WATERBURY — A former stripper from Naugatuck was sentenced to eight years in prison on Thursday for lighting a fire that consumed two businesses in Prospect in 2015.
Willow Martin, a soft-spoken, dirty blond, who was 19 when police say she helped set fire to a building on Route 69, appeared in Waterbury Superior Court during a brief hearing where she said little.
As part of a deal with prosecutors, Martin, 21, pleaded guilty to second-degree arson in connection to the fire, which consumed MTM Masonry and the Golden Wok Chinese Restaurant at 14 Waterbury Road. Damages to the buildings totaled more than $450,000.
Martin, a former stripper at a club in Southington, set the fire to MTM Masonry and Chimney out of revenge because the business was owned by the stepfather of another dancer who owed her about $1,200.
Martin helped set the fire with her then boyfriend, Matthew Garguilo, 28, of Enfield, whose charges are still pending.
The restaurant’s owners suffered heavy losses, including the destruction of their equipment and the near-draining of their savings. It has since re-opened in Prospect.
Martin was hit with a list of nine charges that included burglary and criminal mischief. She made bond, then skipped court and was eventually tracked to New Jersey where she was arrested again. With the exception of arson, the other charges are no longer being pursued as part of the deal.
Martin, wearing a baggy gray sweatshirt, appeared in Waterbury Superior Court on Thursday, along with her attorney, Andrew Cates. Prosecutor Marc Ramia said Martin’s lack of a criminal record factored into the crafting of the plea deal. The building owners were satisfied with the outcome, he said.
“This is a big sentence for a young girl,” Cates said. “She will not be back here again.”
Martin had little to say during the brief hearing, which was attended by her family, including her father, who told her that he forgave her for everything she did and loved her.
“I love him too,” she said.
After Martin is released, she’ll have to serve eight years of special parole, which is an intensive form of supervision.