“He’s an outgoing guy, but not someone I would expect would try to burn down a house,” Wharton junior Jen* said of College and Wharton sophomore Lorenzo Bonfiglio.
Bonfiglio was arrested two weeks ago by Penn Police in connection to a fire at the Psi Upsilon fraternity — commonly known as Castle — that occurred early in the morning on Oct. 23. He is facing 24 criminal counts charged by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, 19 of which are for recklessly endangering another person, with the remainder for simple assault, possible instrument of crime with intent, criminal mischief, causing catastrophe, arson and danger of death or bodily injury, according to court documents.
But of the seven students interviewed for this article who said they know Bonfiglio personally, none felt he was capable of intentionally starting a serious fire in a fraternity house. In fact, most of the students interviewed felt that the fire was most likely started by a discarded cigarette butt or some other accidental cause.
“Why would he go to a fraternity party where everyone knew him and start a fire? So easy to get caught,” College senior Alejandro* said.
Some students present at the fire, however, said they saw someone throw a toilet paper roll “engulfed in flames” into a closet at the party, and that brothers rushed to the scene with fire extinguishers almost immediately.
This account was backed up by officials Wednesday night. At the Division of Public Safety Commendation Ceremony, the group of investigators involved in the arson case were awarded an honor for their work. When Deputy Chief of Tactical and Emergency Readiness Michael J. Fink awarded the group, he said that Bonfiglio admitted he started the fire to detectives after they had interviewed residents of the house who confirmed him as a suspect.
The Office of the Provost placed Bonfiglio on a leave of absence following his arrest, during which time he is barred from entering Penn’s campus, Vice President for Public Safety Maureen Rush said.
Though he is banned from campus, he is out on the town after paying bail at 10 percent of the $100,000 fee. Multiple students have reported seeing him out and about during Penn’s Homecoming weekend. He was confirmed present at a house party on Beige Block on Thursday night, just past midnight, and again at a downtown event at Recess on Friday night around the same time. Neither of these locales would be considered “on-campus,” though the Beige Block is well within the Penn Patrol Zone, on 41st Street between Spruce and Walnut streets.
Jen, the Wharton junior, said he is very emotionally invested in his off-campus organization. “I could see him taking it a little too far,” she said. In addition to membership in the Owls Society, the off-campus incarnation of Castle, Bonfiglio is listed as a writer for an on-campus news outlet, The Tab. According to their website, his story has registered over 3,000 page views.
Some interviewed alluded to a past disciplinary issue at Eton College, a boarding school in England. His Facebook profile — which was unavailable shortly after the arrest — confirmed that he left Eton College in 2012 and began studies at Winchester College that year, also in England. Bonfiglio is the only student in the last ten years who has been accepted to Winchester after being excluded from another school, according to Winchester College Headmaster Ralph Townsend. Eton College did not respond to requests for comment or for his disciplinary record.
Bonfiglio’s preliminary hearing is set to occur this Friday, Nov. 13 at 8 a.m. in Room 703 of the Criminal Justice Center.
*Names have been changed to protect the identities of possible witnesses to the trial.
Correction: A previous version of this article described Winchester as a “dodgy” institution, infamous for accepting students who have left other schools. This was an unsubstantiated claim and was removed from the article. The DP regrets the error.
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