Mass. man charged with arson, murder in deaths of two Townshend residents

The Vermont State Police and the Windham County State’s Attorney have obtained an arrest warrant for Justin Orwat, age 46, of Springfield, Mass., on charges of aggravated murder and first degree arson in the deaths of two people in Townshend on Friday, Oct. 27.

Orwat is currently being held at the Hamden County, Mass., jail on unrelated criminal charges.

According to state police, at around 9:34 a.m. on Friday, Oct. 27,  an emergency E911 call was made by a resident from Shirley Circle in Townshend. The caller reported hearing an explosion and said that the home at 163 Shirley Circle was on fire. About 9 minutes later, another E911 call was made by a resident on Hazel Hill, which is adjacent to Shirley Circle. The caller said that 163 Shirley Circle was fully engulfed in flames.

On the scene, firefighters from Townshend, Grafton and Dummerston saw two vehicles in the driveway of 163 Shirley Circle. They contacted the Vermont State Police to advise that it could be possible there were people inside the burning residence. Members of the Vermont State Police Field Force, Arson Investigation Unit and Bureau of Criminal Investigation went to the scene.

Once the fire was extinguished, emergency personnel members located two bodies in the wreckage. The bodies were transported to the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner for post-mortem examination and identification. On Saturday morning, the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner told detectives that preliminary examination revealed that both victims had sustained gunshots, which wasn’t immediately apparent to investigators on Friday due to the condition of both victims.

Detectives with the Vermont State Police Major Crime Unit and Bureau of Criminal Investigation Unit began a criminal investigation. Initial investigation has led to the preliminary identification of the two victims as Steven Lovely, 43, and Amanda Sanderson, 35, both of 163 Shirley Circle. Confirmation of their identities is pending due to the condition of their remains as a result of the fire.

The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner has ruled homicide as the manner of death for both victims, with the cause  determined to be gunshot wounds.

On Sat., Oct. 28, the Vermont State Police Crime Scene Search Team and Arson Investigation Units began processing the fire scene for evidence, and are being assisted by the FBI and Vermont Fish and Wildlife.

Over the past several days detectives have continued to investigate and in doing so, have interviewed associates and family members of both Lovely and Sanderson. Detectives determined that Tami Orwat, 38, and Justin Orwat,  46 both of Springfield, Mass., were both associates of Lovely and Sanderson and were believed to have recently spent time at  163 Shirley Circle. Detectives discovered that on the night of Friday, Oct. 27, Justin Orwat was arrested by police in Springfield, Mass., on outstanding warrants and that he remains incarcerated there. Detectives located Tami Orwat and she told detectives that she and Justin Orwat were with Lovely and Sanderson from the night of Thursday, Oct. 26 through the early morning of Friday, Oct. 27.

Tami Orwat provided detectives with details of a dispute involving Justin Orwat and Steve Lovely at the 163 Shirley Circle residence that occurred Friday morning. Tami Orwat implicated Justin Orwat in the shooting of Lovely and Sanderson and in the intentional burning of the residence before they left together.

The Vermont State Police has received substantial assistance from law enforcement in Massachusetts to include the Springfield Police Department and Massachusetts State Police in addition to several agencies in Vermont to include Bellows Falls Police Department, Vermont Division of Fire Safety, Vermont National Guard and ATF. On Tuesday, Oct. 31, an arrest warrant was obtained from Superior Court Judge Michael Kainen, for Justin Orwat on charges of Aggravated Murder and First Degree Arson. This warrant orders Orwat held without bail. Authorities in Massachusetts have been notified of the arrest warrant as Orwat remains incarcerated there. Arraignment date is to be determined.

Anyone with information regarding this incident is asked to please contact the Vermont State Police Major Crime Unit. No other details are available at this time.

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