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N.J. serial arsonist painted ‘Let’s Play’ at fire scenes

Michael M. Lopez-Medina is charged with setting fire to vehicles, structures in Woodbury

By Matt Gray

WOODBURY, N.J. — Authorities have charged a Gloucester County man with setting three fires last week, including one at an apartment complex and another that destroyed a vacant building that was previously home to a local theater troupe and school.

A firefighter suffered a minor injury in one of the incidents.

Michael M. Lopez-Medina, 19, of Woodbury, allegedly admitted to setting the blazes, according to court documents.

The incidents began Feb. 1, when Lopez-Medina used gasoline and matches to set fire to two vehicles on Salem Avenue in Woodbury, police said. The vehicles were destroyed.

The owner of one of the cars told police she thought Lopez-Medina may have set the fires because she recently told him she was not interested in dating him, police stated in an affidavit of probable cause. The defendant is seen on video setting fire to the vehicles, police stated in complaints filed Sunday.

On Feb. 3, Lopez-Medina allegedly used gasoline and matches to torch a detached utility shed at Carriage House Apartments in Woodbury. Once again, police said Lopez-Medina was seen on video setting the fire. The shed was destroyed.

Firefighters then responded to 433 Glover St. in Woodbury around 3:30 a.m. Feb. 7 for a fire in the vacant, three-story building that once housed the Sketch Club Players theater group. They found heavy fire conditions and portions of the building collapsed as crews battled the blaze. The structure, which dates to 1899 and was originally the West End School, was already in poor condition from years of neglect, officials noted.

The three-alarm blaze was placed under control around 5:30 a.m.

Lopez-Medina was caught on video running from that fire scene and was wearing the same clothing in all three incidents, police stated.

In the second and third incidents, police say he spray-painted the words “Let’s Play” in red paint on the sidewalk.

While no injuries were reported in the first two fires, a firefighter suffered a minor cut to the head at the third incident, noted Woodbury Fire Administrator Brian Hauss.

In an interview with police, Lopez-Medina allegedly confessed to setting all three fires and he was charged Sunday with three counts of second-degree arson and a second-degree charge of aggravated assault for the injury to the firefighter.

Court records did not list an attorney for Lopez-Medina as of Monday afternoon.

He remains in Salem County Correctional Facility pending court hearings.

Anyone with information about these incidents is asked to contact Gloucester County Prosecutor’s Office Detective Alex Phillips at 856-384-5529 or Bridgeton Police Detective Brandon Volk at 856-845-0065, ext. 144. Information may also be emailed to the prosecutor’s office at

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