DULUTH – The man who started the fire that destroyed a historic Duluth synagogue in September fled the chemical dependency treatment facility he was ordered to stay at in lieu of prison time and was recaptured by police Tuesday night.
A warrant was issued Monday for Matthew J. Amiot, 36, after he fled the Bethel Port Rehabilitation Program just two hours after checking in, probation officer Deb Rambo-Bennett wrote in the warrant.
Amiot was located about 7:30 p.m. Tuesday in the area of Central Avenue and Bristol Street, said Duluth Police Department spokeswoman Ingrid Hornibrook. He was a passenger in a car at the time.
On Wednesday afternoon Amiot was at a hospital for unknown reasons pending his return to jail.
Amiot was sentenced last month to four years of probation and a year and a day in prison, which he would not serve if he followed the terms of his release, including high-intensity residential treatment. Judge Shaun Floerke warned him at the time that if he messed up, "We have a cage."
The nearly 120-year-old Adas Israel Congregation at 302 E. Third St. burned to the ground, taking with it many irreplaceable artifacts, after Amiot, who was homeless, started a pile of clothes on fire to keep warm in the early hours of Sept. 9. When the flames grew out of control he tried to spit on it to put it out, but the fire would not go out and he walked away. Authorities said they did not believe it was a hate crime.
Amiot pleaded guilty to a felony and a misdemeanor for causing negligent fires. The loss exceeded $1.4 million, and a firefighter was injured battling the blaze.
Amiot had previously attempted to flee when he was released from jail pending his sentencing and was found in nearby Superior, Wis., after shaving his head and beard, according to court records.