HILLSBOROUGH TWP, N.J. - Somerset County Prosecutor Michael H. Robertson, Chief of County Detectives John W. Fodor, and Hillsborough Township Chief of Police Darren Powell announced the arrest of Patrick M. Hammond, 34, Somerville.
According to a press release, Prosecutor Robertson stated that on December 30th at approximately 12:40 a.m. the Somerset County Communications Center received a 9-1-1 call from a resident on Starview Drive, Hillsborough Township, reporting a fire at their residence.
Officials say multiple Hillsborough Township Fire Companies, along with Hillsborough Township Police, and Rescue Squad personnel were dispatched to the fire.
A resident of the home noticed that the exterior structure was on fire and alerted all of the occupants of the residents who were asleep at the time. The residence was occupied by eight residents ranging in ages from 4-years-old to 64 years of age.
A call for mutual aid to combat the structure fire was made to surrounding fire companies according to officials.
Prosecutor Robertson stated that during the course of the investigation responding officers from the Hillsborough Township Police gathered information that a former boyfriend of a female resident had threatened to set fire to a truck belonging to a resident at the house.
The individual was identified as Patrick M. Hammond. Officers also determined that defendant Hammond had sent a photograph of the house on fire approximately two minutes after the fire was reported via text to a friend.
With this information, Hillsborough Officers began to canvass the area in search for defendant Hammond who was believed to be in the area. Officials say at approximately 1:36 a.m. Hillsborough Township Police located defendant Hammond on foot in the area of East Mountain Road, approximately ¾ of a mile from the Starview Drive residence.
Officials say Hammond was subsequently taken to the Hillsborough Township Police Department where he began to act erratically and was later transported to an area hospital for evaluation under police guard.
Prosecutor Robertson stated that detectives from the Hillsborough Township Police Department along with detectives from the Somerset County Prosecutor’s Office, and the Somerset County Fire Investigations Unit responded to conduct the suspicious fire investigation.
The investigation is ongoing as authorities determine a cause and origin of the fire.
Preliminary investigation reveals that the fire was intentionally set near the exterior of the residence. Detectives assigned to the case subsequently charged defendant Hammond with first degree Attempted Murder, and second-degree Aggravated Arson. Defendant Hammond remains in an area hospital under police guard and upon release will be transported to the Somerset County Jail pending a detention hearing.
Prosecutor Robertson stated that the quick response from all fire, police, rescue, county communications personnel, along with the quick actions of the resident in alerting everyone in the house to escape averted the loss of human life, and no injuries were reported.
Unfortunately, a family pet cat perished in the fire officials said.