigation.
"It's really important that these cases receive this kind of attention," New Jersey Attorney General Jeffrey Chiesa said.
The arsons were the latest of four desecrations at Bergen County synagogues. Temples in Maywood and Hackensack were vandalized in December.
Molinelli said he didn't believe Graziano was responsible for the vandalism, or the anti-Semitic mailings sent to local Jewish organizations after the arsons.
Police are still looking for the backpack Graziano was wearing in the Walmart security footage. Molinelli believes it is somewhere near Beth El Temple, and asked anyone with information on its whereabouts to call the police.
Graziano makes his first appearance in Superior Court Wednesday at 9 a.m.