Indictment Charges Paterson Squatter From Germany With Torching Multi-Family Home

A Paterson squatter who set fire to a multi-family home after deliberately stabbing himself was indicted on aggravated arson and endangerment charges, authorities said.

Ertugrul Abaci
Ertugrul Abaci Photo Credit: PASSAIC COUNTY PROSECUTOR (inset) / GoogleMaps

Ertugrul Abaci, 58, bled heavily as he staggered across Sussex Street last June 9, 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.

Firefighters quickly doused the blaze without injuries or major damage reported. Five residents who’d been living there were nonetheless displaced, authorities said.

Abaci was treated at St. Joseph’s Regional Medical Center and held for psychiatric reasons for more than two months at Meadowview Psychiatric Hospital in Secaucus before a Superior Court judge in Paterson ordered detention until trial.

The German-born Abaci, who became a U.S. citizen after emigrating in the early 1990s, told investigators that he didn’t think anyone was home, according to documents on file in Superior Court in Paterson.

He reportedly claimed that he set fire to his belongings so that his landlords wouldn’t get them after he killed himself that night.

The landlords, however, told detectives that Abaci had threatened to burn down the building whenever they tried to collect the rent.

Firefighters also found two places of origin – in Abaci’s apartment and in the hallway, prosecutors said at the time.

He’d apparently used a bottle of vodka as an accelerant after taking a few swigs from it, they said.

An April 9 arraignment in Superior Court in Paterson was scheduled on the indictment, which charges Abaci with two counts of aggravated arson and one of creating a risk of widespread injury, Passaic County Prosecutor Camelia M. Valdes, Paterson Police Chief Ibrahim Baycora and Paterson Fire Chief Brian McDermott said in a joint release.

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