Man who set fire to New Bern office building gets 12 years in prison

Man who set fire to New Bern office building gets 12 years in prison
Published: Jul. 27, 2022 at 5:45 PM EDT
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NEW BERN, N.C. (WITN) - A Craven County man who set fire to a New Bern office building was sentenced to between 12.1 and 15.7 years in prison this week.

District Attorney Scott Thomas says 39-year-old Jerry Gaskins, Jr., of Bridgeton, was given the sentence after pleading guilty to burning a building used in a trade, possession of a firearm by a felon, larceny, possession of stolen property, identity theft, and escape from jail.

Thomas says that on Jan. 24th of this year, the New Bern Fire Department arrived at an office building on Pollock Street and found evidence of an intentionally-set fire in the ceiling of a bathroom in the office there.

New Bern police learned that Gaskins had come into the office at about 10 a.m., and after being told the person he wanted to meet with was unavailable, asked to use the restroom. Once inside, Thomas says Gaskins remained for several minutes before leaving the restroom and the entire building.

Employees shortly after noticed the smell of smoke and saw that the door to the bathroom had been shut and locked. Once they were able to unlock it, they found a fire burning in the ceiling above the toilet, according to Thomas.

WITN is told that as police were investigating the fire, they learned of several thefts in the area. They learned that a man was stealing flags from businesses and leaving in a gray Nissan sedan. Officers stopped the car and saw Gaskins inside with several of the items reported stolen as well as a Walther PK380 handgun with a loaded magazine.

Thomas says that while awaiting trial in the Craven County Detention Center, Gaskins got the PIN number of a cellmate and used it to pretend to be them in order to bond himself out of custody. Craven County deputies brought him back into custody the same day.

In addition to pleading guilty to the aforementioned charges and admitting to being a habitual felon, we’re told Gaskins was ordered to pay restitution for the damages caused by the fire, was ordered not to go on the premises of the office building or the homes of any employee of the office, and not to have any contact with them. The gun was surrendered to the New Bern Police Department.

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