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Man Pleads Guilty To Starting Fire

January 8, 2019
Man Pleads Guilty To Starting Fire

WILKES-BARRE — A Newport Twp. man who was accused of setting a brush fire while free on parole on an involuntary manslaughter conviction pleaded guilty Monday to a misdemeanor count of criminal mischief. Corey Eckrote, 53, had been facing felony counts of arson and risking catastrophe after police alleged he set a fire that broke out in the area of 100 Brown Row on March 26. Prosecutors previously reduced the charges after reaching a deal with Eckrote. Luzerne County Judge Michael T. Vough accepted Eckrote’s plea Monday and immediately sentenced him to one year of probation. Prosecutors said Eckrote was found in the area of the fire and that he repeatedly apologized for setting it, saying he “did something stupid.” He was also found in possession of a green cut straw with a powdery substance in his back pocket, which he claimed was residue from his prescription Percocet, according to the charges. At the time of the fire, Eckrote was on parole from his two- to six-year prison sentence imposed after a jury convicted him of involuntary manslaughter and child endangerment over the death of his 2½-month-old Jaxon, who suffocated on Feb. 14, 2014. The boy’s mother, Tracey Ann Gonda, fell asleep with him in her arms and he got wedged in the cushion of a recliner, according to prosecutors. During Eckrote’s trial, prosecutors placed the blame for the child’s death on him because he knew Gonda was an addict yet nevertheless bought Gonda two 24-ounce containers of malt liquor and left her with Jaxon while he went out for drinks. Gonda pleaded guilty in September 2015 to endangering the welfare of a child and corruption of minors, and was sentenced to 15 to 60 months in prison. Vough ordered Eckrote remanded to state prison to continue serving time for violating his parole on the manslaughter charge. Contact the writer: jhalpin@citizensvoice.com 570-821-2058

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