Man admits to setting woman’s apartment on fireBy Christian Avard
Staff Writer | November 14,2012WHITE RIVER JUNCTION — To avoid a lengthy prison sentence, a Springfield man reached a plea deal Tuesday for setting a woman’s apartment on fire.
Steven Kuchta, 48, who appeared in criminal court in White River Junction, pleaded guilty to first-degree arson, reckless endangerment, two conditions of release violations and simple assault. He will serve two to eight years in prison and pay the Rockingham Area Land Trust $5,000 in restitution.
Kuchta cannot repay the Land Trust while incarcerated, but is required to do so upon release, according to Windsor County Deputy State’s Attorney Heidi Remick.
Despite his convictions, Remick told Judge Robert Gerety that Kuchta has made progress and is seeking help at Springfield prison.
“He looks like a different person today. We wish him well,” Remick said.
Kuchta’s lawyer, Eric Louttit, said Kuchta has been sober for seven months and is training to become a baker. Kuchta apologized for his actions and told Gerety he is a kitchen staff member.
“There have been no (discipline reports), your honor,” Kuchta said.
On April 3, Kuchta set a fire outside Holly Rhodes’ apartment at 12 Valley St. in Springfield. Rhodes was sleeping with her two young children at the time and managed to escape.
According to court documents, Rhodes felt targeted because she rebuffed Kuchta’s advances and refused to go out with him. No one was hurt in the fire.
Kuchta said he did not know why he set the fire to Rhodes’ apartment. He told police he was under a lot of stress, did not have money or a job and his family members had moved away from the Springfield area.
Kuchta was convicted of three additional misdemeanors unrelated to the apartment fire — two counts of violating conditions of release and one count of simple assault.
Kuchta also has a lengthy criminal record, including a 1985 manslaughter conviction when he shot and killed Arthur Buckman in Grafton after Buckman made sexual advances toward him.
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