A man was arrested Tuesday for allegedly pouring gasoline around a Brockton home where his estranged wife was staying and lighting it on fire while she was inside with other residents, authorities said.
Matthew Eldredge, 35, was charged with domestic assault and battery, breaking and entering in the nighttime, arson, and three counts of attempted murder.
Pleas of not guilty were entered on his behalf at his arraignment Tuesday in Brockton District Court.
He was ordered held without bail, and a dangerousness hearing was scheduled for Feb. 20.
All of the occupants of the home made it out safely, including Eldredge’s wife. But it could have been much worse, said the landlord, Kathryn Perry-Dougan.
“I was on oxygen,” said Perry-Dougan, who is recovering from a recent illness. “He could have blown us all to kingdom come.”
According to a police report filed in court, police responded to the multifamily home at 9 Highland St. at 1:45 a.m. for a report of breaking and entering.
The owners of the property, Perry-Dougan and her husband, Warren Dougan, told police they had rented a room to Eldredge and his wife, and the four of them resided together on the first floor of the home.
Approximately three days ago, Eldredge’s wife ended her relationship with him and asked him to leave, which he did, the report states.
Early Tuesday morning, Perry-Dougan and her husband were awoken by Eldredge’s wife screaming for help, and when they got to up to see what was wrong, they saw Eldredge punching her in the face, according to the police report.
Eldredge left when the couple called 911.
Police searched the area but were unable to locate Eldredge. After the officers left, dispatch received a second call from 9 Highland St., reporting that Eldredge had returned and had lit the house on fire, the report states.
Perry-Dougan and Eldredge’s wife told police they were in the kitchen when they heard a commotion outside; when they looked outside they saw Eldredge with a red container, pouring gasoline on the exterior entrance and other doors.
“Moments later the front entrance of the house was engulfed in flames,” the police report states.
In a telephone interview, Perry-Dougan said that when she first saw flames, she tried to dial 911 on the house phone, but the landline wasn’t working. She used a cellphone to alert police and the Fire Department.
“He just flipped out,” said Perry-Dougan, 62. “He didn’t like the fact that she was staying here and he couldn’t.”
According to the police report, Perry-Dougan and the other occupants of the house exited through a back door.
Fire Captain Edward Williams said firefighters responded at 2:25 a.m. Tuesday, and all of the residents got out safely. Two people were treated for minor smoke inhalation, Williams said.
Williams said the damage to the home is estimated to be $40,000.
When officers searched the area again for Eldredge, this time with the help of a K-9 unit, they located him hiding on Ellsworth Street.
“As we approached Mr. Eldredge he reeked of gasoline, and his clothes were soaked with gasoline,” the police report states.
Police placed Eldredge’s clothing into evidence, along with an orange lighter he had been carrying, the report states.
The report says that during the booking, police found that Eldredge had three outstanding warrants.
Eldredge has been in trouble with the law several times over the past few months. Court documents show he pleaded guilty to shoplifting Nov. 20; on Dec. 2, he was accused of attacking his wife in a parking garage and charged with strangulation and domestic assault and battery. He faced another shoplifting charge on Jan. 3.
On Dec. 4, the court released Eldredge on personal recognizance and ordered him to have no contact with the alleged victim (his wife).
In court documents, Eldredge is listed as unemployed and living at a homeless shelter on North Main Street.
Six families were displaced by the fire and are being provided temporary housing assistance by the American Red Cross, said Jeff Hall, Red Cross spokesman.
Perry-Dougan said she received vouchers for a hotel but would prefer to be in her own home.
She said she got out of the hospital Thursday and was recovering from pneumonia.
She said Eldredge’s wife was “one of my best tenants” and she was happy to give her a place to stay.
Eldredge, however, was another story.
“He was just trouble,” she said in a telephone interview.
Perry-Dougan said she nearly died from her recent illness. Now she has to deal with this.
“I couldn’t wait to come home,” she said, “and now I don’t have a home.”Emily Sweeney can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @emilysweeney. John R. Ellement can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @JREbosglobe.