LAKEWOOD – An Egg Harbor Township man has pled guilty to intentionally starting a fire in a home in Lakewood, Ocean County Prosecutor Bradley D. Billhimer said.
On August 22, 2021, Officers from the Lakewood Township Police Department responded to a report of a house on fire.
An investigation by the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office Major Crime Unit-Arson Squad, Ocean County Sheriff’s Office Crime Scene Investigation Unit, Ocean County Fire Marshal’s Office and New Jersey State Fire Marshal’s K-9 Unit revealed that the fire had been intentionally set using an ignitable liquid and an open flame.
It was later determined that 27-year-old Jamal Preston of Egg Harbor Township was responsible for intentionally setting the fire while three individuals were inside.
Preston fled the scene, but was arrested at a motel in Absecon by the United States Marshals Service on August 31, 2021. He has since been lodged in the Ocean County Jail.
On August 20, 2021, Preston was involved in a separate altercation with another person in the Manitou Park section of Berkeley Township. When Officers from the Berkeley Township Police Department responded to the scene, they found Preston in possession of a knife. He was taken into custody, charged on a summons, and released pending a future court date.
On January 13, Ocean County Prosecutor Bradley D. Billhimer announced that Preston pled guilty to one count of Aggravated Arson – by purposely or knowingly placing another in danger of death or bodily injury, as well as a second count of Aggravated Arson – with purpose to destroy the building or structure of another. In addition, he pled guilty to an unrelated charge of Unlawful Possession of a Weapon.
At the time of his sentencing on February 25, 2022, the State will seek a term of seven years New Jersey State Prison (NJSP), with respect to the arson charge associated with danger of death/bodily injury to another, as well as a flat seven-year prison term with regard to the arson charge relating to Preston’s purpose to destroy the building/structure of another. The State will also seek a term of 18 months NJSP as to the weapon charge. All sentences are to run concurrently.
Prosecutor Billhimer commends the diligent efforts of Senior Assistant Prosecutor Meghan O’Neill who is handling the case on behalf of the State, as well as the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office Major Crime Unit-Arson Squad, Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office High Tech Crime Unit, Lakewood Township Police Department, Lakewood Township Police Department Detective Bureau, Ocean County Sheriff’s Office Crime Scene Investigation Unit, Ocean County Fire Marshal’s Office, New Jersey State Fire Marshal’s K-9 Unit, United States Marshals Service, Egg Harbor Township Police Department Detective Bureau, Berkeley Township Police Department, Berkeley Township Police Department Detective Bureau, and South Toms River Police Department, for their collaborative assistance in connection with this investigation leading to Preston’s apprehension, guilty pleas, and soon his state prison sentence.