Boy Suspected in Setting Yonkers Jewish Center Afire Held in Custody

A 17-year-old Yonkers youth, sought in a widespread police hunt on suspicion of arson in the December 20 fire at the Yonkers Jewish Community Center — which cost the lives of nine children and three adults — was in the custody of the Westchester County Family Court today.

Leonard Rubenfeld, Westchester County District Attorney, said that Thomas Ruppert, a high school student and Youth Corps worker with a long record of minor brushes with the law, had been arrested Tuesday on orders of Judge Albert Florillo. The judge ordered that the youth be sent to the psychiatric division of Grassland Hospital for a routine examination.

Yonkers detectives said today that the suspect, in a statement later withdrawn and then partly renewed, had told them that he had used a five-gallon can of gasoline to start the fire in the Center.

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