Arsonist gets 7 years

Derek Wayne Eilerman, right, listens to a statement by his mom, not pictured, during his sentencing Tuesday, June 30. Standing with Eilerman is his lawyer Jim Gudgel. Luke Gronneberg | Sidney Daily News

SIDNEY– The suspect in a December fatal fire that killed a Sidney man has been sentenced to seven years in prison and five years mandatory community control.

Derek Eilerman, 24, of St. Marys was sentenced Tuesday by Judge James Stevenson in the Shelby County Common Pleas Court.

He had entered no contest pleas to involuntary manslaughter and aggravated arson charges, first-degree felonies, in a fire that occurred Dec. 7 at about 4 a.m. at 305-307 N. Walnut Ave. in Sidney.

Sidney Police officers and Sidney firefighters, along with residents who lived in the neighborhood, rescued 13 of the 14 occupants of the two-story duplex, including four children. Jeffrey Scott Hughes, 50, died of apparent smoke inhalation in the fire. Many of the other occupants were treated at Wilson Memorial Hospital for smoke inhalation and released.

Eilerman prepared a statement that was read by his attorney Jim Gudgel. He said he has been seeking treatment while he has been incarcerated and has been working on becoming a better man.

In his statement he also apologized and admitted he wasn’t thinking properly when he took part in the prank that went wrong.

Grudgel also cited that Eilerman has no previous offenses, not even a parking ticket. He called it a dumb prank that resulted in a death.

Sidney Police reported the fire appeared to have been result of a “prank” rather than an “intent to harm.”

Shelby County Prosecutor Tim Sell said it was no accident and that Eilerman had gone to the residence with malintent because his former girlfriend lived at the residence. Sell said Eilerman used a very dangerous firework-type device in starting the fire.

Eilerman’s mother spoke at the sentencing calling her son mild mannered, responsible and a very good person. She asked for leniency and mercy for her and her family, many members of which were present.

Before Stevenson handed down the sentence, he said Eilerman has to face the consequences for his actions. In addition to the seven years in prison and five years community control, he will get a credit for the amount he has already spent in the Shelby County Jail, 202 days.

Earlier this year, Eilerman had entered not guilty pleas to the charges against him. Prior to his change of plea, Eilerman was scheduled for a jury trial to begin May 19.

Reach this writer at 937-538-4825; follow on Twitter @SDNAlexandraN