Authorities in Ocean County say a man from Egg Harbor Township has pleaded guilty to aggravated arson for intentionally setting a home on fire while three people were inside.

27-year-old Jamal Preston pleaded guilty on Thursday to two counts of aggravated arson and also to an unrelated weapon charge for a prior incident.

On the night of August 22, 2020, Lakewood Township police officers responded to a report of a fire at a home. An investigation determined that the fire had been intentionally set utilizing an ignitable liquid. Further investigation, according to Ocean County Prosecutor Bradley Billhimer, determined that Preston intentionally set the fire while the home was occupied by three people.

Preston fled the scene but was arrested at a motel in Absecon by the U.S. Marshals Service on August 31st, 2020.

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Two days prior to the fire,

"Preston was involved in an altercation with another individual in the Manitou Park section of Berkeley Township. When Officers from the Berkeley Township Police Department responded to the scene, Preston was found to be in possession of a knife. He was taken into custody, charged on a summons, and released pending a future court date."

When sentenced on February 25th, the State will seek a term of seven years behind bars for each arson charge, one under the No Early Release Act and the other not, plus 18 months for the weapon charge. All sentences will run concurrently.

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