A Paterson squatter who set fire to a multi-family home after authorities said he deliberately stabbed himself has pleaded guilty to aggravated arson.
Ertugrul Abaci, 58, bled heavily as he staggered across Sussex Street on June 9, 2019, authorities said at the time.
He’d just ignited a fire in and outside the attic apartment where he’d lived nearly 23 years – and hadn’t paid rent on for the past five, they said.
The German-born Abaci, who became a U.S. citizen after emigrating in the early 1990s, used a bottle of vodka as an accelerant after taking a few swigs from it, investigators said.
He told them he’d set fire to his belongings so that his landlords wouldn’t get them after he killed himself that night, according to documents on file in Superior Court in Paterson.
The landlords, however, told detectives that Abaci had threatened to burn down the building whenever they tried to collect the rent.
Five residents who’d been living there were displaced, Passaic County Prosecutor Camelia M. Valdes said.
Abaci, meanwhile, was treated at St. Joseph’s Regional Medical Center.
He was then ordered held at Meadowview Psychiatric Hospital in Secaucus for more than two months for psychiatric reasons before a Superior Court judge in Paterson ordered that Abaci remain jailed until the charges were resolved.
Authorities originally charged Abaci with two counts of aggravated arson and one of creating a risk of widespread injury.
Rather than face trial, he accepted a deal from Senior Assistant Passaic County Prosecutor Julie Serfess, pleading guilty Friday to a single aggravated arson count in exchange for leniency.
Superior Court Judge Joseph Portelli set sentencing for May 7.
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