A 33-year-old Fort Wayne man pled guilty but mentally ill on Thursday to an array of charges related to barging into a home, attacking people inside and setting fire to the place in April 2016.
Justin D. Pease, of the 2000 block of St. Marys Avenue, is to be sentenced Sept. 1 in Allen Superior Court. The plea agreement submitted with his guilty plea allows Judge Fran Gull wide discretion in deciding his punishment, but it does say that he will not be sentenced to serve more than 25 years in prison for his crimes. Prosecution and defense attorneys will be allowed to present evidence and arguments in what is scheduled to be a two-hour sentencing hearing.
According to accounts of events in court records, at about 1:45 a.m. April 2, 2016, police responded to a dispute that began after Pease allegedly arrived at his girlfriend’s residence and forced entry by shattering a glass sliding door. During the dispute, Pease allegedly cut, or stabbed, two victims.
Officers were able to safely evacuate everyone from inside the residence and verbally ordered Pease, who apparently had barricaded himself inside a second-floor bedroom, to exit. He refused, and a fire began to consume the room. Officers, who thought the suspect might have another hostage, forced their way into the bedroom and, not finding another hostage, removed Pease from the fire.
The Fort Wayne Fire Department arrived and extinguished the fire.
Two officers were treated and released, as were the two victims from the earlier dispute. Pease initially was hospitalized in critical condition for a self-inflicted cut to his neck and smoke inhalation. A third police officer was seriously injured in the course of rescuing Pease.
According to the plea agreement filed in Superior Court on Thursday, Pease pled guilty but mentally ill to Level 5 and Level 6 charges of battery; three counts of arson, Level 2 and 3 felonies; and two charges of resisting law enforcement, both Class A misdemeanors.
The plea agreement also calls for the state to dismiss a Level 1 felony charge of battery; a Level 4 count of arson; a Level 5 count of battery; and a habitual offender enhancement.