Manchester woman admits setting house fire that killed neighbor
A Whiting woman awaits sentencing, after admitting that she touched off the house fire that triggered her neighbor's death earlier this year.
Dianna L. Wills, 66, of the Whiting section of Manchester, pleaded guilty to second-degree charges of aggravated arson and manslaughter, according to the office of Ocean County Prosecutor Joseph D. Coronato.
Both charges require Wills to serve 85 percent of the sentence she receives, according to New Jersey's No Early Release Act, and to complete three years of parole supervision after release.
Steve Kundin died during hospitalization for smoke inhalation, investigators said. Wills was arrested June 21.
On the night of April 7, Manchester firefighters and police officers summoned to the Kingfisher Way home found it engulfed in fire, with flames jutting through the roof. The owner, Ruth Dobbins, escaped, buf five dogs inside did not, authorities said.
The heat and flames were intense enough to inflict damage on Kundin's house, on adjoining property on Mockingbird Way, and to affect him direcly, authorities said.
Kundin was rushed to Community Medical Center in Toms River. He died May 31. Results of the autopsy conducted June 4 established the cause of his death as smoke inhalation, and the manner of death as homicide.
Damage to the Dobbins's house rendered it uninhabitable, in the assessment by the Manchester Township Building Inspector.
Fire investigators traced the fire's origin to a spot near entry stairs on the houses' north side, and determined that combustibles ignited by an open flame were the source. Detectives later placed Wills at the front door before Dobbins discovered the fire.
During the plea hearing, Wills admitted torching the house, knowing that Dobbins was inside it, and admitted being aware that Kundin's death was attributed to the fire.
Authorities did not disclose the motive that led to the incident.
Investigations were conducted by the Prosecutor's Arston Task Force, Ocean County Sheriff's CSI Unit, Ocean County Fire Marshall's Office and the Manchester Police Department.