Grandmother pleads guilty to arson

WATERBURY — A 76-year-old grandmother who authorities say set fire to her landlord’s Naugatuck home pleaded guilty Wednesday to second-degree arson.

As part of a plea deal made public in Waterbury Superior Court, Raeann Goss will not serve prison time for lighting the fire that consumed a part of her former home at 504 Prospect St. in Naugatuck in February.

Goss is expected to be given probation for the crime when she’s sentenced in January and will stay at a mental health facility until that hearing takes place.

The landlord’s family, including his children, escaped the home after Goss’s son warned them about the flames that were spreading in the two-story house. As Goss was being led from her still-burning home, she told the landlord and his wife, “This is what you deserve,” according to her arrest warrant.

Problems between Goss and her landlord, Manual Nobre, appeared to have escalated after he served her with eviction papers.

Multiple witnesses, including Goss’s son, told investigators that she had a gambling problem and was unable to make a monthly rent bill of $600. Goss’s son later told police that his mom went to the casinos instead of paying her bills, according to her arrest warrant.

Goss’s son and three other men helped Goss move her belongings out of the home, leaving only a mattress and a few pieces of furniture.

Goss’s son left his mother alone in the apartment for about 10 minutes, returning to find her bedroom was on fire. His mother was still in the kitchen, seemingly unfazed by the smoke filling her home at about 12:30 p.m.

He led his mom out of the house, then banged on the landlord’s door, warning the family to get out. The home suffered an estimated $100,000 in damages during the fire.

Goss was arrested in April, but a judge ruled she was not mentally competent to stand trial. That status changed Wednesday when Judge Roland Fasano found she was competent after reviewing a report compiled by a doctor at a state mental hospital where she had been receiving treatment.

A handcuffed Goss slowly walked into the courtroom, her gray hair lightly hanging on the collar of a long red coat. She looked into the audience, but the courtroom was almost empty; none of her family or friends were present.

Goss just shook her head as State’s Attorney Maureen Platt said she had intentionally lit her curtains on fire. She pleaded guilty to the felony charge, her voice breaking when she told Fasano she had made the choice of her own free will.

As part of the deal, she’s expected to be sentenced to five years of probation when she returns to court in January.

Although Goss, who was born in 1936, has never been convicted of a crime, Platt said it was important that an arson conviction is included on her record in order to prevent other lives from being put in jeopardy.

Goss was released on a promise to appear for her next court date, but she was transferred later Wednesday to the Western Connecticut Mental Health Network in Waterbury, which operates a respite program for the state. Goss is expected to remain there until her sentencing hearing.

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