Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Follow-Up To Residential Fire Story, One Year Later

One year ago yesterday, UU ran a story about an early morning residential fire at 1217-1219 W Lawrence, where we reported a top-floor unit was engulfed in flames and the man who lived there was severely burned.  Residents in the other 12 units were displaced due to damage to their homes.

One year later, the residents are just now able to return to their rehabbed units.  We heard from one of them with the surprising details about the fire:

"Man Pleads Guilty to Uptown Fire.  A man who was originally reported as victim of fire last February, pled guilty to aggravated arson on January 23, 2013. Vince LaConte, 37, a nine-year resident of the condominium building at the southeast corner of Magnolia and Lawrence Avenues, was seen waving his arms through the window of his third-floor apartment when firefighters arrived.

Firefighters originally believed fire was contained to LaConte’s apartment, but discovered fire was also burning in basement storage lockers three floors below. Although fire damage was generally limited to LaConte’s apartment and the basement storage areas, smoke rising within the walls caused extensive damage to twelve apartments.

Construction to repair the damage took nearly twelve months. Most residents will return home this February.

People v LaConte, case number 12CR-4941 (Cook County Court)."

According to the Illinois Department of Corrections' website, Mr. LaConte was taken into the custody the day of the fire.  He was charged with aggravated arson (knowledge of people present), and was sentenced to eight years in prison.  He began serving his sentence at Stateville on January 25, 2013, and his projected release date is December 6, 2018.  He is to remain on parole until December 6, 2021.


  1. I am Vincent LaConte's father, and this article has come to my attention. It represents a fair and accurate description of my son's actions and their consequences. However, it fails to include some important details, which I would like to add.

    Vincent's arson was not the result of malice or a deliberate attempt to damage or destroy the building, He was attempting suicide, self destruction, something he had attempted on previous occasions. This does not change the nature of his crime, nor excuse him from appropriate punishment. However, it is important to him, and me, that it be known that there was never any intent to harm, physically or financially, any of his neighbors. When I visited him in the hospital immediately after the fire when he was being treated for smoke poisoning, his first question to me was “Did I hurt anybody?”

    He deeply regrets the harm he has caused.

    For several years Vincent has been receiving psychiatric outpatient care for mental problems, primarily acute clinical depression, and has been hospitalized on three previous occasions. But, like so many mentally ill, he believed himself cured prematurely and his problems returned

    Those who have never had close, personal experience with mental illness will ask questions such as, “Why didn't he just buy a gun or stick his head in the oven?” However, this is a logical question which can be answered only by a rational mind. When he set this fire, Vincent was completely irrational and delusional.

    The charge of aggravated arson is mandatory under the Illinois “truth in sentencing” policy, and the judge who sentenced him refused to consider his prior medical history. He will serve his full sentence. However, it is my firm belief that, if he does not receive appropriate medical care while he is imprisoned, he will succeed in killing himself long before his sentence ends.

  2. What a heartbreakingly sad story, for everyone.

  3. Terribly sad. I know Vince and hope he makes it through this and back to health.