Southington man sentenced to 7 years in prison for starting fatal fire with firecracker



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NEW BRITAIN, Connecticut — A 19-year-old man who threw a firecracker through a Southington apartment window and started a fire that killed a friend's sister last year was sentenced to seven years in prison Thursday.

Eric Morelli apologized to the family of the victim, 19-year-old Kristen Milano, and said during the emotional sentencing hearing in New Britain Superior Court that he couldn't believe he caused her death.

"My life will never be the same. There is never a day that goes by that I won't think about Kristen or her family," Morelli said.

Milano's relatives disapproved of the plea deal, saying the prison sentence wasn't long enough. Morelli pleaded guilty to manslaughter in May.

Mary Milano, Kristen's mother, called the plea agreement a "slap in the face."

"He destroyed my entire life," Milano said about Morelli as she cried in court. "I have nightmares of (Kristen) calling for me and I am unable to find her."

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. After no one answered the door, Morelli said, he threw three "popper" fireworks at Jason Milano's open bedroom window and one went through the screen.

Morelli told police he yelled out his friend's name, but there was no response and he went home.

Authorities say the firecracker ignited a blaze. Jason Milano and his aunt escaped, but Kristen Milano died of smoke inhalation, authorities said.

Morelli's prison term will be followed by five years' probation. Judge Arthur Hadden expressed sympathy for both the Morelli and Milano families, and addressed the Milanos' criticism of the plea deal.

"While I understand the family's feeling, this is not a case of murder," the judge said.

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