Lexington police charge group home resident in Hill Rise fires

A group home resident taken into emergency detention after a spate of suspicious fires last month has been arrested and charged with arson.

Ray R. Giattino is charged with one count of first-degree arson for allegedly setting a room on fire in the Messner Home for troubled adults, where he was a resident, according to court documents.

According to an arrest warrant filed in Fayette District Court, Giattino was the only person in a room at the group home on Hill Rise Court when the room caught fire. It appeared that someone had stuffed a roll of toilet paper into a wall and set it on fire with a lighter, the document said.

An interview with Lexington arson investigator Mark Blankenship showed that Giattino knew how the fire started before anyone else.

"When he was initially interviewed, the subject immediately stated he didn't start a fire in the wall," the document said. "This was prior to this investigator having observed the building the fire was in or having any other knowledge of the fire."

The room was destroyed, and there was smoke damage through the rest of the house. Other Messner Home residents were inside at the time, but no one was injured.

That was the last and most serious of six suspicious fires in a 12-hour stretch on May 27. The fires all were in the Hill Rise Drive and Hill Rise Court area, off Versailles Road, which also saw about a dozen unsolved arsons in December and January.

Most of the fires were in dumpsters and cars, but a few damaged or destroyed inhabited buildings.

Giattino is charged only in the May 27 fire at the Messner Home. Firefighters are investigating to determine whether he is connected to any other unsolved fires, although they have said they think there is more than one suspect.

Giattino was taken to Eastern State Hospital for a mental evaluation the day of the fire. Court documents did not describe the results of that evaluation.