Southington pleads guilty to manslaughter charge in deadly firecracker fire that killed 1

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NEW BRITAIN, Connecticut — A 19-year-old Southington man pleaded guilty to manslaughter in a fatal fire that prosecutors say started when he threw a firecracker into a friend's apartment window.

Eric Morelli entered the plea Monday in New Britain Superior Court as part of a plea deal with prosecutors.

Nineteen-year-old Kristen Milano died in the fire last June 22.

Morelli told police the incident happened after a night of drinking and smoking marijuana, when he went to the apartment hoping to awaken Kristen's brother, Jason Milano, according to the arrest warrant affidavit.

Morelli said that when Jason Milano did not answer his knocks at the door, her threw three "popper" firecrackers at an upstairs bedroom window in an effort to wake him up. Two bounced off the window screen, but one went into the bedroom, igniting a pillow.

Jason Milano — who was asleep on a couch — and his aunt escaped the fire with the family dog. They later told police they did not know that Kristen Milano was in the apartment sleeping. Jason Milano told police he tried to get to the second floor to see if anyone was there, but couldn't make it because the smoke was so thick.

The state medical examiner determined that Kristen Milano died of smoke inhalation and ruled her death a homicide.

Morelli, who was originally charged with manslaughter, arson and reckless endangerment, is due back in court for sentencing on July 23. He faces 10 years in prison and five years of probation, though the deal gives his attorney the right to argue for a lesser sentence.

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