Eas­ton man gets 40 years in 2012 ar­son

Dorchester Star - - Regional - By VIC­TO­RIA WIN­GATE vwingate@ches­pub.com Fol­low me on Twit­ter @vic­to­ri­adorstar and on In­sta­gram @dorch­ester.star.

CAM­BRIDGE — An Eas­ton man charged with several counts of ar­son and first­de­gree as­sault for a 2012 fire at a Cam­bridge apart­ment build­ing will serve 40 years in jail.

Per­nell Clan­ton, 26, of 1200 South Wash­ing­ton St., pleaded guilty Thurs­day, Sept. 22, to one count of first-de­gree ar­son and nine counts of first­de­gree as­sault. He was sen­tenced to a to­tal of 255 years in pri­son, 215 of which were sus­pended, which leaves 40 years of ac­tive time to serve. The first-de­gree ar­son car­ries a sen­tence of 30 years, and each first-de­gree as­sault charge car­ries a sen­tence of 25 years. All of the sen­tences are con­sec­u­tive.

Other stip­u­la­tions of the plea agreement in­clude five years of su­per­vised pro­ba­tion, sub­stance abuse treat­ment, men­tal health treat­ment and Clan­ton is pro­hib­ited from con­tact­ing any of the vic­tims.

The late night four-alarm blaze on Dec. 16, 2012, de­stroyed a three-story build­ing at 507 Race St. in Cam­bridge and sent 21 res­i­dents and two fire­fight­ers to area hos­pi­tals. The first floor of the build­ing was oc­cu­pied by busi­nesses and the sec­ond and third floors were be­ing used as res­i­den­tial. The fire caused more than $900,000 in dam­ages.

Af­ter the fire, Deputy Mary­land State Fire Mar­shal Bruce Bouch said the res­i­dents were in­jured when they jumped from the build­ing to es­cape the fire. He said all in­juries for the res­i­dents were bruises, sprains and pos­si­ble frac­tures from jump­ing onto the con­crete. He said the two fire­fight­ers were treated and re­leased from Dorch­ester Gen­eral Hospi­tal for stress re­lated in­juries.

Fire officials said a K-9 ac­cel­er­ant team found pos­i­tive alerts of an ig­nitable liq­uid within the in­te­rior of the build­ing dur­ing the in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

Ac­cord­ing to charg­ing doc­u­ments, the Lower Shore Of­fice of the State Fire Mar­shal re­ceived a tip on Feb. 8, which led fire officials to ques­tion Clan­ton.

Po­lice said dur­ing ques­tion­ing, Clan­ton ad­mit­ted he was up­set about an in­ci­dent on Dec. 16, 2012 be­fore the fire, and he poured ig­nitable liq­uid in front of the en­try area at 507 Race St., then lit the liq­uid with matches.

Clan­ton’s de­fense at­tor­ney stated that her client had moved to Tulsa, Okla., shortly af­ter the fire and did not re­turn to the area un­til early this year. He was taken into cus­tody on Fe­bru­ary 24 and in­dicted on May 11.

Ac­cord­ing to the Of­fice of the State Fire Mar­shal, fire­fight­ers re­sponded to 507 Race St. af­ter a fire was re­ported at 10:46 p.m. The build­ing con­tained a cloth­ing store on the first floor with four apart­ments on the sec­ond floor and four apart­ments on the third floor. Five of the eight apart­ments were oc­cu­pied and res­i­dents es­caped the flames af­ter work­ing smoke alarms alerted res­i­dents of the fire.

About 100 fire­fight­ers from 13 fire com­pa­nies brought the fire un­der con­trol in about two hours.

One of the af­fected res­i­dents who lived on the sec­ond floor of the build­ing, Kim­berly Ru­bio, gave an emo­tional state­ment dur­ing the sen­tenc­ing.

She de­scribed hear­ing a strange crack­ling noise while she was up get­ting a pop­si­cle from her freezer. When she opened her front door to in­ves­ti­gate, black smoke filled the hall­way. She said she then went to the win­dow in her back bed­room and be­gan scream­ing for help.

Ru­bio was eight-and-a-half weeks pregnant at the time of the fire, and her son now suf­fers from de­vel­op­men­tal de­lays due to the smoke in­hala­tion from which she suf­fered.

“As hor­ri­fy­ing as this crime is, and the events that evening, I think in many ways you can re­fer to this as the ‘Mir­a­cle on Race Street,’ in that no one died,” said Cir­cuit Court Judge Brett W. Wil­son. “It showed the best of our com­mu­nity. It showed nor­mal cit­i­zens help­ing other cit­i­zens in a crit­i­cal time of need. It high­lighted our su­pe­rior vol­un­teer fire­men and the job they do.”

Fire crews bat­tle a blaze at 507 Race Street in Cam­bridge on Dec. 16, 2012.

FILE PHOTOS BY MICAH MOORE

Fire crews bat­tle a blaze at 507 Race Street in Cam­bridge on Dec. 16, 2012.

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