Albuquerque man pleads guilty to arson
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — In court Thursday, Eric Christian pleaded guilty to arson over $2,500 – that’s a third-degree felony offense.
“Yes, I set the shed on fire. It wasn’t premeditated,” Christian said. He could face up to three years in prison.
In late June, Christian was arrested shortly after setting Dawn Mills Mata’s shed on fire, but it could have been much worse. It quickly spread to the edge of her home, just feet from her children’s bedroom.
“The roof, the windows, all the electrical, and the firefighters did say that two more minutes and the whole house would’ve been gone,” she said. “I had four children asleep in the room. All of us had to run and escape the house.”
In court, Mills Mata said she wanted to clarify that the fire did spread to the house, because as Judge Bruce Fox read the plea agreement, Christian said he didn’t agree with the portion that mentioned the house.
Judge Fox: The actual charging document says you intended to destroy or damage a shed and/or a house.
Christian: No. No house.
Judge Fox: OK. So anyways I think the whole point was he intentionally started the shed on fire, even though it wasn’t premeditated apparently, but after that, I think that it’s possible the fire jumped to the house.
Mills Mata said this all came after months of death threats toward her and Christian’s estranged wife, who was staying with Mills Mata since February.
Investigators originally charged Christian with arson and aggravated stalking. In the plea agreement, the stalking charge was dropped.
Judge Fox, the prosecution, and the defense agreed they wanted to expedite what’s called a “pre-sentence report.” After that step, the judge can sentence Christian.
The sentencing hearing is expected to happen on Dec. 6.