NORTHFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – The man that died in a garage fire in Northfield over the weekend has been identified as a Montague man on trial for child sexual assault charges.

In a news release sent to 22News from Northwestern District Attorney’s Office spokesman Laurie Loisel says 47-year-old William M. Willey of Montague died during a fire Sunday night located at 90 East Street. The single-story building was a repair shop that Willey rented.

Willey was on trial in Franklin Superior Court on 19 charges related to alleged child sexual assaults in 2019 and 2020 involving three separate victims with crimes alleged to have occurred in both Montague and Northfield. His trial began Tuesday, November 8th with jury selection. On Thursday, opening statements and witness testimony began. Due to Veterans Day, the court was in recess Friday and planned to resume Monday.

He was facing the following charges:

  • Aggravated rape and abuse of a child (7 counts)
  • Indecent assault and battery on a person 14 or older
  • Dissemination of matter harmful to a minor (2 counts)
  • Furnishing alcohol to a person under 21 (5 counts)
  • Furnishing marijuana to a person under 21 (4 counts)

“This is a tragedy for everyone involved, including the victims in the case, one of whom had testified in court last week and another two and their family members who were set to testify this week,” said Assistant District Attorney Anne Yereniuk, who prosecuted the case along with ADA Andrew Covington

The fire destroyed the building where the fire started, damaged a garage nearby, and property across the street.

Crews assisted from Bernardston, Erving, Gill, Greenfield, Turners Falls, and Warwick in Massachusetts, along with Hinsdale and Winchester, New Hampshire, and Vernon, Vermont. Brattleboro, Vermont, provided station coverage during the fire.

The cause of the fire is being investigated.