HILLSBOROUGH, NJ - A 34-year-old Somerville man faces charges of attempted murder and aggravated arson after police say he intentionally set fire to a Hillsborough residence where his former girlfriend lived.
All eight occupants of the home, including a 4-year-old, escaped unharmed, according to Somerset County Prosecutor Michael H. Robertson. A pet cat perished in the fire.
Patrick M. Hammond, 34, of South Richards Avenue, Somerville was captured less than an hour after the fire was reported about ¾ miles away on East Mountain Road and has been charged in connection with the Dec. 30 incident, according to Robertson, who provided the following account:
A 911 call was received at 12:40 a.m. Dec. 30 from a resident of Starview Drive reporting the fire. Township police, firefighters and rescue squad personnel responded immediately. Prior to their arrival, the caller was able to awaken all of the occupants who were asleep inside. A call for mutual aid to combat the structure fire was made to surrounding fire companies.
Police were told that a former boyfriend of a female resident of the house had threatened to set fire to a truck belonging to another resident at the house. The individual making the threat was identified as Hammond.
Police also determined that Hammond had sent a photograph of the house on fire approximately two minutes after the fire was reported via text to a friend.
Hillsborough police began a canvass of the area and located Hammond at 1:36 a.m. on foot on East Mountain Road. He was taken to Hillsborough police headquarters where he began to act erratically and was subsequently transported to an area hospital for evaluation under police guard. He remains under observation and when released will be transported to the Somerset County Jail in Somerville pending a detention hearing.
Detectives from the Hillsborough Township Police Department along with detectives from the Somerset County Prosecutor’s Office, and the Somerset County Fire Investigations Unit continue their investigation.
Robertson said the quick response from all fire, police, rescue, county communications personnel, along with the quick actions of the resident in alerting everyone in the house to escape averted the loss of human life.
The following fire companies and agencies responded to the fire scene: Hillsborough Township Company #2 Fire 37, Flagtown Fire 36, Woods Road Fire 38, Neshanic Fire 48, Elizabeth Avenue Fire 26, Millstone Valley Fire 28, Country Hills Fire 24, Finderne Fire 30, Montgomery Company #1 Fire 45, Manville Fire 42, Readington Fire 32, North Branch Fire 49, Raritan Fire 52, Montgomery Fire Company #2 Fire 46, Middlebush Fire 44, Three Bridges Fire 33, Somerset County Fire Coordinator 99, Robert Wood Johnson EMS, Branchburg Rescue Squad 74, Somerset County EMS Coordinator 97, the American Red Cross, and St. Hubert’s Animal Welfare Center.
Robertson and Hillsborough Police Chief Darren Powell request anyone with information to contact the Somerset County Prosecutor’s Office Major Crimes Unit at (908) 231-7100, or the Hillsborough Township Police Department at (908) 369-4323 or via the STOPit app.
The STOPit app allows citizens to provide anonymous reports including videos and photos. STOPit can be downloaded to your smart phone for free at the Google Play Store or Apple App Store, access code: SOMERSETNJ. Information can also be provided through the Somerset County Crime Stoppers’ Tip Line at 1-888-577-TIPS (8477) or online at www.888577tips.org or at www.scpo.net and click on either “Crime Stoppers” or “TIPS HOTLINE”. All anonymous Crime Stopper tips will be kept confidential.