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A Norwich man accepted a plea deal Monday in New London Superior Court and will be sentenced in February to seven years in prison for his role in four arsons.
Jonathan O. Ortiz, 25, pleaded guilty under the Alford Doctrine to four counts of second-degree arson. Under the Alford Doctrine, Ortiz doesn't agree with the state's allegations but does not want to expose himself to a harsher sentence should he be convicted at trial. He will be sentenced Feb. 13 to 15 years in prison, suspended after seven years served, and three years' probation.
Ortiz and co-defendant Nicholas R. Faquet, 20, also of Norwich, are accused of using gasoline and matches to set fire to an occupied home at 124 Laurel Hill Ave. on March 22, 2012, and to a pickup truck at 500 West Main St. on March 1, 2012. The pickup truck fire extended to an occupied home, where six residents were sleeping, according to police.
According to arrest warrant affidavits, Ortiz allegedly enlisted Faquet to help him set the Laurel Hill Avenue fire because he suspected his girlfriend was going to that building to cheat on him. He is accused of enlisting Faquet to help him set fire to pickup truck because he said one of the people who lived there owed him money for drugs. Though the residents of the building escaped safely, two family pets, a bird and a dog, perished in the fire.
The Laurel Hill Avenue building is owned and operated by the Reliance House and used as a clubhouse for activities for the agency's mentally handicapped clients.
Ortiz and Faquet, along with two others, were also charged with torching a vacant house at 7-9 Oak St. and to setting fire to a home at 11 Lake St. Those two fires displaced more than two dozen people, caused hundreds of thousands of dollars in damages and resulted in two firefighters being injured.
The others charged with setting the Oak Street and Lake Street fires are Laura MacDonald, 46, who has previous arson convictions, and 19-year-old Matthew Markham.
All of their cases are pending in New London Superior Court.