Judge: Man guilty of arson

Published 10:45 pm Monday, November 16, 2009

A Portsmouth man faces up to 125 years in prison after being convicted of 10 felonies in Suffolk Circuit Court Monday.

Aaron James Brennan, 22, was convicted of attempted arson, arson, destruction of property, statutory burglary, grand larceny, larceny with the intent to sell and four counts of conspiracy in a bench trial before Judge Rodham T. Delk. His sentencing is scheduled for March 4.

The evidence against Brennan showed that he, along with Clinton Matthew Ivey, Ashby Brill and a juvenile went to a vacant house at 1724 Hosier Road on Feb. 20 with the intention of stealing items and burning the home to destroy the evidence.

The four broke into the back door and removed a refrigerator, microwave, dishwasher, chandelier and two ceiling fans. They also punched holes in walls, destroyed cabinets and broke mirrors and toilet fixtures. The foursome then put pages from a telephone book into the holes they had punched in the walls and lit the paper in an attempt to burn the house down, according to prosecutor Bob Sandwich.

After failing to set the house on fire, the thieves broke into a garage on the property and stole tires and rims, two lawnmowers and beer. The garage was set on fire and eventually burned to the ground, destroying siding on the house.

Arson investigators determined the cause of the fire was arson. On March 7, Brennan was arrested in a County Street apartment in Portsmouth and questioned by Suffolk police. He admitted to planning the break-in to steal items, as well as planning to burn the home. He also admitted they had sold one of the stolen lawnmowers.

The rest of the items were found in Brennan’s apartment. Total damages to the property exceeded $28,000.

All three co-defendants already have pleaded guilty and are awaiting sentencing.

Ivey and Brennan also are accused in a March 4 home invasion on Freeman Mill Road, where the two, along with a juvenile, allegedly beat and bound a 65-year-old woman before ransacking her home and stealing money, jewelry, credit cards and her car.

Brennan’s trial on those charges is set for March 18. Ivey pleaded guilty to charges related to that incident.