A 36-year-old Somerset County man was convicted of aggravated arson and related charges after intentionally lighting a house with nine people on fire and causing the death of two cats.
Patrick M. Hammond, of Somerville Borough, was convicted of the following charges after an April 21 non-jury bench trial, Prosecutor Michael H. Robertson said in a joint release with other county officials:
- Second-degree aggravated arson
- Third-degree endangering another person (nine counts)
- Third-degree endangering the welfare of a child (four counts)
- Third-degree animal cruelty (two counts)
- Disorderly person criminal mischief
Hammond was also charged with first-degree attempted murder and found not guilty, Robertson said.
Hammond used a flammable liquid to start a fire in a home occupied by nine people on Dec. 30, 2018, Robertson said.
While the nine occupants escaped without injuries, two cats died from smoke inhalation as a result of the blaze, authorities said.
Hammond started the fire after an argument with his on-again-off-again girlfriend, who lived in the home with her two young children, Robertson said.
Hammond made an escape plan to flee the home without contacting authorities and took photos of the house up in flames to send to friends, authorities said.
Hammond threw away a charred glove, a cell phone and a lighter as he traveled through the woods to escape, authorities said.
He was detained as he approached the vehicle that was going to take him home, authorities said. He also slammed his head into a sheetrock wall at the police station and damaged it.
Hammond faces between five and 10 years in state prison with 85 percent term without parole for the aggravated arson conviction.
The endangerment and animal cruelty convictions come with three to five year state prison terms per each count with up to half term without parole eligibility.
Hammond has remained in custody since the date of the fire, authorities said. He is scheduled to be sentenced on June 9.
The Hillsborough Township Police Department, the Somerset County Prosecutor’s Office Major Crimes Unit, the Crime Scene Investigations Unit, the Fire Investigation Unit, and fire officials from the Hillsborough Bureau of Fire Safety also assisted with the investigation.
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