MIDDLETOWN - The fire that decimated a house under construction Thursday night leads to arson charges against a 20-year-old from the same section of town, and the arrests of two minors.

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Matthew Franco, 20, of Leonardo, is charged with aggravated arson, conspiracy to commit aggravated arson, criminal trespass, employing a juvenile in the commission of a crime and criminal mischief, according to township police.

Franco was sent to the Monmouth County Correctional Institution in Freehold following his November 10 arrest, the day after the blaze.

An estimated 60 firefighters were needed to bring the November 9 inferno on Hamilton Avenue under control. Police and fire personnel responded at about 11:32 PM. The structure was deemed completedl destroyed.

Officers on site quickely developed information pointing to arson, authorities said, and apprehended Franco November 11. The minors were charged November 13.

Police did not disclose what aroused suspicions of arson, how they connected Franco and the juveniles to the fire, or why Franco was ordered to be detained.

Detectives Albert Scott, Anthony Dellatacoma, and Keith Hirschbein continue to collect information regarding the blaze. Anyone aware of circumstances surrounding it is urged to call the Middletown PD Detectives' Tip Line, 732-615-3277.

Charges are allegations. Defendants are presumed innocent unless, and until, found guilty in a court of law.

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