Case Continued for Teen Charged in Fatal Southington Apartment Fire - NBC Connecticut

Case Continued for Teen Charged in Fatal Southington Apartment Fire

18-year-old Eric Morelli has been charged with manslaughter.



    Police have charged a teenager with manslaughter after a fatal fire in Southington. Police said Eric Morelli caused the fire early Sunday morning that killed 19-year-old Kristen Milano. (Published Wednesday, June 25, 2014)

    A teen arrested in connection with the Southington apartment fire that killed a 19-year-old late June was arraigned in Bristol Superior Court on Monday morning.

    Eric Morelli, 18, of Southington faces a first-degree manslaughter charge and three counts of first-degree reckless endangerment in connection to the fire that killed Kristen Milano, 19, of Southington on Sunday, June 22.

    The case was continued to July 29. Morelli will present a response to the court after the facts and circumstances of the case have been reviewed, according to his attorney, Ray Hassett.

    Morelli and his family are extremely remorseful, Hassett said. His client plans to finish high school to earn his degree.

    "We don't know precisely what role he played," Morelli's attorney, Ray Hassett said. "The allegations are one that this was an accident that was caused or created by him."

    The attorney representing Milano's family said they are still grieving. 

    "Thank you for being attentive. And thank you for respecting their privacy," he said.

    The judge said that the court  file will remain sealed for the time being. 

     The cause of the fire remains under investigation, but friends and neighbors said Morelli might have been trying to wake up Milano's brother by throwing a lit firecracker at the window.

    "I don't think [Milano] had a lot of enemies, from what I know," said neighbor Kelly Macken. "I heard it was an accident and that someone was trying to get her attention. But why would you throw a lit firecracker?"

    Milano died of smoke inhalation after flames broke out in her unit at the Summer Brook Apartments around 4:30 a.m. that Sunday, according to the medical examiner's office. Her death has been ruled a homicide.

    Police arrested Morelli, 18, of Southington, around 5 p.m.days later on Tuesday, June 24. He was released from police custody that night after posting his $150,000 bond.

    Raymond Hassett, the attorney representing Morelli, issued the following statement the night he was arrested:

    "My client, Eric Morelli, and his family are extremely sorry over what has happened. This is particularly difficult as Eric was a long-time friend of Kristen. Eric never intended to harm anyone and he is very remorseful about this tragedy. He has been fully cooperative with law enforcement and will be responding to the charges in court."

    The fire was contained to unit 32A, where Milano lived.

    Two of Milano's relatives made it out safely, and crews initially thought everyone was OK. They later found Milano's body in a second-floor bedroom, according to the Associated Press.

    People who know Morelli said he's been in trouble with police before but never to this extent.

    "I'm shocked to see that it went this far, because it's like little by little, he did things and it got worse and worse," said neighbor Linda Selander.

    Firefighters received mutual aid from the Bristol Fire Department. The state fire marshal was called in to help with the investigation.

    A makeshift memorial of candles and flowers was set up outside the apartment the week of the fire to remember Milano.

    Family members have started a GoFundMe page to raise money for the burial. Zen Bar in Plainville held a fundraiser for Milano's family the Friday after the fire according to the restaurant's Facebook page.

    Police said the warrant for Morelli's arrest has been sealed by the court and no further information is available. Morelli is due back in court at the end of July. 

    The Bristol court is also awaiting Morelli's disposition in a separate motor vehicle case, according to the state judicial website. He is scheduled to appear in court for that case on Jan. 7, 2015, but the file containing information on the nature of the case is sealed.