A 33-year-old Manchester man responsible for a series of fires in wooded tracts in Little Egg Harbor, Manchester and Lakewood from May 2021 to January 2022 has admitted to being the arsonist.
Gregory Fullman, Jr. pleaded guilty Friday to three counts of aggravated arson before the Judge Guy P. Ryan in Ocean County Courthouse.
The state will seek a 12-year prison sentence for Fullman at his sentencing scheduled for May 19, Ocean County Prosecutor Bradley D. Billhimer said in a statement.
Fullman will have to pay restitution for the firefighting services, Billhimer said.
He was originally charged with 25 counts of aggravated arson.
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Investigators found that Fullman set fires, damaging wooded areas in Little Egg Harbor on May 16 and Dec. 8, Manchester on Dec. 1 and Dec. 16, and Lakewood on Dec. 1 and Jan. 21, according to the prosecutor’s office.
No injuries were reported.
The first of these fires, on May 16 in Little Egg Harbor, burned some 600 acres and threatened up to 100 homes, the New Jersey Forest Fire Service said.
Smoke from the fire was first spotted by a watcher at a fire tower in Bass River State Forest. If someone wasn’t stationed at the tower on May 16, the fire likely would have reached the backyards of nearby homes, the New Jersey Forest Fire Service said.
Arson investigators found 16 half-cut cigarette filters, two empty packs of Marlboro 100s and a Bang energy drink can with a traces of liquid inside and on the lip of the can in the forest, according to the affidavit.
They were able to determine that the cigarettes and energy drink were purchased at a Wawa in Tuckerton, according to the document.
The investigators eventually linked Fullman to the fires through DNA evidence taken from the cigarette stubs, surveillance photos, a tracking device and other means, authorities said.
Ken Serrano covers crime, breaking news and investigations. Reach him at 732-643-4029 or at [email protected].