Columbia man pleads guilty to arson

A Columbia man pleaded guilty this week in Howard County Circuit Court in connection with an April 5 incident where he burned his apartment, located in the 5400 block of Harpers Farm Road, and assault his wife, according to State's Attorney spokesman Wayne Kirwan.

Alejandro Adolfo Rodriguez, 25, pleaded guilty to first-degree arson and second-degree assault on Aug. 13.

According to Kirwan, prosecutors said Howard County police were initially called to the apartment complex by Rodriguez's wife who reported that her husband had hit her and had locked her out of their apartment. Arriving officers observed Rodriguez shouting obscenities at them from the window of a bedroom that was on fire, according to prosecutors.  

Rodriguez fled the scene as officers and firefighters evacuated the building and fought the blaze, which grew to a two-alarm fire that caused damage estimated at $500,000 to the building and $75,000 in losses to the building's contents, Kirwan said.

Police arrested Rodriguez on April 6 as he walked along the 5400 block of Eliots Oak Road, Kirwan said. Police and fire investigators noted that there were two fires in the apartment and both were determined to have been deliberately set, Kirwan said.

Kirwan said Rodriguez, during a Mirandized interview police, indicated that he owned a white lighter found at the scene.

Judge Lenore Gelfman ordered the revocation of bond, a pre-sentence investigation, substance abuse and psychological evaluation at the plea hearing. Rodriguez is scheduled to be sentenced on Oct. 15 where prosecutors will ask for a sentence of 10 years, suspending all but 18 months, Kirwan said.

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