Shelburne arsonist gets state prison
To serve 3 to 5 years
Shelburne Center, Shelburne Falls, Ashfield, Buckland, Charlemont, Colrain, Greenfield and South Deerfield fire departments responded to a fire at this house on Barnard Road in Shelburne Center on Tuesday night. A Greenfield man has been charged in the investigation.
Shelburne Center, Shelburne Falls, Ashfield, Buckland, Charlemont, Colrain, Greenfield and South Deerfield fire departments responded to a fully involved house fire on Barnard Rd in Shelburne Center.
State Fire Marshals Joseph Gura with K9 Nell, Michael Maza and Michael O’Neil sift through the second floor of the burned out home on Barnard Rd in Shelburne Center on Wednesday Morning.
GREENFIELD — A local man was sentenced to state prison for burning down his ex-wife’s Shelburne home.
Jeremiah Longe, 33, of 41 Norwood St., pleaded guilty to a single count of arson of a dwelling in Franklin County Superior Court Tuesday and was sentenced to 3 to 5 years in state prison by Judge Mary-Lou Rup. He will be given credit for 316 days served while awaiting trial.
Longe burned down the home of his ex-wife, Sarah Hannigan, on April 23. He was arrested in Greenfield in the early hours of April 24.
After initially lying about his whereabouts, Longe told police he bought 10 gallons of gasoline at the Shelburne Mobil station, took it to his ex-wife’s house and poured the fuel throughout her bedroom, before setting the fire with a disposal lighter and piece of paper towel, according to a report by Trooper Michael Mazza.
The two-family home at 247 Barnard Road was a total loss.
Hannigan’s tenants, Erica Sawyer and her 2-year-old daughter, were at home when Longe doused Hannigan’s bedroom with gasoline, though Hannigan was away in Florida at the time.
“What upset me the most is that the gasoline was poured while we were still in the house, on the other side of the wall from where my daughter was sleeping,” Sawyer told the court Tuesday.
Sawyer smelled gasoline fumes around 6 p.m. that day. At about 10 p.m., the building’s fire alarms went off and Sawyer woke her child and left the residence.
She ran into Longe on the way out of the house.
“I saw Jeremiah outside, smoking a cigarette,” Sawyer said in a statement during sentencing. “He told me the alarms were going off because he was messing with something in the basement. It was as if he was saying ‘it’s no big deal; go back inside.”
“I believe he was prepared to burn the house to the ground with us inside it.”
Defense attorney Alan Rubin said Longe had poured some of the gasoline before passing out for hours, and waited until Sawyer and her daughter had left before starting the blaze.
“He knew they were gone before he poured the rest of the gas and set the fire,” Rubin said.
Rubin said his client was not “a firebug” or serial arsonist, and was motivated solely by revenge. He had an eight-year, on-and-off relationship with Hannigan, and the two had been married for about a year before she kicked him out of the house that he had helped to work on.
“To him, that house was a symbol of their relationship, and a symbol of the failure of their relationship,” Rubin said.
He added that Longe has a long history of mental illness, including post-traumatic stress disorder and bipolar disorder.
Rubin argued for a lower county jail sentence for his client, followed by supervised probation and specialized programs.
“He clearly needs assistance getting back into the community, staying off of drugs, and complying with programming,” which he would get with probation, Rubin said.
Rubin said his client could benefit from several programs available at the Franklin County House of Correction that he might not receive elsewhere. Also, he said, with a county jail sentence, the court can order that a portion of the sentence be suspended, pending the completion of probation, an option not available with a state prison sentence.
Rup’s sentence included a recommendation that all or part of it be served in the Franklin County House of Corrections, but the decision will be made by the state Department of Correction.
Prosecutor Jennifer Suhl asked for a state sentence of 5 to 7 years, arguing that the maximum county jail sentence of 30 months was not punishment enough for Longe’s deeds.
“Everything in the house that (the victims) had lived for, saved for, and worked for is gone,” she said. “It was reduced to ashes. It wasn’t partially burnt; it’s gone.”
Sawyer and her daughter also lost most of their belongings. She said firefighters were able to save a few of their things, but the rest, including irreplaceable sentimental objects, were lost. Sawyer said she did not have renter’s insurance, and estimated her loss at about $7,000.
Sawyer said she also lost her job as a professor at Sacred Heart University in Fairfield, Conn., after the arson.
“Punishment is key for this sort of crime,” Suhl said.
You can reach David Rainville at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 413-772-0261, ext. 279