A man accused of setting his relatives' house on fire while children were inside is entering a guilty plea.
Greene County Circuit Court was set to begin a two-day jury trial for Gerald Alvin Baugher Tuesday, June 6, but the defendant decided to change his plea.
"We think that at the conclusion of the day of the trial the jury certainly would have found him guilty. And so he decided to plead guilty to that today instead of going through the trial,” said Greene County Commonwealth’s attorney Ronald L. Morris.
"I think he was concerned about the commonwealth's case, and what a jury might do sentencing-wise if they found him guilty. So that was really the basis, or the reason for the plea," said defense attorney David Randle.
The 61-year-old Stanardsville man was facing a charge of arson of an occupied dwelling, as well as breaking and entering with the intent to commit arson.
Tuesday, Baugher pleaded guilty to arson of an occupied dwelling. The prosecution dropped the other charge.
Authorities say he set fire to his cousin's home on Celt Road on Monday, August 1, 2016. Three children inside the home at the time of the fire managed to get out safely.
The prosecution had previously argued that Baugher believed his cousin had stolen a handgun from him. The defendant’s cousin had told authorities that he and Baugher had gotten into a heated conversation weeks before the fire, and that Baugher told him, "You will pay."
Investigators had also said they found singed hair on Baugher’s arm and beard.
Outside of court Tuesday, family members said that Baugher is not the man they once knew. His cousin said the two were once like brothers and that Baugher was once "honest to a fault."
Baugher is scheduled to be sentenced on August 22. According to state code, he faces a prison term of five years to life.
Updated: Stanardsville Man Enters Guilty Plea in Arson CaseMore>>