Arsonist's sentencing today

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— Matthew John Hoffman will find out this morning his fate for starting an August fire at a condominium complex to cover up a burglary.

The 19-year-old Ohio man could be sentenced to a considerable amount of jail time by Routt County District Court Judge Joel S. Thompson. The sentencing hearing is set for 9 a.m.

Hoffman pleaded guilty to first-degree arson, second-degree burglary and first-degree aggravated motor vehicle theft Nov. 3.

The charges are all class three felonies that each carry a prison term of between two and 24 years, a fine and five years of parole.

Hoffman also entered guilty pleas to theft, a class four felony, and reckless endangering safety, a class three misdemeanor.

The theft charge carries a prison term of between one and 12 years, a fine and three years of parole. For the misdemeanor, Hoffman could be sentenced to the Routt County Jail for six months and fined as much as $750.

Hoffman pleaded guilty to the charges for setting a fire in the early morning hours of Aug. 28 at The Ridge.

The fire destroyed two townhouses and damaged eight others. The blaze also caused authorities to evacuate 16 people staying at the condominium complex.

Hoffman set fire to a unit in the eight-unit building after he committed a burglary a day before. During the burglary, he stole a Chevrolet Suburban belonging to the unit's owner. He put stolen goods in the vehicle and drove it to a parking lot at the Clocktower. The vehicle was recovered by police the day of the fire.

Hoffman pleaded guilty to the charges after his attorney, Norm Townsend, and Deputy District Attorney Charles Feldmann worked out a plea agreement.

As part of the plea agreement, Hoffman has to pay restitution for the damage the fire caused. How much damage the fire caused is not known yet, Feldmann said. Once the amount is determined, Hoffman will be liable to pay for the damages, he said.

In return for the guilty pleas, Feldmann dropped a felony theft charge against Hoffman. The charge stemmed from two signs that Hoffman stole in July.

Hoffman was arrested by the Steamboat Springs Police Department Sept. 26.

He was arrested after he agreed to travel from Ohio to discuss the theft of the two signs, worth $5,000 each, that welcome visitors to the city.

The signs were recovered Sept. 7 at Hoffman's former apartment.

As he was being interviewed for the theft of the signs, Hoffman confessed he stole the signs and committed the arson.

Authorities suspected he might have been linked to the arson because he had access to the townhome through his prior place of employment.

Hoffman told police he obtained keys to the townhome and the Suburban while he was installing a garbage disposal in the unit.

Since his arrest, Hoffman has been held in the Routt Count Jail on a $35,000 bond.

To reach Gary E. Salazar call 871-4205 or e-mail @amigo.net

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