NEWTON, NJ—A Newton woman is facing charges after setting a fire at the Merriam Gateway residences. Police said Bali Johnson, 29, broke into an apartment, took things from the apartment and set it on fire. 

On Wednesday, October 21 at approximately 4:08 a.m. Newton Police Department received a 9-1-1 call for a fire at the Gateway Condos located on Sparta Avenue.

According to police, officers arrived and found the fire in apartment 104. Emergency personnel responded to the scene, evacuated the surrounding apartments and extinguished the fire.

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Police said that the apartment in question was unoccupied at the time of the fire. A witness provided a statement, however, that said they were waiting on the line nearby at the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission Office when they noticed the fire at the condos.

According to police, the witness tried to get into the apartment and noticed the window in the door of the apartment was already broken.



Subsequently, video surveillance from the building was reviewed by police.  They found it to show someone breaking into the apartment and later exiting with items from inside the apartment prior to the fire starting, police said. 

Johnson, who is a resident of the complex, was identified as the person on the video.

According to police, search warrants were executed on the damaged apartment and also on Johnson’s apartment.  It became evident throughout the investigation that Johnson was responsible for the damage to apartment 104.



As a result, Johnson, was charged with:

  • Criminal Mischief
  • Burglary
  • Causing Risk of Widespread Injury or Damage
  • Theft of Moveable Property
  • Endangering the Welfare of Children
  • Possession of a Controlled Dangerous Substance (heroin)
  • Possession of a Controlled Dangerous Substance (marijuana)
  • Possession of Drug Paraphernalia

The complaint warrant for Johnson was authorized by Newton Municipal Court Judge James P. Sloan.  Johnson was processed and lodged in the Morris County Jail per the Criminal Justice Reform Act, according to the police.

The investigation was conducted cooperatively by members of the Newton Police Department and the Sussex County Prosecutor’s Office and were assisted by the New Jersey State Police Crime Scene Unit North and the Sussex County Fire Marshall’s Office.

Other Responding Emergency Services included the Newton Fire Department, Andover Twp. Fire Department, Fredon Twp. Fire Department, Hampton Twp. Fire Department and Sparta Fire Department, as well as the Newton First Aid Squad, Fredon Twp. First Aid Squad and Hampton First Aid Squad.