Parolee in deadly Schenectady arson charged with Albany theft

Wednesday, April 9, 2014
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— A man on parole for killing five people in a 1990 Schenectady fire is now facing a parole violation charge for an alleged theft in Albany, authorities said.

Joseph Balga, 53, was arrested Monday for allegedly taking items from a car on Hamilton Street. He faces one misdemeanor count of petty larceny.

He is on parole for starting a fire Aug. 4, 1990, in the room he rented at 26 Jay St. in downtown Schenectady. The fire killed five people, including two of his friends. Two firefighters and another resident were injured in the blaze but survived.

He ultimately pleaded guilty in that case to a series of charges, including first-degree assault, second-degree manslaughter and second-degree arson. In exchange he got a 12.5-to-25-year prison sentence.

Balga admitted to setting fire to curtains in his room after a day of drinking. In his May 1991 plea, he told the court he set the fire to get back at his landlord over some minor troubles he was having.

Parole boards rejected his release three times, but Balga was freed in 2007, when he had served two-thirds of his maximum sentence. Barring any disciplinary problems, inmates with indeterminate sentences, such as 12.5 to 25 years, must be released after serving two thirds of the maximum.

He is to remain under parole supervision until August 2015. State officials said Monday’s arrest marked his first charged violation of that parole.

The arrest came after officers responded to a report of a man breaking into a vehicle. When they arrived, the victim told officers she saw a man breaking into her vehicle and taking items.

Officer William Jenkins then spotted a man matching the description of the suspect at Lark Street and Madison Avenue.

That man — Balga — then was identified as the suspect and arrested.

He remained at the Albany County Jail on Tuesday evening, held on the parole violation charge.

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