No prison for man who intentionally sparked fire that - 19 Action News|Cleveland, OH|News, Weather, Sports

Free Firebug: No prison for man who sparked fire that resulted in nephew's death

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CLEVELAND, OH (WOIO) - Judgement day for the man who intentionally set fire to a couch inside his South Euclid home last year. The man's two-year-old nephew later died as a result of injuries sustained that blaze.

A judge spared prison for Christopher Merritt. Instead, the 22-year-old must serve time in a group house and 100 hours of probation.

This, after Merritt lit a couch on fire in his E. Antisdale Road home in June of 2009. Merritt left the home as the couch caught fire. Merritt's 22-year-old sister and her 2-year-old son, as well as Merritt's 10-year-old brother, were in the house when the home caught fire. Merritt's 8-year-old brother followed Merritt out of the house. Merritt's nephew, 2-year-old Caleb Todd, sustained burns and was transported to the hospital. Todd later died as a result of his injuries on January 26, 2010.

On September 7 of this year, Merritt pleaded guilty to one count of involuntary manslaughter and five counts of aggravated arson.

His attorney says Merritt is mentally ill, and family members argued he should not be sentenced to prison for setting the fatal fire.

"We just praying and praying that you make the best decision for Chris in the future," said his sister, LaToya Merritt. "To give him another chance. 'Cause it was an accident."

Merritt has spent the last 15 months locked up. He now has to live with a relative.

©2010 WOIO. All rights reserved.

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