Somerset County officials announced that Patrick M. Hammond, 36, of Somerville Borough, was convicted on Wednesday, April 21, after a non-jury, bench trial conducted before the Honorable Michael J. Rogers, J.S.C. of the New Jersey Superior Court.
Defendant Hammond was convicted of:
- 2nd-degree Aggravated Arson
- 3rd-degree Endangering Another Person (9 Counts)
- 3rd-degree Endangering the Welfare of a Child (4 Counts)
- 3rd-degree Animal Cruelty (2 Counts)
- Disorderly Person Criminal Mischief
According to officials, Hammond was found not guilty of First Degree Attempted Murder. The defendant was found guilty by Judge Rogers who presided over the trial. Sentencing is scheduled for June 9.
Officials said that Hammond was previously arrested and subsequently charged with these offenses following a fire he purposely set to a house occupied by nine people during the early morning hours of December 30, 2018.
The investigation found that he set the fire with an ignitable liquid. One of the occupants happened to see the fire and alerted the remaining occupants. All occupants evacuated the burning house safely without any injuries.
There were two deaths in the blaze, specifically, two pet cats died of smoke inhalation. The fire was set by defendant Hammond following an argument he had with his on-again/off-again girlfriend, who resided in the home with her two young children.
Police said that Hammond fled the fire scene without calling 9-1-1. He took pictures of the house ablaze with his cell phone and sent them to friends. He arranged for a ride to flee the area.
According to police, in his effort to rendezvous with his ride, he fled through a wooded area across the street from the fire scene. He discarded a charred glove, his cell phone, and a lighter in the woods.
Police said that he was detained as he walked to the vehicle about to transport him home. He was taken to the police station where he damaged a sheetrock wall by slamming his head into the wall. His sneakers were seized from him which tested positive for a flammable liquid.
Hammond has been in custody since December 30, 2018. Hammond was charged with Aggravated Arson and Attempted Murder on December 30, 2018, and was held in the Somerset County Jail pending a pre-trial detention hearing.
That hearing was conducted on January 7, 2019, by Judge Peter J. Tober of the New Jersey Superior Court under the New Jersey Bail Reform Act. He remains in custody in the Somerset County Jail awaiting sentencing on June 9.