Feb. 10--Nineteen-year-old Matthew A. Markham, one of four people charged in connection with two major arson fires in Norwich, pleaded guilty this morning in New London Superior Court.
He will be sentenced April 8 to up to seven years in prison followed by three years of probation for two counts of second-degree arson and one count of tampering with a witness.
Markham and three other city residents used gasoline to start fires at an occupied home at 7-9 Oak St. on March 26, 2012 and an unoccupied home at 11 Lake St. on March 29, 2012, according to prosecutor David J. Smith.
Markham, who has remained in prison since Norwich Police arrested him in July 2012, wrote to his cousin, Kristina Baribeault of Uncasville, from the MacDougall-Walker Correctional Institution in May and offered her money to provide false information to Markham's attorney, Michael Jewell. Smith said Markham promised to pay Baribeault a total of $100,000 if he was found not guilty.
The Lake Street fire damaged two other houses and displaced 27 people. Two City of Norwich firefighters suffered injuries that required treatment. No one was displaced or harmed in the Lake Street fire, but damage to the house was extensive.
While his case was pending, Markham received legal advice from Jewell and from a court-appointed guardian ad litem, attorney Bernard Steadman. After entering his guilty plea this morning, Markham asked Judge Hillary B. Strackbein whether his conviction could be "overturned" after he is released from prison so he could join the military. Strackbein told him he could discuss the process of applying for a pardon with his attorneys.
Markham was the third co-defendant to resolve his case. Jonathan O. Ortiz, 25, will be sentenced Thursday to seven years in prison. Laura MacDonald, 46, last month was found not guilty by reason of mental disease or defect. She is being evaluated at the Whiting Forensic Institute and will return to court March 24 to learn the length of her commitment to the state's hospital for the criminally insane.
The case of Nicholas R. Fauquet, is pending, and he is due back in court on Feb. 27.
Copyright 2014 - The Day, New London, Conn.