ESSEX, Md. (AP) _ A nursing assistant who confessed to setting a nursing home fire that killed an elderly woman has been convicted of her murder but was acquitted on charges of attempting to murder her two roommates.

Arthur Conrad Peffer Jr., 35, was found guilty Monday of first-degree murder, murder committed during arson and arson. He faces mandatory life in prison on the two murder counts and 30 years on the arson charge.

Judge A. Owen Hennegan postponed sentencing pending a background report and psychiatric evaluation.

The verdict would have made Peffer eligible for the death penalty but the state did not give the required notice of intention to seek capital punishment.

According to police, Peffer admitted setting the fire at Riverview Nursing Center that killed Helen P. Ward, 74, on Oct. 13, and of sounding the alarm and helping rescuers in an effort to win the respect of his fellow workers.

Jurors acquitted Peffer of the attempted murders of Mary Romagnano and Helen Tabor, who shared Mrs. Ward's room and suffered minor injuries.